Brian appears in the Top 100
U.S. Business Leaders Magazine
Photo Credit: Photos by Jenn
Renowned for his innovation and highly motivated drive, Brian Abrams has single-handedly changed the landscape of project management staffing. Over the course of his 20-year career, the project management recruitment expert has worked for a number of respectable firms, been featured in Forbes Magazine, and placed hundreds of project management professionals in permanent positions and contract engagements. However, his greatest accomplishment came in 2014, when he took his years of insight and experience to start his own company.
Based in Massachusetts, PMO Partners is the first of its kind—focusing specifically on professional IT project management recruitment and consulting services. Led by industry experts, the firm’s dedicated team of seasoned professionals help clients meet their goals by connecting them to elite IT project management and business analysis talent.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Brian to learn more about PMO Partners and how they’re leading the charge to fill the long unmet need in a complex and ever-evolving specialty.
What inspired you to start a firm that specializes in IT project management?
When I worked within the primary staffing world, I was responsible for recruiting project managers, and I really liked it. I knew companies were struggling to find professional project managers, and particularly those who were also IT experts, through their HR departments or other staffing firms. There were countless recruitment firms focusing on myriad positions, yet it seemed none of them were addressing this growing unmet need. I had specialized experience in this area, and I’d built a large network of project managers throughout my career, so I branched out on my own with a specialty company focused solely on this specific niche to help those customers.
PMO Partners works specifically with elite or specialized companies. Could you expand on that for us?
Of course. Our goal has always been to work with clients who are considered elite because we are a top-notch staffing firm. We have no desire to be the largest firm. We want to be the best of the best serving the best of the best companies out there. We work with specialized or elite companies in their respective field—Ivy League schools, well-known nonprofits, industry big-leaguers, and corporate or retail household names. We set equally high standards for our candidates as well, and we have a healthy pool of talent, from entry level to the C-suite, spanning multiple industries throughout the country.
What are the most critical skills for an IT project manager to possess, and how do they differ from a general project manager?
Project managers exist in every industry, but as project managers for IT, it’s a whole different world, and that’s my focus. Within IT itself there’s probably 40 to 50 different project managers. You can’t just hire a PM; it’s much more granular than that. An IT PM needs to be able to communicate clearly with all different levels and with all different cultures. They need to be a driver who can assess a situation and drive it to its finish, and they need to be very organized. Also, since the onset of COVID and remote working, the ability to use video platforms has become extremely important. Mastering the video platforms, understanding the etiquette, and effectively communicating with multiple people on them has become a talent and a new critical skill in and of itself.
What are the most common needs of your clients?
Mostly, our clients look for project managers that know how to drive projects, work with the key stakeholders and vendor partners, remove obstacles and keep projects moving to completion. From a technology standpoint, those who hold expertise in Workday and Salesforce are in high demand nowadays. With those two systems taking over the market, this has become a critical skill for project managers to have.
We work with our clients to help them really understand what it is that they’re looking for, and then we find the specific candidate with the specific skills and personality that best fit their needs. Sometimes they know what they need, but other times, they know need a project manager, but don’t understand exactly what they need, and we can help them define it and provide the person that best fits.
How has the shift to a remote workforce during the pandemic changed the way companies are approaching their staffing needs?
When COVID hit and companies began hiring outside of their own cities, it actually made it easier for them to hire the right skill set. Having people work remotely has opened the talent pool to regional and nationwide candidates, and clients are now comfortable hiring someone who isn’t local. I already had years of experience in helping clients navigate challenging periods, and we had made a similar shift during the dot com crash and the 2008 financial crisis, so we were able to adapt quickly to the changing needs of our clients and candidates during the pandemic. Companies are seeing the benefits of a larger talent pool, so I foresee the trend of remote workforces continuing well beyond the pandemic, if not permanently, especially beyond IT.
How important is cultural fit to the success of the clients and candidates you bring together, and how do you ensure it?
Cultural fit is extremely important, especially when it comes to the skill sets that I place. Before we even talk to the client about the job, we learn about the culture, environment, personalities, communication style, work style, and shared values. These elements can really make someone a perfect fit for an organization, so I consider all of them while interviewing candidates.
What aspect of your job do you enjoy most?
I enjoy creating perfect matches between candidates and clients. There’s nothing better than hearing that candidates I’ve placed are extremely happy in their new positions and enhancing their teams and companies. Some of our candidates have been with our clients for years—as permanent placements or as consultants.
To what do you attribute the success of PMO Partners?
The primary driver is our niche skill set. We’re a unique staffing firm doing something that other companies really aren’t focusing on, and the IT project management skill set is becoming more and more important. We hear from clients often that they love that we’re experts in this very specialized area, and we strive to develop strong relationships with them and with our candidates. Our relationship-based approach also separates us from other firms that are more transactional. I call them “fast-food” firms because they’re all about quantity instead of quality. I think our clients would agree that quality is definitely a central focus for us and knowing that they feel this in every interaction with us tells me we’re doing it right.
President and Founder
PMO Partners, LLC