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The rise of the strategic Project Management Office

By Ross Dawson. Published on 9 December 2015

Strong growth across many business sectors has prompted a rise in demand for high calibre interims to head the Project Management Office (PMO). It’s a role that I believe is undergoing its own transformation as the PMO increasingly takes a strategic lead in delivering change and transformation.

Today’s PMO Lead is someone who can sit on the steering committee, possibly even the board, and provide invaluable advice and oversight. It’s a positive move forward from the days when the PMO was seen as a centralised admin resource; booking meeting rooms and providing templates and reports.

Organisations are realising that they need a more considered approach to change, they need to plan more and have the right people in place avoiding simply reacting to immediate requirements. A strong PMO can provide a considered strategic solution, providing the much needed longer-term support, in order to make change programmes succeed.

As a result, Eton Bridge Partners are increasingly being asked to place an entire Programme Team, including strategic PMO Leads who can influence at board level and act as an ally and peer to the Programme Director.

Asking the PMO experts

I asked two PMO experts, Charlie Clayton and Julia Proud, about their experience and observations. Both agreed, previously the PMO was seen as the team responsible for “dealing with all the other programme stuff that nobody else wants to deal with”.

More recently, however, the PMO has jumped into the programme leadership team, and at the same time provided opportunities for a more cost effective approach, as Charlie explained:

“One of my clients had 250 people looking after a £3m project portfolio with a PMO of seven people that wasn’t offering value for money and the individuals weren’t at the appropriate levels of expertise. Sometimes, it’s better to be lean with a higher skillset.”

Julia emphasised the importance of the relationship between Programme Directors and the PMO: “A good Programme Director recognises they need help. The PMO stepped up – somebody had to… [but] the Programme Director is ultimately responsible for delivery. In my opinion, that’s the way it should stay”.

Julia and Chris concur that although significant progress has been made, there is still some work to do before the PMO is truly recognised as a strategic partner. Both are optimistic about the future.

“My intuition is that a new role will adapt which will keep PMO administration delivering, but, a new breed of role will be created which will be more explicit in the role of supporting the Programme Director,” Julia told me.  “A hybrid PD/PMO so to speak…”

Recognise the potential of PMOs

It’s clear that although the role of the PMO has evolved considerably, there are still many organisations that fail to recognise its full potential.

The value that professionals like Charlie and Julia bring to the role demonstrates there are opportunities for those businesses that are unafraid to embrace change.

For more information about the new Programme Management Office and how we can support you or your business please contact Ross Dawson on 01753 303 600 or email: ross.dawson@etonbridgepartners.com

Click here for the full version of this article and more contributions from Charlie and Julia.

Ross Dawson


Ross has over 10 years interim recruitment experience and specialises in executive level interim appointments within business transformation. Ross is accustomed to working with a diverse client base from global businesses to SMEs across private and public sectors, as well as not-for-profit.