The Project Support Officer

The Project Support Officer role is sometimes also called a Project Co-ordinator and its considered to be one of the first roles you would have when starting out working in supporting projects.

There’s an informative article already that covers What a Project Support Officer Does over on the Arras People website and you should check that out if you’re looking to understand what kind of tasks and activities they carry out on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.

The role of the Project Support Officer is:

. . .  to support the Project Manager and Project Team in the co-ordination, planning and control of the project. They receive minimal supervision from the Project Manager to ensure the agreed project management methods and standards are implemented throughout the project.

In this article we look a bit deeper at the different skills that a Project Support Officer needs to do their job well:

What Skills Does the Project Support Officer Need?

First up we take a look at the more technical side of the job and kick off with project management:

1. Project Management

To be able to support a Project Manager and the project team you need to understand about the fundamentals of project management, that includes:

  • Project management methodologies and lifecycles for e.g., waterfall and Agile approaches.
  • How projects get planned e.g., techniques like creating Gantt charts.
  • How to track risks, issues and changes on the project e.g., why and how logs get updated.
  • The people who are assigned to working on the project e.g., resource plans and timesheets.
  • Keeping documents under control e.g., configuration management and using tools like Sharepoint.
  • How decisions are made and by whom e.g., governance arrangements.
  • Keeping people informed of progress of the project e.g., stakeholder management and reporting.
  • Keeping a track of expenditure e.g., the budget and financial management.

The list goes on and the knowledge you need will depend on how your organisation manages and delivers projects.

When you’re just starting out in project management and looking to pursue a role like Project Support Officer, it’s the BCS PPSO Essentials certification that is the right one for you. [Take a look at what the BCS PPSO Essentials certification covers]. You can also take a look at the training options for Level One in PMO.

2. Office Skills

Next we take a look at the general office skills you need to go alongside your project management based skills, these include:

  • You need to be competent on a PC and used to using general programs such as email (and using diary management) and word processing.
  • MS Excel is one of the most common tools you’ll see a Project Support Officer using, you need to comfortable using formulas and pivot tables.
  • You’ll be comfortable picking up new and pretty intuitive programs like Sharepoint, Trello, Slack and so on.
  • You’ll be able to format a document so your word processing skills need to extend beyond just typing. Same goes for using MS Powerpoint too.
  • The most advanced program you can expect to use will be a PPM tool – so something like MS Project or similar. You’ll be a fast learner!
  • Taking direction from others and working alone when needed to get a task done are pretty normal on projects.
  • Able to quickly pick up new tasks and learn without constant supervision.
  • Research skills are also useful and the ability to present facts and figures clearly and concisely.
  • You’ll have an excellent grasp of written English and be expected to produce reports without mistakes.
  • You need to be a team player and be prepared to do anything to help remove blockers for your project team.

3. Personal Skills

Personal skills are the things like your approach to work and the behaviours you need to demonstrate to be a successful Project Support Officer, these include:

  • Communication skills – what will we see? You being able to engage and interact with others, make yourself understood both verbally and written.
  • Able to work under pressure – what will we see? That you are able to prioritise and organise your work; are able to communicate where you are at and keep calm, don’t rush and make mistakes
  • Time management – what will we see? That you can organise your work and plan accordingly; communicate if time is running out; don’t say yes to everything if you can’t deliver.
  • Self-motivation – what will we see? Someone who is passionate about their work; you’ll pick up tasks without waiting to be asked; you’ll seek out new skills to learn.
  • Team player – what will we see? Someone who wants to help; be approachable; be reliable and be flexible.
  • Active listening – what will we see? Asking confirmation questions; taking notes on instructions being given; giving verbak confirmation when understood.
  • Learning – what will we see? Takes up opportunities to learn and often seeks them out; is interested in personal development and learning.

Again, there’s lots of different personal skills which are important. Often an organisation’s own corporate culture will provide other expectations about employee’s approach to work and the accepted behaviours.

A Well Rounded Project Support Officer

Working in a project environment means you’re working with lots of different people – all performing different roles with different levels of seniority. A Project Support Officer is often sitting in the middle of all of that, alongside the Project Manager. It’s a job that is all about people – people working on deadlines; people overcoming problems and challenges; people sometimes being unhappy about how things are going.

If you like working in the thick of it, where everyone is pulling together to achieve something new, then welcome to the right career path for you.

PPSO EssentialsTo get started in project management, the Project Support Officer role is considered to be the entry-level place to start. To gain the skills and experience you need to work in a project environment you need to start by gaining the project management knowledge plus an understanding of what is expected of you in the job.

The PPSO Essentials course from the BCS (British Computer Society) is the only course that brings both those two elements together.

If you’re looking to kickstart your PMO career, what are you waiting for?


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