PMO, passion to profession

It can be argued that effective programme and project management does not happen in isolation without the involvement of Portfolio, Programme and/or Project (PMO) Offices that provide the decision enabling and support business model for all transformational change within an organisation.

Interestingly the Project Management Institute (PMI) released a paper in 2012 called ‘PMOs under pressure’. It cites a 2010 research report “The Project Management Office (PMO): A Quest for Understanding” that shows the average life span of a PMO is only two years. It emphasises the organisational need for a PMO to be closely aligned to the organisation and the main investment board, to understand the strategic business drivers and everyday pressures to consistently demonstrate value. As a result, a PMO is the first to go when things are going well and the first to be established or re-energised when things go astray despite PMOs not being a cure for all organisational woes.

The need to establish a globally recognised professional association for those working in PMOs is probably needed more than ever. That is, a paid occupation, especially one in portfolio definition and delivery practices that involves prolonged training, a formal qualification and continued competency based assessments. Significant program and project failure continues to happen worldwide despite experiential learning and lessons learned. The need to deliver business strategy whilst ensuring value for money with limited resources has focused attention on ensuring the right programmes and projects are delivered and that investment is spent on things that matter to the organisation. 

If PMOs are to act as a focal point in an organisation, interacting and building productive relationships inside and outside the business, then working with the whole programme and project management team from senior managers (acting in key program/project decision making roles) to third party suppliers, customers and key stakeholders requires advanced stakeholder and interpersonal skills. A personal trait and skill that is often neglected when it comes to professional development, particularly in the PMO field of expertise.

No doubt PMOs and the people that work within them have had a raw deal when it comes to professional development. After taking the same courses as project and programme managers, there are limited formal courses available that focus purely on the PMO role. For PMO professionals today, it is about understanding the wider skillsets needed to implement and mature PMOs particularly in organisations impacted by digital disruption.

As an organisational structure or entity, it also needs the skills and experience found outside of typical programme and project management practices. It needs not only the portfolio, programme and project management office qualifications and experience but also the business, interpersonal and facilitation skills that enables PMOs to demonstrate continuous value to the broader organisation, particularly the main investment board accountable for changing the business whilst maintaining equilibrium with running the business.

Professional accreditation

To meet the growing demands of the global marketplace in the field of portfolio, programme and/or project management offices, a new globally recognised certification program is desperately needed. A competency based, career path for the ever evolving and growing PMO professional. This enhanced, multi-level, competency-based certification program needs to recognise the PMO professional's knowledge and skills, and supports their lifelong PMO career aspirations and progression. As such, proficiency should be based on actual skills and knowledge that a person can demonstrate in the workplace or in the contexts of the portfolio, programme and/project management office.

While formal qualifications are a great start, professional accreditation particularly in this field needs to be more than just successfully completing an exam. If the global PMO community is to be formally recognised, then a formal training course should offer continuing professional development points, and with demonstrated work experience, equates to a specific level of proficiency. As such, gaining a certification should be the beginning, its applying that knowledge and wisdom in portfolio, programme and project management offices through continuous improvement and learning is where someone can visibly demonstrate value of being a true PMO professional and advocate.


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