4 Things to Look for in a PMO Leader

For many companies, the project management office (PMO) serves as a nexus of the company’s operations. Through the use of the standards devised by the PMO, it determines how projects are planned, what happens to field updates, how progress is monitored there and a host of other related activities. The PMO, though in a subordinate position, also routinely determines how upper management and the owners of a company are informed about project details. In short, much information flows, in both directions, through this vital business office.

With these facts in mind, it should be obvious that it takes a special leader to successfully run a PMO. Navigating the choppy waters between of the executive board room demands restraint and calm, self-assurance while implementing standards across various departments requires the skills of a diplomat. To be sure, a great PMO leader will have many more skills. Here are four to look for:

1. Strategic Thinking

The purpose of a PMO and the tools and resources contained there is to provide consolidated, standardized frameworks for each type of project in a company. A good PMO leader can step back and understand the overall needs of projects, their similarities and their differences. In this way, he can orchestrate the development and implementation of best practices for both the management and execution of projects. In short, they should act like business leaders and not just project managers.

2. Team Focused Development

It is important for a PMO leader to develop their own departmental team and the proper emphasis should be placed on it but that is standard business practice. “Team focus” in this sense means that a PMO leader will obtain input from the department that will use new tools or processes that are being developed. Understanding this need and utilizing it to successfully complete a new implementation is vital for a PMO leader. Not only does this process produce a superior tool but also produces a significant “buy-in” from many members of the affected department that and greatly reduces any problems in the implementation stage.

3. Technical Savvy

While it is not necessary for the PMO leader to have a complete understanding of the technical underpinnings of any project management software used, they should have a thorough grasp of the strengths and weaknesses of the program and where the programs can best benefit any potential standardized processes. A fundamental understanding of the software also lends credibility to the PMO leader so that they are seen as a technical expert and not just as an administrator or bureaucrat.

4. Firm Decision Making

The project management office must endeavor to balance the needs of the departments, the demands of the executives and the limits of the software to produce a usable and valuable tool. It is not a simple task nor is always attainable. A superior PMO leader understands this fact and also knows that the time always comes when a decision must be made that will leave some end-users unhappy. Having solid reasons for a decision and the ability to defend it are the hallmarks of a great PMO leader.

A Final Thought

Great PMO leaders are not born, they are developed. Sometimes, they are the most technically adept with the project management software and can learn the management skills to run a project management office. More often, though, they already possess many of the necessary leadership abilities and only need a thorough grounding in the technical aspects of the job. Regardless of where you look for your next PMO leader, consider the abilities described above. They should make your search far easier and more productive in the long run.

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