Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Americo Pinto, PMP, PMO-CC, PMO-CP

By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, A-CSM

Americo Pinto, PMP, PMO-CC, PMO-CP, is the Founder and Chair of the PMO Global Alliance, the world’s largest community of PMOs and PMO professionals.

He has more than 25 years of international experience in PMOs, Strategy, and Project Management, working as a Practitioner, Consultant, Professor, Researcher, Speaker, and Author.

Americo Pinto was the recipient of the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award in 2012. He is a Ph.D. candidate at Rennes School of Business in France.

1: How did you get started in your Project Management career?

I started my career in the ’90s, working in one of the big five consulting companies. For over ten years, I had the opportunity to develop my skills in project management and my experience in leading large projects in some of the largest companies in the world. After accumulating experience as a consultant, I decided to found my own consulting company in the 2000s, which became, after 15 years, one of the largest in Latin America specializing in project management, with more than 500 consultants allocated to large companies in five countries.

2: What is your specialization in Project Management?

Over the past 12 years, I have focused my studies and research to the PMO topic, which was already a subject I had been actively working on for many years.

In recent years I have been studying, researching, and working with communities of practice, with a specific focus on PMOs. I believe that collaboration is the key to evolving maturity in projects in organizations and regions worldwide.

3: For those that are not familiar with the PMO, can you please elaborate on what a PMO is and its role in an organization and project management?

This is a crucial question as there are many attempts to define what a PMO should be or how it should be configured.

Ultimately, a PMO is an organizational entity that centralizes project, program, and portfolio management functions. It is a phenomenon similar to what has been observed in other departments, such as information technology and acquisitions. In search of more significant expertise, productivity and focus, the centralization process is commonly recommended for areas of support to the company’s business.

The question is which functions should be centralized in the PMO, which is a decision for each company based on its needs and expectations. Randomly selected PMOs will always be different in many aspects, which is a crucial success factor since they must fit their organization’s specific needs.

Just adopting a “pre-established model” with a trendy title can be a factor that will lead a PMO to fail since there is no ideal model of PMO to be followed but the one that was set up for the existent specific needs. Otherwise, the PMO will not generate a perception of value for its stakeholders that justifies its existence, as the PMO can’t deliver the necessary benefits to meet the stakeholders’ needs.

Thus, we should understand that the PMO is a service provider whose customers are organized in different groups of stakeholders in the organization, such as executives, functional managers, project managers, and team members, each with different needs and expectations.

The vast majority of successful PMOs have in common the understanding that partnering with their customers is essential and that there will be many different ways to address existing needs.

A PMO can have a strategic, operational, consultative, or controlling focus, among many other combinations, as long as they can deliver the expectations of their customers and generate a positive perception of value, which is essential for the PMO to survive and thrive.

4: Are there certain types of industries where a PMO seems to do better over others?

A PMO will always generate more results where there is more opportunity to do so. Some essential factors justify the possible need for a PMO, such as the portfolio’s value under the PMO’s mandate.

Small organizations or departments that have a portfolio of small value will hardly bear the costs necessary to maintain the structure of a PMO, no matter how simple it may be.

In these scenarios, the benefits that a PMO can generate for the business will hardly pay its cost. However, there are great opportunities for a dynamic PMO at organizations or departments with a reasonable portfolio.

They can potentially benefit and avoid significant operational, tactical, or strategic issues that cause financial losses, which is essential to create a noticeable return on investment from setting up and maintaining a PMO.

The organization’s project maturity is also a key factor for a PMO to succeed. It is no coincidence that we see PMOs more often in departments, organizations, and industries where projects have greater relevance, leveraging the vast opportunities of getting the benefits of establishing a PMO.

5: Are there certain skill sets that are more vital than others in managing and leading a PMO?

PMOs around the world have been evolving significantly. A PMO leader today must understand, first and foremost, that a PMO is a service provider, which has customers. Knowing and meeting the customers’ needs is a crucial success factor since it will let the customers perceive the value of the PMO, which will justify its existence.

In this way, some competencies become fundamental, both technical and behavioral. For example, a deep understanding of the Customer Service best practices is something new for many PMO Leaders, who still believe that just knowing project management techniques is enough to lead their PMO to success.

