Project Management Offices (PMOs) are responsible for a seemingly indefinite number of tasks that require constant communication and intricate coordination.  Project managers oversee company projects to ensure successful and timely outcomes, but they are often focused on high-level strategy and general progress, necessitating the need for a coordinator who can stay up on all project-specific details and deadlines.  The Project Support Officer (PSO), also commonly referred to as the Project Coordinator, fills this need by assisting the PM with coordination, planning, and control of the project.   

When beginning a career in project management (PM), the PSO role is the perfect foundational position for learning firsthand the ins-and-outs of the PM process.  Unlike a project manager who tends to focus on the overall picture, a PSO is in the trenches with teams, personally observing all of the elements involved in daily operations.  While many factors such as exposure to team-level environments, daily involvement, and detail coordination will provide a PSO with unparalleled expertise, there are skills that can be developed to enhance their capabilities further.  Here are few skills that can be developed to place you ahead of the curve. 

PROJECT MANAGEMENT FUNDAMENTALS

It almost goes without saying that in order to effectively support a project manager, a basic understanding of project management is necessary.  Knowledge is power in a PMO and having a grasp on fundamentals, such as the following, will provide a solid foundation to build upon:

  • Agile and waterfall PM methodologies and lifecycles;
  • Project planning processes;
  • Tracking system for issues, updates, changes, and risks;
  • Team personnel assignments;
  • Knowledge of company databases and document storage platforms;
  • Decision making process and the parties involved (e.g., PM hierarchy);
  • Methods for progress reporting internally and externally to stakeholders;
  • Budget and financial management.

This list is not exhaustive but covers most of the baseline knowledge that a PSO should have; however, PM methodology varies and there may be additional requirements.  If you feel that you may not possess enough PM understanding to develop a successful career, pursuing a certification may be great way to broaden your knowledge base. Organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) offer PM classes and accompanying certifications that are widely recognized within the industry.

OFFICE SKILLS

Studies show that by 2040, 95% of all purchases will be made online, making it apparent that ecommerce is on the rise.  To meet this growing demand, organizations are embracing technology and expecting employees to keep up.  Consequently, in addition to PM knowledge, a PSO must possess certain basic office skills such as the following:

  • PC Competency.  A person must be PC competent and be able to operate general programs such as word, email, and Adobe Acrobat.
  • Excel.  One of the most common tools utilized by a PSO is Microsoft Excel, making it imperative that you are comfortable using pivot tables and formulas.
  • Documents.  PSOs are called upon to develop documents that may be viewed by the executive team.  Understanding how to utilize word processing programs to format documents is a must.
  • Software.  As technology develops, so will project management software.  Undoubtedly, companies will be willing to try out the “latest and greatest” tools to get a leg up on the competition.  Thus, it is important to embrace the change and get comfortable with picking up new programs such as Trello, Teams, Slack, and Sharepoint.
  • Research.  Depending on the scope of a project, PSOs may be called upon to undertake research.  It is necessary to not only find relevant sources but to also be able to clearly present facts and figures.
  • Self-motivate.  PMs are too busy to micromanage every aspect of daily operations, leaving PSOs to work under limited supervision.  It is necessary to be able to pick up new tasks and self-educate without constant supervision.
  • Damage Control.  Part of a PSO’s position is putting out fires.  It is important to listen to your team and help remove any obstacles that are impeding progress.

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Personal skills are qualities and traits that help enrich and enhance our interactions.  We have all worked with someone who excels at engaging colleagues and is dependable. This person has meticulously honed their personal skills and uses them to their advantage.  To fully harness PM potential, a PSO should develop personal skills such as the following:

  • Communication.  A PSO interacts with teams daily and needs to be able to fully engage others both verbally and in writing.  
  • Keeping Your Cool.  Projects are constantly facing deadlines, making working under pressure a regular occurrence.  Officers must be able to prioritize and organize work while keeping their cool.
  • Time Management. Organizing and planning is key to ensuring timely completion of projects.  PSOs must be realistic about time constraints, create workflows, and communicate deadlines to teams.
  • Listen.  Valuable information exists at every level of an organization.  By listening to superior and subordinate colleagues you can obtain vast insight.  Ask confirmation questions, take notes, and give verbal feedback to show that you are actively listening.
  • Self-motivation.  Much of the work of a support officer occurs independent of senior personnel, making it important to self-motivate.  Passionate PSOs take on tasks and seek new skills without being asked, spearheading their occupational development.
  • Team Player.   We have all seen how difficult and frustrating it can be working with a colleague who is against the team.  Conversely, it is likely that you have also experienced the delights of working on a strong, amicable team. Cohesion and teamwork are essential elements of every successful project.  PSOs should be approachable, flexible, and supportive to clearly demonstrate that they are a team player. 

Working in a PMO is a challenging task, but by utilizing capabilities from all of the skillsets, a well-rounded PSO will be fully equipped to obtain success.