When your project management office (PMO) reaches the stage where it needs to focus on strategy and leadership, you may need to consider a project support office (PSO). This office will take on administration and support roles for your projects, and we’re going to explore the resources you’ll need for a PSO.

The main difference between a PMO and a PSO, once the latter is established, is that a PMO should focus on business goals and strategy while the PSO will support projects in administration and technical requirements.

You may already have some resources within your PMO who could be a better fit in the new PSO; other roles will likely need to be recruited. Whoever you will work with, we’re going to look at:

  • The role of a project support officer in a PSO
  • What a project administrator does in a PSO
  • How to use tool and technical experts in your new office

What is a project support officer?

A project support officer is a common role in some public service sectors and is a role within the PRINCE2 methodology.

This role is someone who is a generalist project worker who can take on a range of administration tasks. You can expect them to be experienced in a range of project roles, meaning they can better understand the needs of the people they support.

This can be a catch-all term for lots of people within your PSO, so you may want to more clearly define the type of support you’d want this officer to give. It can be overarching support, and you might see your project support officer as a manager or leader of the office.

Alternatively, you could understand a project support officer to be a title for many people with different specialisations.

However you denote roles, it is essential to have someone head up the PSO who understands projects and can give general support and guidance. You should be looking for a person specifically experienced with the methodology you use and, ideally, someone who knows your industry, so they know the tools and processes your business already uses.

What’s the role of a project administrator in a PSO?

As we’ve discussed when looking at the role of a PSO, a major part of its function is to take over administrative work that supports the smooth running of projects.

You may already have one or more project administrators on your PMO team, especially if you run a supportive or compliance PMO. These resources will variously gather and input data and look after paperwork like expenses and invoicing, etc.

Moving this role into the PSO when it is created will make sure the functions of your PMO are focussed on strategic and business goals.

You may also have people in the role of project administrator on some or all of your projects. You will need to decide whether you want to centralise this function when setting up the PSO. On the one hand, it can bring efficiencies when admin tasks are done by a support team, but it can also lose project-specific knowledge and focus.

Technical expertise in your PSO

A major role of a PSO is to be the home for technical and tool experts. This means that rather than needing a range of project workers to have a deep knowledge of tools like project management or customer relationship management tools, you have a few experts on hand to set up and manage them.

Other technical expertise may be needed often in a project but only for short times. A resource like this can be at home in a PSO and be shared across different projects, such as a graphic designer shared across advertising projects.

The type of experts you will need will depend on the tools you use and how familiar your project managers and their team are with them.

PSO resources you need

Many of the resources you need for a PSO will depend on the exact set-up of your new office. Having generalist project experts familiar with your methodology can be valuable, and having people with deep expertise can save a lot of time and energy in training new people.