As a PMO professional, or leader of a team of PMO professionals, what should you be considering for development opportunities this year? And what PMO skills should you be looking for when you are hiring new team members?
We work extensively with PMOs at all levels and we’ve seen a shift in the kinds of PMO skills that are required for your team to flourish.
Here are the PMO skills you really need in your department this year.
1. Data fluency
Being able to operate in a digital environment is part of the new normal for anyone working in a project-led environment, including the PMO team. PMI puts digital skills on a par with the rest of the Talent Triangle for project professionals, and we can take that a step further.
Data fluency is about being able to understand and interpret the data provided by all those digital tools. In order to get the best out of disruptive technologies like AI, big data and RPA, it’s important to be able to use what they produce. What good is a beautiful summary dashboard if a human can’t interpret it, make the right decisions and then act quickly to implement a change of direction based on the data?
PMO teams rely on metrics, so it’s important that they have a full understanding of what the metrics mean – and not just in a superficial way, but how the data is created, what inputs need to shift in order to influence the data and so on.
As PMO and project teams use a wide array of tools, it’s important that there is transparency of data, and parity between what different systems report. Data fluency skills can help individuals spot discrepancies and dig into the underlying data points to uncover what’s driving business performance.
The PMO can also take the lead in ensuring project team members understand the data being used to measure performance by organizing training on topics like earned value.
2. Data Visualization
Those data fluency skills aren’t enough alone. We also have to be able to communicate in a visual way. Data visualization is a skill that will serve PMO professionals well. As attention spans get shorter, execs juggle more projects, and we have the distractions that come with working from home, it’s even more important that we can communicate effectively using visual means like dashboards, charts, graphs and summary reports.
Many project management and PMO software tools have the ability to create visual reports, and as a PMO team, you should be looking at how much can be automated. Often, detailed information needs the back up of data tables or similar, but you should still be able to create snapshot views from your portfolio level information.
In a study on employee engagement, researchers found that resilience drives 25% of an employee’s inspiration at work. In other words, being able to deal with difficult times is a good indicator of employee engagement.
It’s possible to extrapolate that if PMO professionals have high personal resilience, they may be able to support resilience in others in the team. And projects are certainly an area of business known for ups and downs – what initiative hasn’t hit a problem at some point in the project life cycle?
Consider how you can build resilience and personal bounce-back-ability in yourself and your team. For example:
- Create a support network in the team through peer partnerships or a mentoring program
- Be transparent with how decisions are made to provide the ‘why’ for any course of action and the context for problem solving
- Where possible, make sure people are working on things they enjoy and are good at
- Promote a culture where making mistakes is OK, learning is encouraged and there is no blame.
4. Focus on Wellbeing
The PMO sets the culture for project delivery, so it should be front and center of any initiative to support wellbeing for change professionals.
Promoting wellbeing and creating a supportive, positive workplace culture can reduce stress, improve productivity and improve staff retention. It’s also positive for the reputation of the department and the organization overall: there are many surveys that call out great places to work nationally. Plus, we think it’s the right thing to do!
It’s definitely worth doing from a return on investment position as well: the WHO reports that for every $1 put into supporting mental health, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.
Simple things include looking at working hours to see if they could be made more flexible, ensuring staff have the tools and skills they need to do their jobs, wherever they are based, and encouraging people to take their vacation time. PMO leaders can set an example and also influence policies to ensure that the wellbeing of staff is taken into consideration at all times.
PMO colleagues are not counselors or therapists, but they do have a unique opportunity to notice the mood of project teams and across the organization more generally because of the stakeholders they serve. They can signpost team members to relevant services, conduct surveys and be a trusted listening ear. It’s important to make sure that they also have access to the same resources so their own wellbeing is also supported.
5. Virtual Working
We can’t underestimate the effect that the events of 2020 had on teams. It’s expected now that many PMO professionals will be based at home either through choice or necessity. Being able to facilitate virtual working sessions requires a different skill set to running the same session in person.
PMO teams need to get comfortable with the many online tools that make it easier to work together while being remote. This encompasses communication skills, personal presentation (i.e. being conscious your camera is on), meetings management and more. It also involves supporting project delivery teams in being more effective with following project management processes in an online, virtual environment, especially if those colleagues are new to having to work remotely.
Fortunately, these are PMO skills that can be learned. Whether it’s delivering virtual training or facilitating a retrospective, PMO professionals who can operate effectively virtually are going to have the edge this year.
Read next: 5 tips for making virtual teams a success.
Whatever your goals for your PMO this year, your success is going to be driven by your people. With the right people, the right support and the right partner, you can take your PMO to the next level.