My first client assignment in a PMO role

Grayce Analyst, Ian Dawes shares how he's embedded himself into a new team on client site in a PMO role.

I joined Grayce in October 2018 and was assigned to a British multinational company dealing in life insurance, pensions and investments. I'm working in a PMO role within the client's change department, overseeing an internal change programme. As part of the role, I assist in overseeing numerous projects within the change programme.

In my first week, there was a lot to learn, from industry specific acronyms to internal processes and, of course, a lot of names! Working in a fast-paced environment allowed me to add value to the client within just a couple of days.

Continuous development

My Client Assignment Lead recognised the need for fast learning and provided focused insight for me from the start. Once one skill was introduced, defined and consolidated, another was introduced. This process meant that I could take ownership of various tasks, whilst developing them and learning others. For example, I was given ownership of the programme’s SharePoint. This gave me oversight into the inner workings of each project, as well as testing my analytical skills when restructuring was needed in order to reflect internal changes.

From there, my PMO role has diversified and I’m now taking increased ownership of PMO reporting. This ranges from producing status reports, preparing Steer Co and Working Group papers, evaluating risks and issues, and assisting in the overseeing of the programme’s financial resources.

Communication is key

With these hard, analytical skills came soft skills that are, I believe, even more important in a PMO role. Due to the role overseeing and interacting with multiple projects, communication is key.

The time constraints of the project meant that being succinct yet informative is crucial - especially when I need to relay and present information to senior stakeholders who are under pressure to deliver. This is particularly vital at Working Groups and Steer Cos where time is short, so preparing the format is key, but also when communicating directly to Senior Directors to resolve issues quickly. On a smaller scale, recognising how other Project Managers work and what their style is has helped me communicate seamlessly and allowed others to know they can approach me to do a job effectively.

Apply your skills

My training with Grayce has put me in good stead for my PMO role. APM was especially useful to me, by putting the PMO role into the perspective of Steer Cos, project sponsors and project timelines. LinkedIn Learning also helped by providing me with skills in Excel and PowerPoint for example. Mastering these programmes proved vital as my client expected me to present progress to Directors with complex working packs in PowerPoint and Excel knowledge was vital for creating ergonomic spreadsheets that enable multiple users to reach information quickly.

I have also passed my BCS Business Analysis course which does not immediately translate to a PMO role, but the fundamentals do. The emphasis on understanding the context, analysing those needs, defining the task and making sure it is thoughtfully engineered is paramount in order for efficient project delivery.

Working on other projects with Grayce, has also given me the opportunity to broaden my skillset. I’m involved with the Grayce Digital Community of Practice where I help teach different coding languages. Even though this doesn’t directly relate to my current role, it’s great to have these skills to deploy for future projects and roles.

Ask questions

Overall, my time with first client has been very enjoyable. And I look forward to continuing to learn in my new role as an embedded PMO member. I think the key ways to embed yourself with the client are to get to know the informal networks in the organisation to improve your own understanding and communication but, more importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions!

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