One look at job advertisements and specifications for a project support officer or project co-ordinator today quickly reveals a set of core competencies or skills to get the job done.
Regardless of the type of organisation, sector or project, you work within; the competencies remain the same across the board.
Here are the top five competencies for a project support officer – skill areas that you need to concentrate on in order to do the job or, of course, get better at your job.
If you are working within project support – or want to be working in this area – the number one competency is reporting. This is the part of the job that project support officers areas most known for. The different types of reporting extend over the project lifecycle and over a time period. Reporting progress; status; resources; plans; finances, KPIs; costs; reviews – you name it, the project support officer will be doing it.
To be a great reporter you need a combination of information management; data management; analysis; communication and IT skills. It’s not just about creating a spreadsheet or producing a RAG report – a good project support officer talks to people; validates data and creates meaningful clear information that can be acted on.
Project support officers are the custodians of project information – and the control of it. They pride themselves on maintaining the ‘only version of the truth’. If anyone on the project wants to latest status; figures; actions or issues, it’s the project support officer that controls it.
With control you’re overseeing the co-ordination of issues; risks, change control, documentation and any other logs that need control (contract management, procurement etc)
To be a great controller you are combining your analytical, organisational and administrative skills. You’re a person that likes to bring order to chaos and pride yourself on running a tight ship.
#3 Good practice
Good practice reflects the method, processes, standards, procedures and tools of project management that your team needs in order to work efficiently. It’s your job to be as helpful as possible in making this happen. You might guide someone through the processes. You might even alter them slightly to adapt to a particular situation. You’ll also be using these tools and processes yourself so it makes sense that you know as much as about them as possible.
A good project support officer knows the theory of project management, almost as much as the project manager does. The difference between the roles is you support the process whilst the project manager uses it every day to manage the project. A good project support officer appreciates the flexibility in good practice too, especially if it means the outcome is better or greater than sticking rigidly to the process.
#4 Quality Assurance
Quality assurance is the other side of good practice in a lot of ways. It answers the question, “have we done what we said we were going to do?”.
Audits, reviews, compliance, health checks, gateways and configuration management are all areas that a project support worker will get involved. It could take the form of collating the data, setting up peer reviews, liaising with the quality department or maintaining the project information in a library or repository.
Quality assurance requires attention to detail. You become the co-ordinator of different departments and people and of course our old friend reporting!
The clue is in the title – project support officer – and support in whatever shape it takes is something that really makes the support officer indispensable. The nature of the role means you are often the centre point for the project – along with the project manager. The project manager relies heavily on you to make things go smoothly. If meetings need arranging, agendas set and actions chased, it’s the project support officer that makes it happen. The same applies to travel arrangements, team events, last-minute project purchases and getting the client’s time in the diary.
It’s these little ‘support’ requirements that appear on every project at any one time that need a good co-ordinator so the project manager can delegate. And every project manager wants a right-hand man (or woman!) that can provide support when it’s needed the most.
Do you agree with my top five? What differences do you see in your organisation or sector? Leave your thoughts and let’s chat about it.