When it comes to coordinating and delivering projects, the Project Management Office (PMO) is a company’s biggest asset. This unit is integral to the smooth-running and timely delivery of an organisation’s various initiatives, ensuring they are completed on time, within budget and satisfying all stakeholder expectations. The PMO manager is the proverbial captain of this ship, who will steer various projects towards their objective. Here, we explore PMO leadership and discuss why this role is critical to meeting targets and ensuring quality.
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What constitutes a project?
Projects can like many different forms across different sectors. Different initiatives could include anything from infrastructure development, building construction, software development, solution implementation, strategic transformation, process/product development or improvement, etc. Whether it’s constructing a new office building or streamlining an online payment process, all of these things are examples of what constitutes a project in the corporate sphere.
In essence, we can categorise a business initiative as a project when it meets the following two criteria:
- Criteria 1: Temporary in nature: in other words, it must have a definite start and end date.
- Criteria 2: Delivering a unique product, service, or result. Although there may be repetitive elements in some deliverables and activities, these do not change the fundamental characteristics of the project work. For example, a building can be made by the same materials but the location, design, environment, situation, and people involved are different.
The importance of the Project Management Office (PMO)
Like operations, a project needs special care. In fact, these initiatives require even more care as there are so many risk factors due to their distinctive qualities. Here, the PMO plays an indispensable role, enabling the organisation to properly manage the project and maximise benefits. To elaborate on this assertion, the PMO can help effectively steer and deliver projects in the following ways:
- Governance: This involves project reviews, audits, developing project structures and ensuring accountability. The PMO is also responsible for ensuring decisions are made by the right people, based on correct information.
- Transparency: A PMO makes sure all information is relevant, accurate and always available to decision-makers.
- Reusability: PMOs should be providing teams with processes, templates, best practices and lessons learned based on previous project experience.
- Delivery support: Another important job of the PMO is reducing decision-making delay, managing risks, providing training, mentoring and quality assurance.
- Traceability: The PMO is responsible for maintaining documents and other important information regarding the evolution of an initiative.
If your organisation does not have a central PMO, you should establish one immediately. According to the PMI 2018 survey, on average, organisations are wasting 9.9% of every dollar due to poor project performance – and this cost is about 21 times higher for those who don’t pay attention to their project management capability compared to the best performing organisations. Outstanding organisations are those who pay attention to project management. Primarily, this is through skilled and professional PMO managers who can effectively navigate change in this dynamic environment.
Why the PMO needs outstanding leadership
A PMO needs a leader to drive the change from the fore. However, a PMO manager is not like a project manager; as they oversee multiple projects and initiatives to achieve organisational objectives, their view is more comprehensive. Moreover, there’s an element of bravery involved, as full organisational buy-in isn’t always guaranteed. Inevitably, there will be roadblocks and individuals that are resistant to change. Thus, it’s essential to select the right kind of person who can face up to the challenge, can perform the required responsibilities, and deliver particular competencies.
PMO manager duties and responsibilities
Primarily, if an organisation doesn’t have a PMO function, the PMO manager’s first and foremost responsibility is to establish the office, define the unit’s roles and responsibilities, design a tailored project framework, standardise project management processes, and develop common tools and templates. Once this initial assignment is complete, then the PMO manager has to perform a wide variety of tasks, including:
- As the manager overseeing various projects, the PMO manager must facilitate individual project managers in planning, executing, monitoring, and controlling their initiatives.
- Mentor project and program managers so they can tackle their risks, issues, and changes head-on.
- Analyse project-related data and confirm projects are completed on time and within budget.
- Chair regular project reviews and facilitate change control processes.
- Ensure project managers are following standard project management processes and document project lessons learnt.
- Foster smooth communication and information dissemination among the stakeholders to ensure project success.
- Ensure projects are aligned with organisational strategy to maximise benefits.
- Develop resources and deliver training sessions about project management methodologies, tools, and techniques.
- Establish a project management culture where everyone welcomes new challenges, techniques and ways of working.
PMO manager skills
Considering the role, the PMO manager must have a good blend of managerial and technical skills. A successful PMO manager has the ability to focus on details while simultaneously retaining a comprehensive vision of the big picture. Some of the core skills include:
- Exceptional written and verbal communication.
- Excellent negotiation skills and stakeholder management.
- Conflict management and active listening.
- High-level of planning and organisational skills.
- Diplomatic and constructive, with a good understanding of internal culture.
- Strong leadership and team management.
- Coaching, problem-solving, and decision making aptitude.
- Pragmatic and trustworthy, with strong business acumen.
PMO manager as an advocate for change
Primarily, a PMO leader needs to be enthusiastic about spearheading change, because setting up a successful PMO is about – changing the organisation to operate differently, with a different focus on investment and risk. An outstanding PMO manager would ideally have a deep understanding of the business vision. From here, they will have a clear plan as to how to achieve this vision by effectively managing projects and getting the entire staff team on board. Thus, along with a broad skill set, the right attitude is essential to PMO leadership, and thus, meeting organisational objectives.