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The Role of the PMO Director

In this session, we focus on the role of the PMO Director. Within the PMO Competency Framework, the purpose of the PMO Director role is:

Provides effective, organization-wide PMO capabilities, from delivery support through to oversight, scrutiny and challenge, to support the delivery of the organization’s strategy through aligned portfolio(s) of change.

We welcomed Mitch Rollings who is a PMO Director for Westpac Bank in Australia. Mitch has worked within PMO for many years – both within the UK and Australia.
Mitch’s session is open, honest and frank about his experiences and his approach to performing the role successfully.
He starts off by giving an overview of the structure of the organisation and where the PMO and his role fits into that and talks about his first 100 days in post – the areas that were focused on. He also talks about some of the pain points of the role and of course some of the successes.
In this article, you can see the session yourself, plus we add our ten favourite insights.

Our Ten Takeaways

It’s clear from Mitch’s session that he understands a lot about how a business operates and that’s one of the key things you need to understand if you’re going to work at a PMO Director level. He’s working with the C-Suite, supporting them through strategic conversations, trying to get decisions made, helping to drive the top-down approach to get work done. To do this well, you’ve got to have credibility.

The PMO Director role clearly only works if it has the support of the C-Suite. Mitch put together the structure within three months of starting, you can only do this if you have the backing from the senior exec.

Mitch has never worked in financial services before – and that’s partially why he got the job. Sometimes it is better to bring someone in who doesn’t get sidetracked because they understand too much about the context in which they’re working. Mitch has always tried to do something different – trying different industries throughout his career.

One of the other reasons he got the job was because he had qualifications in the latest best practice. At this level it’s not about just repeating what you might have done in previous organisations, you’ve got to draw on lots of different approaches to be able to work out which one – or which combinations are going to work for the place you’re in right now. You’ve got to educate yourself and keep educating.

Mitch talked about what PMO Managers need to know today, “they need to know it all – all the different delivery frameworks and consolidated reporting. It’s the PMOs job to interpret the different controls across the business, in the different departments and projects. One way isn’t good enough anymore. You’ve also got to let people have some control over how they choose to deliver too”.

One of the biggest pain points has been incorporating Lean approaches. The people delivering with Lean don’t tend to manage finances and they’re not keen on reporting. That’s a big headache when you’re trying to manage across the whole enterprise.

Another tricky area is the monthly strategy meetings with senior executives. You learn how to manage people outside of the room, separately and away from their peers. The PMO Director job is all about facilitating conversations, getting to the decisions that mean the mandates can be written to go-ahead.

The Enterprise PMO (ePMO) is here to support all the projects within an organisation – and that means managing the different and diverse. From fast development projects coming out of the marketing department and highly regulated ones from finance – and everything in between. It becomes clear that you’ve got to adapt your approach and services accordingly.

“We provide a service, not a person” – that’s the approach he often takes. Project Officers shouldn’t become too embedded within the projects, they are not part of the project, they deliver a service to it. If someone is getting too close to a project, it’s time to switch people around, find them a new challenge.

The PMO should volunteer to do things to help release the project manager to focus on delivering the project – this is all about the PMO being in front of everything, removing blockers and helping to smooth the way for the PM.

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