Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project
management recruitment at Arras People in
and build your professional circle. Another area of
development you should consider seriously is being
mentored. This on-the-job sounding board and
guiding hand in the early years is perhaps one of the
best development experiences.
Another option, if you’re a little more advanced
in your career, is being coached. I’ve seen how
coaching can elevate a project manager’s career.
Sometimes it just takes someone outside your day-to-day relationships to ask questions that make you
realize you had the answers all along.
I’ve been working in project management offices
(PMOs) for years, primarily in a program management office. I’m excited about developments
in portfolio management. How should I position
myself to work in a portfolio-focused PMO?
With a strong background in a program PMO, you
already should have the technical capabilities to
carry out the main roles in a portfolio PMO. After
all, the central task of translating data into meaningful information is required for both. You are
probably also familiar with investment appraisals,
project prioritization, resource management and
benefits realization. If you’re not, consider those
areas as development opportunities.
The biggest shift when moving into portfolio
management has to do with your understanding of
the business and its competitive environment, and
your ability to work with more senior members
of the organization. There is a subtle switch in the
language used and how you would interact with
people at the portfolio level. You need the gravitas
and knowledge to be able to deliver information
that drives difficult decisions.
Keep in mind that portfolio management is also
still a relatively young discipline with a lack of best
practices on which to draw. Organizations are still
fine-tuning how portfolio management works for
them. For this reason, your development in this
area partially will depend on how your organization
wants to adopt portfolio management practices.
Interestingly, in my conversations with people
What’s the difference between a project man-
who have made the move from program PMOs to
portfolio PMOs, there’s never a great time for that
move. Many make the transition and then learn
the necessary new skills on the fly.
agement consultant and a freelance/contract
Typically, a consultant in any business field is
focused on advising organizations in business
areas that need initiating, changing or developing.
A project management consultant often advises,
but also provides a hands-on project delivery role.
A freelance/contract project manager tends to be
hired to deliver a specific project or well-defined
deliverables, rather than advise.
Here are some circumstances in which an organi-
zation might enlist a project management consultant:
n Limited project management capability. The con-
sultant advises how to improve an organization’s
pool of project managers while managing a criti-
n Low project management maturity. A consultant
will deliver a complicated project while advising the
client on improving maturity so in-house project
managers can deliver such projects in the future.
n Troubled or failing projects. Consultants often spe-
cialize in getting projects back on track and advis-
ing how to avoid similar problems in the future.
n New technology, tools and methods. Consultants
can train and coach staff in new areas as well as
roll out new methods.
n New entities such as PMOs. A consultant can
advise on what models to follow and then start
Consultants are called on to assist in finding the
right solution for the business, using their considerable experience in a specific area. Ideally, once
the consultant finds the solution, he or she can
successfully implement it as well. PM
As you weigh
three sides of
the PMI Talent