PMI Belgium

PMO in Pharma Industry - Patrick Kamba

Interview by: Frank Turley

with:             Patrick Kamba


Date: September 2019

Who is Patrick Kamba 

Patrick is the passionate PMO lead in pharma and provides leadership in the profession through people and career management

Current job:  PMO Lead at Mithra
Last Job:   Director, Project Management Lead @ GSK Vaccines

1) What is a PMO?

PMO stands for Project Management Office. Its mission lies in providing the framework in which PMs operate. What does it mean concretely? Well, this department defines and maintains standards for project management within the organization, strives to standardize to ensure repeatability in the way projects are managed. The PMO is the source of documentation, guidance and metrics on the practice of project management and execution.

2) What was the structure of the last PMO you worked on? 


The last PMO that I worked on had a following structure:

    - PMO Manager (you) 

    - PMO Board was actually composed of PM Head, PMO Manager and PM Leads 

    - PM’s: we were more than 40 people, headcount and complimentary workers 

    - Coaches and specialists: we performed both of these two roles .

3) How does a PMO in Pharma differ than a normal PMO?

Where does the Pharma industry enter the stage? Let me first remind you of some of its characteristics: regulated sector, capital requirements, financial and skilled resources and proprietary technology.  We are conscious of them in every discussion, whenever we design a clinical study plan (R&D), execute a process validation plan (Manufacturing) or control the progress of a Corrective Actions and a Preventative Actions Plan (Quality). Last but not least, we monitor Adverse Events (Safety) of whatever the product, i.e. a vaccine, an implant, a pill since your ultimate customer is a patient.  

4) How realistic are the PMO board’s expectations?  

I will refer to it several experiences, as an insider, a direct customer and as PMO Lead. At first, when you are enterprise-minded, it is difficult to be realistic. Let me explain here: you want to contribute to the company objectives, you see some areas of improvement, you are a team player and you are service orientated. So, I think I answered the question.

5) As a PMO head, which things did you find easy? 

Selecting the right PMO who would be part of the team. It was not a matter of finding the best experts but rather the people who would implement my PMO vision and become a band of brothers and sisters, because at the end, processes don’t run a company, people do.

6) As a PMO head, which things did you find difficult? 

You have to accept the fact that PMO stands for Project Management Office and not Project Manager Office: PMs are not the only clients of PMO. Any function working on a project might expect some contribution from PMO. This is where leadership, influence and negotiation come into play. Stakeholders’ management becomes essential as they can make or break a PMO.

7) Can you give me some examples of good lesson that you have learned over the two years?

 Here are some that come to my mind:

  • PMO has to be built in the spirit of offering a mix of services, but keeping in mind that what the organisation needs today might be different tomorrow: simply said, be flexible and don’t fall in complacency 
  • Know your stakeholders including your floating ones and opponents
  • Develop a vision but read books and make some research at first
  • Train beyond PMs

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