Being a business unit leader is a challenging role, but if you want to take on something fresh, we’re going to look at how to change roles from a business unit leader to PMO leader.

There are many skills that crossover from a business unit into a project management office (PMO). For some it may seem like a logical step, or you may not have thought much about how the projects that get delivered to your business area actually get managed.

If you’re considered a move away from managing your business unit and want to consider leading a PMO, we’re going to look at:

  • The transferrable skills you’ll have when moving into a PMO
  • How leading a PMO can benefit your career trajectory
  • Actions you can take to improve your chances of landing a PMO lead role

So you can advance your career in a different area of leadership.

What skills does a business unit leader have to work in a PMO role?

Being a leader has a particular skill set that you will have been working on throughout your career. Having the ability to lead a whole area of a business will stand you in good stead in your lateral shift across to being a leader in a PMO setting.

Some of the skills you should highlight when working on your CV for a PMO role may be:

  • Leadership will be ingrained in your skillset from being in charge of a swathe of a business
  • Business acumen, which you’ll have from understanding your area’s wider commercial relevance
  • Communication is as vital in your business unit as it is in a PMO, with a range of audiences
  • Operations management in a business area skill that will carry over to your new role in a PMO
  • Strategic thinking will be important moving from a business unit to a PMO, with projects needing to align with business strategy

Whilst these are soft skills, we’ll be looking at ways to develop some hard skills relevant to PMO leadership in a moment.

Will moving from a business unit to a PMO be good for my career?

It’s possible that a PMO leader may manage fewer people, but the importance of the project or portfolio management to a business can’t be understated. It’s unlikely to be a step down to move into leading a PMO after a business unit.

Leading a PMO will allow you to affect specific change in the business, rather than keeping an area ticking over with steady growth. PMOs are about change and transformation rather than the status quo.

Rather than simply being a stakeholder in projects being delivered into your business area, you will be in charge of overseeing project delivery. You will hopefully have insight having been on the other side of the delivery pipeline.

You will have the chance to collaborate with a range of business units and so broaden your focus. There’ll be a chance to work on project delivery in areas that you may not have worked with before, giving you a better business overview.

What can I do to secure a move from business unit leader to PMO leader?

Armed with your soft skills and a drive to move through the business and learn about different areas, you can take extra steps to prepare yourself for a PMO leader job application.

Remember that the work you do and the role you apply for will be specific so take these as actionable points that you can adapt to your circumstances:

  • Increase your activity in projects and become a more active stakeholder in the projects that come to your area – this will give you the opportunity to learn about project frameworks and lifecycles.
  • Ask the PMO leader in your business if you can shadow their work for a day or a week. This will give you a real taste of the tasks that you’ll be working on.
  • Look at how your local PMO works, find best practices and implement them across your business area; maybe their comms strategy works, or the data reporting process can be a mirror in your area.
  • Consider if there are PMO or project certifications that you can take to start to boost your project management awareness

The take-home

Changing roles from a business unit leader to a PMO leader will take some extra work to develop some hard skills. You will have a good grounding in running operations and aligning your work with business strategy, so you need work on learning about project delivery and analysis to boost your chances of landing a PMO leadership role.