As a former US Army soldier, being less tactical was never a goal. The more tactics you had, the better you could execute on the overall military strategy. But becoming the PMO Director is more like becoming a Division Commander. You will be an integral part of the strategic portion of the battle. In order to become a PMO Leader, you need to think and communicate more strategically. You need to get out of the weeds, and out of the project plans, and into the business strategy that all of the projects are supporting. There could be several strategies for which hundreds of projects could be supporting. Yes – supporting. A project is the tactical portion of a strategy. It is the “how” you get things done. As an example, if the strategy is to have a completely safe, supported, and flexible environment for your SAS product, then the first level of HOW might be a program of projects to move your SAS product to a globally supported cloud platform. The second level of HOW would be a series of tactical projects to (1) do a data consolidation and migration, (2) restructure the architecture, (3) communicate the move to the clients, etc. As a Project or Program manager you will do the work or ensure the work gets done. As the PMO Director, you will make sure the Global Cloud Platform Transition occurs, and that it is funded and has available resources, and that organizational change management takes place. But that would only be one strategic initiative in your overall PMO Portfolio.
To become the PMO Director, you need to clearly understand all of the strategic initiatives, their costs and benefits, their priority within the organization, the broad demand and capacity of roles needed to execute the work, the impact to the organization and to clients, the Sponsors involved and their motivations, and the risks to the organization. Without being involved in the conversations that occur to make the strategic initiatives, it is going to be difficult to do this. That is why, if you are interested in moving from a PM Role to a PMO Leader Role, you have to get involved. Even if you have to volunteer to take meeting minutes in order to get in the room with the team doing the Annual Operating Plan – you must do something to become part of this conversation. Then you need to focus on the WHY instead of the HOW.
So the company has 4 Strategic Initiatives, which have resulted in 2 Programs with 10 Projects each, and 12 other individual projects. Each has interdependencies on the other, as well as with other things going on within the company. There is also a timing to when funding becomes available, when revenue might have to be recognized, when key resources have capacity, and when Benefits are supposed to be realized. How can one Leader keep track of all of that? A 4000 line project plan? Probably not. He or She needs a Strategic Portfolio Roadmap. Maybe several views of said roadmap. There needs to be a visual – an infographic of sorts that is clear and easy to understand and communicate which shows when the work supporting the strategies will take place and when the benefits will begin to be realized. High level timelines with key delivery milestones are necessary. Sponsors want to know “when my stuff” will be done (so they can get that bonus), and they want to see what might be competing with their initiative. A strategic roadmap will be a key tool for the PMO Director. Do you know how to put one together? If not, you better find out. Volunteer to help the current Director with theirs so you can learn!
In order to move into the Director role you need to know the financials from top to bottom. At the end of the day your biggest job is to manage the money. Strategies are huge investments by a company, with expected returns on that investment. Guess who is going to manage that investment. Right – You. To be good at it, you sorta have to like that kind of thing. If you currently find managing your project financials pretty easy, and you always deliver within +/- 5% on your project costs, or project revenue recognition, then you might have what it takes. I say that, because when you are the Director you will need to pretty much know 90% of the Project, Program, Strategic Initiative, and Portfolio’s financials by heart. That isn’t to say that you won’t always be carrying around those financials with you at all time – because you will, but you have to know where everything stands. You are going to be meeting with Finance every month to review those financials, and the CFO or Finance VP is going to lose patience with you after about 3 months of you not knowing your financials!
Finally your team! But not the one you think I am talking about. Yes, it is very important as a PMO Director to care for your Program Managers and Project Managers and BA’s, etc. That is simply part of your job, and something you need to do so that you can have a high performing PMO. But that isn’t the team I am talking about. I am talking about YOUR Team. The Team you are part of. The Senior Leadership Team. The other Directors, VPs, and C-Level Players are your team. That is the team you are really part of. Those are your peers. So understanding that you must become part of THAT team is very key to being able to move to a Director level role. Begin developing those relationships now. Just remember, those people are just people. Director, VP, CFO, etc. are just their business titles. Approach them as people. Be interested in what they know. Be open about where you want to be in a year. Be very clear you want to have a Director level role, and you need to learn from them! Ask for mentorship and coaching from them. Become truly interested and involved in what they are doing in the company. Without becoming part of that team, you will find it difficult to move into a Director role.
Making the Move to a PMO Director takes knowledge, relationships, timing, and support. Hopefully some of these tips will help.