Among the soft skills, flexibility and the ability to adapt are essential to allow the PMO to always be in line with its customers’ expectations. A PMO Leader that believes in the “ideal PMO model” is disconnected from the real needs of the PMO customers and has lost sight of the fact that different “pains” require different “remedies.”

Finally, empathy will allow the PMO Leader to see the PMO’s performance through the lens of the PMO customers, establishing true trust-based partnerships. Ultimately, the primary commitment of a PMO is not with the technique but with the results and benefits generated and perceived by its customers.

6: In a traditional project management organizational structure, would the project manager move up as a PMO Director/ Manager? Do a person first need to be a project manager before transitioning over to the role as a PMO Director?

It is certainly possible to say project management knowledge and experience are important competencies for any PMO Leader. Therefore, it is typical for PMO leaders to have previous experience as project managers. However, when becoming a PMO Leader, many project managers do not adapt to this new role, which requires much broader skills, which can also vary according to the characteristics of each PMO.

We know that leading a PMO goes far beyond project management technical competencies and involves many other critical skills that cannot be overlooked. Previous experience as a project manager is excellent, but I emphasize that this is not enough to make a successful PMO leader.

7: What do you think are some of the emerging trends in the project management profession and the related effects on organizations?

Perhaps the most apparent project management trend is that an increasing number of organizations are transitioning to a remote work environment. Communication and collaboration become major challenges in this scenario, addressed through new platforms and tools. This fast-growing trend will strongly influence project management practices in the next few years,

The use of hybrid project management approaches is more than a trend, as it is already a reality in many companies that stand out on the world stage. There are no right or wrong methodologies, but the most suitable for every need, and flexibility is the keyword.

Soft skills will become increasingly valued. As organizations mature, there is a growing understanding that technical aspects are important, but for most projects, the most significant challenges are related to people. This trend also impacts the PMOs, where customer focus has become a critical success factor.

Finally, a lot has been said about using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in project management as an emerging trend. Project managers can already use automation to perform complex tasks ranging from scheduling to data visualization and make decisions based on the captured insights. Much more can emerge as opportunities and benefits from this emerging trend, impacting how organizations manage their projects. However, I believe it will take time for the AI potential to be widely understood and adopted by organizations.

8: What certifications in project management are industries most interested in and Why? How should people prepare for these certifications?

The “industry of certifications” is rapidly changing. Today, there are so many certifications on so many different topics that it has become increasingly confusing for professionals and companies to understand the true value of these certifications.

Certifications that already have a strong reputation for credibility, quality, and usefulness may maintain their leadership position. But I think the red ocean of emerging certifications will generate a growing disinterest since those certifications don’t have the main elements necessary to a successful certification program: credibility, prestige, and differentiation.

At PMO Global Alliance, we understand that certifications need to undergo a significant conceptual transformation in their essence. In line with this idea, we have recently launched an innovative new credential for PMO Consultants, which focuses on providing knowledge and also supporting our credential holders in generating business opportunities, which is their ultimate goal.

9: With types of projects are becoming more global, what are the most significant lessons learned in working with multicultural teams?

At PMO Global Alliance, we experience this challenge every single day. Our community has more than 14,000 members in over 120 countries, and the universe of different cultures is immense. We work with collaborative teams formed by our members worldwide, so we need to prepare them to face the challenges of multicultural projects, where empathy and emotional intelligence are essential skills for success. We have a special council composed of PMOGA members from different regions and cultures. They are consulted when we need to understand better the cultural impacts of our projects and actions in certain areas, countries, and groups, providing valuable advice to our project leaders.

10: As the Chair and Founder of PMOGA, can you please share your leadership style and how it directly contributed to the organization’s success?

As the PMOGA Community Founder and Leader, I believe in the power of collaboration and generosity. ITogether we can learn, share experiences, support each other, and build a legacy that can be useful and valuable to other professionals and society. The essence of collaborative work is generosity when we understand that working together is giving our best contribution to an objective, which will allow us to achieve great results together. This mindset has been vital to our accelerated growth and boosting members’ engagement in recent years.

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