You entered the Project Management profession as a project manager to help your organization “get it done”. You might have started out as an individual contributor (developer, business analyst) and now see the value being in a pivotal cross-functional project management / delivery role. But what does this all lead to from a career perspective?
The Project Management profession addresses Project/Program/Portfolio management, which when combined can unlock a high amount of value for an organization. The roles provide the ability to deliver benefits and evaluate realized benefits vs expected results, understand future product innovation, and cycle through the process to continuously deliver results.
There are other roles aside from Project Manager that play a part in product/service delivery and aligning a portfolio’s work to strategic direction: Program Manager, Project Management Office (PMO) Leader, and Portfolio Manager. Separately, there are roles that are outside of the PM profession such as COO, Business Development Leader, and even Entrepreneur. Those roles require skills that are developed during one’s tenure in the project management profession.
The Program Manager
A program consists of a group of projects coordinated to deliver business benefits. The program manager is responsible for program delivery. This requires a focus on the interrelationships among the projects and balancing decisions based on the dependencies between projects, resource needs across projects, priorities at any given time among the projects, and aligning the decisions to deliver the program to meet the expected benefits. Also, with more stakeholders within a program than in a project, there is a need for a common set of processes and policies. The program manager provides a governance structure for how the projects will be completed and for coordinating and communicating information relevant to decision making. In addition to this, the program manager may get involved with measuring the expected benefits of the program.
The PMO Leader
A PMO can be thought of as a “command central” for effective program and project delivery. It is intended to provide support, often in the forms of tools, methods, processes and other services, that enable programs and projects to meet the business needs.
Whether defining or refining a PMO, the PMO Leader should be astute to the needs of its stakeholders, trends within its organization, and a mindset of continuous improvement. The PMO Leader can accomplish this by working with its stakeholders, prioritizing what the PMO provides. This can be a regular (e.g., annual) cadence, establishing a partnership between the PMO and its stakeholders. The result is a defined roadmap for the PMO to execute, based on the stakeholder priorities.
Two other items to help contribute to a PMO’s success is in defining and validating its value to the organization include PMO metrics and change management. It is important to incorporate metrics management and communicate the results so that the PMO Leader can identify where corrections are needed, or possible re-evaluate what it is providing.
Since a PMO is supporting a broad audience, it is also important that the PMO Leader always incorporate a change management workstream into any initiative being deployed, including a communications plan to have two-way dialogue with its stakeholders on an ongoing basis.
The Portfolio Manager
Portfolio management is doing the right work and project management is doing the work right. A project manager delivers the project to its defined objectives, whereas the portfolio manager ensures that the work being executed is the work best aligned to the business strategies. Organizations typically define criteria for prioritizing and balancing work against its strategies. The portfolio manager helps assess the work against these measures and can surface anything not aligned for decision making (often by a Portfolio Committee).
A portfolio manager supports the various aspects of a Portfolio Management process including ensuring that all new intake is evaluated based on the defined criteria, addressing intake items that require tradeoff decisions, and evaluating progress of the work in the portfolio. This may include a role in an enterprise resource management process, or at a minimum evaluating where there are resource gaps in completing prioritized work and providing alternatives and recommendations to the Portfolio Committee. The portfolio manager may also be involved in benefits management, evaluating that the work contributed to the strategic objectives as expected.
With the current use of PPM tools, the portfolio manager will likely use a tool, at a minimum to measure the performance of the portfolio.
Some may think of the PM profession as completing projects and delivering products or services. The broader view enlightens us to the value of the profession. And in addition, the skillsets that are built within this field can help transition into a senior executive operations role like a COO. A PM professional involved with the operational underpinnings of an organization has the perfect background for such a career move. Communications? Check. Measurement/Metrics? Check. You get the point. As a vehicle for achieving an organization’s future state, this profession is quite central.
So now that you know, what’s next for you?