Five indispensable skills for any project support worker

Written by Alan Garvey on 14 August 2014 in Features
Features

Every project manager wants a right-hand man or woman who can provide that support when it’s needed the most

Reading time: 3m 30s.

The job landscape in project management has evolved, just as the discipline itself has. One glance at the want ads shows that today’s project support officer needs a whole new set of skills to work effectively.

No matter the type of organisation, sector or project you are looking to pursue, the skill set remains the same across the board.

Below are the top five competencies for a project support officer. They include the skill areas on which you need to concentrate in order to do the job properly.

1. Strong reporting skills

If you are working within project support – or want to be working in this area – the number one skill you will need is reporting. This area is the most commonly known aspect of the project support officer’s job. There are different types of reporting that extend over the project lifecycle. They include:

  • reporting progress
  • status
  • resources
  • plans
  • finances and KPIs
  • costs
  • reviews

Strong reporting skills require a combination of knowledge areas including 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 actually talks to people, validates data and creates meaningful clear information that can be acted on.

2. Project information control

The project support officers are the stewards of project information. They control it too. They pride themselves on maintaining the ‘only version of the truth’. If anyone on the project wants the latest status, figures, actions or issues, it’s the project support officer to whom one must refer.

Within this skill set, you’re overseeing the co-ordination of issues, risks, change control, documentation, contract management and procurement. To master this skill, you need to combine your analytical, organisational and administrative skills. You’re a person that likes to move things from chaos to order and you pride yourself on running a tight ship.

3. Best practices

Best practices reflect 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 not only be showing others how to use these tools; you will be using them yourself so it is logical that you would know as much as about them as possible.


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A good project support officer knows as much theory of project management as their project manager does. The difference is you’re supporting the process whilst the project manager uses it every day to manage the project. A good project support officer also appreciates the flexibility in applying best practices if it means the outcome is better or greater than sticking rigidly to process.

4. Quality control and assurance

Quality control and assurance is the flip side of the best practices coin. It answers the question: “Have we done what we said we were going to do?” The areas in which every project support worker is involved include audits, reviews, compliance, health checks, gateways, and configuration management. It could involve collating the data, setting up peer reviews, liaising with the quality department or maintaining the project information in a library or repository.

Quality control and assurance requires attention to detail. You co-ordinate the various departments and people while providing the best reporting possible in every scenario.

5. Project support

The title says it all: A project support officer supports projects. Support can come in many shapes and sizes, making 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 happen. If meetings need arranging, agendas set and actions chased, it’s the project support officer that executes those tasks. The same applies to travel arrangements, team events, last-minute project purchases and getting the client’s time scheduled.

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 who can provide that support when it’s needed the most.

 

About the author

Alan Garvey is managing director EMEA of ESI International www.esi-intl.co.uk.

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