The reaction to someone taking a role in a PMO is very diverse. Some embrace working in a project management office, others feel that it is a backward step, especially project and programme managers. Therefore, this post will spend time exploring the question if a PMO role is good for your career.
Working in a PMO will usually provide access to a number of senior executives, even to Board level. While it is possible you may have a senior executive sponsoring a project or programme you are running, within the PMO you will often find you have to engage with many. You will be providing them with important MI about the change portfolios across the organisation. If you build a reputation of delivering quality reporting with good insight to allow management decisions, you will be noticed.
Engaging with this type of audience will also mean you will get to understand what information they like to see. So if you go on to take a delivery role, this will help you to prepare and run very good steering committees.
It is quite common for project managers to focus on delivery. This can come at the sacrifice of discipline. While there are many who view process as bureaucracy, having good robust processes helps ensure that items are not missed. I remember a senior executive in 2002 telling me. he would much sooner have a bunch of project managers delivering to the same standard as opposed to superstars who were successful some time but struck out on other occasions. It is all about probability of outcome.
Spending time in the PMO will help deliver a good understanding of process so that it can be embedded in future projects.
The PMO has oversight across an organisation. Working in a PMO will allow a greater understanding of the organisation, the change being executed, how it links and aligns to strategy and much more. This information will be very helpful when the next role is taken.
PMO’s tend to have to cover many project management skills. Therefore, it is only natural that working in a PMO will mean that you will have the opportunity to develop and use the skills. This may include providing mentoring and training other project resources (this is something that can be very difficult when working as a project manager in the middle of delivery).
A role in a PMO should not be seen as a backward step. It should allow you to grow your skills, gain a better understanding of your organisation and gain exposure to senior management. This will mean that you will become a more valuable resource to your organisation.
Working in the PMO career path can be more rewarding than the project and portfolio roles. However, a word of warning, the type of PMO (reporting or pro-active) can make all the difference to just how rewarding it will be!