PMO Career Path – 5 Concerns Joining a PMO

Are you considering joining the PMO Career path? Not all project management offices are created equal, and the perception of a PMO’s value significantly influences a project manager’s decision to pursue a position. Here are five concerns that could discourage a project manager from seeking a PMO-related role and why these unappealing factors might still provide growth opportunities. There are solid reasons to seek a position in a project management office.

As the previous 6 Reasons to Join a PMO article indicated, an assignment in a PMO can offer project managers hands-on experience in enterprise-level risk, change, and issues management, expand their awareness of business issues, and provide an environment to develop leadership skills. Perhaps most appealing, it can also offer the opportunity to become part of the solution to project management processes needing fixing. However, not all PMOs are created equal, and the perception of a PMO within an organization will significantly influence a project manager’s decision to take a PMO assignment. Here are five less-than-enticing perceptions that could, on the surface, persuade a project manager to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

1. The PMO is a Staff Function

Ineffective PMOs are perceived as providing low value at high administrative costs without improving project delivery. Valid or not, a PMO assignment is typically a staff assignment that focuses on managing a portfolio of projects rather than specific project delivery. A staff role does not carry the daily glamour or excitement that the project management role provides. The project manager is the key integrator in project management roles, ensuring all work streams and activities are completed on time. Senior managers and executives depend on you to deliver their projects on time, with high quality, and under or on budget. Staff functions don’t necessarily provide the same reward and recognition, though they are critical to the portfolio’s operations. Depending on the company’s organizational culture, high performers are typically recognized in delivery roles rather than staff or maintenance roles. Employees often hear about the hero who rescued a troubled project but rarely about the PMO manager who streamlined the financial approval process.

Recommended article: Is Joining a PMO the Right Career Move for You?

2. The focus is on Process and Methodology

Working in a PMO shifts the focus from project delivery to process management. Instead of delivering a project, the process or methodology is the project. A PMO manager succeeds when projects are funded, prioritized, and initiated correctly, and the in-flight projects are executed according to the project management process. This is a significant shift for project managers accustomed to transforming business requirements into solutions for their business partners.

Understandably, some project managers don’t want to become process professionals, and their primary responsibility is to ensure that others are following the prescribed process, auditing projects, or developing organizational improvements. However, depending on how the PMO is structured, the PMO manager can adopt project delivery responsibility. I worked in one organizational PMO where all the project managers reported directly to the PMO manager. Each project manager and cross-functional team was responsible for delivery. Still, the PMO manager was responsible for ensuring the projects were delivered and communicating high-level risks and issues.

3. PMO = Administrative Work

PMOs tend to be the target for administrative work. If clerical staff is unavailable, the PMO is often tasked with reassigning cubes, ordering supplies, or managing facilities. The PMO becomes an easy target when there is a perception that it has excess capacity and is not delivering actual projects. PMOs are also often responsible for organizing portfolio management or senior management reviews. When PMO is an extension of the program manager or business unit head, administrative tasks are part of the job. Effective PMOs handle administrative work efficiently.

4. Loss of PM Delivery Skill Set

When a project manager no longer directly manages projects, losing touch with day-to-day project management skills is a common concern. PMO roles can provide new opportunities to apply project management skills across various projects. It may take some time to gain other project managers’ confidence that the PMO knows something about project delivery. Once the PMO is recognized as a contributor rather than an inhibitor, developing project management skills across a portfolio rather than one project becomes an attractive opportunity.

5. The PMO is Part of a Troubled Program

The PMO assignment may appear unattractive if the PMO opportunity involves a poorly performing program or troubled organization. Joining a struggling situation can provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate leadership opportunities. But beware. Experienced project managers know when to avoid failing projects. Taking on and rescuing a troubled project may seem noble, but some project opportunities are to be avoided at all costs. Before accepting a new assignment, project managers should still listen to WII-FM (What’s In It For Me).

PMO Career Path Recommendation

A PMO role can be an essential stepping-stone in a project manager’s career path. The experience provides more breadth across program and project management processes that support delivery solutions to meet organizational goals. As project managers review PMO opportunities, they also need to consider the type of PMO and its level in the organization. The opportunity will develop program management skills if it is a program-level PMO. If it is an organizational PMO, the role will be heavily staff-focused, but it could also provide opportunities to influence an organization’s project management delivery and portfolio management capability. In an executive-level PMO, project managers will have visibility to top projects and programs in the company and be able to observe how management deals with strategic problems. All three types of PMOs can improve a project manager’s skill set and overall marketability in the right situations.

Recommended article: Establish a Project Management Community of Practice


Andrew Makar

Andrew Makar, DMIT, PMP, CSM is an IT director with delivery experience across projects, programs and portfolios in Digital Marketing, Automotive, Software and Financial Management industries. He is an enthusiastic leader who effectively translates project management theory into practical application. His area of interest and practice is in implementing Agile processes and SCRUM techniques to deliver better software to his customers. Find out more about Andrew on and please reach out and connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.

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