The pros and cons of the Chief Project Officer role
PA Consulting's, Dr David Jones, programme delivery expert, shares his thoughts with David Craik on the pros and cons of a Chief Project Officer (CPO) role in Association for Project Managers (APM).
Commenting on this, David says: "Current events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and recent economic decline have caused massive disruptions globally. Organisational success depends on close alignment between strategic business goals and project, programme and portfolio delivery to realise them. It all hinges on new projects, as opposed to concentrating on business as usual. A CPO can navigate project, programme and portfolio management direction to ensure this alignment."
He adds: "Reporting directly to the CEO, the CPO spots and corrects broken projects and has the authority and gravitas to make the necessary changes. A CPO sits in the sweet spot, bridging the gap between business goals and projects. You would still have individual sponsors for projects and a PMO, but the CPO would bring a more executive mindset in areas such as emotional intelligence and change management, as well as knowledge of 3PM and other implementations such as agile. They help improve performance and project management culture throughout an organisation.”
David goes on to say: "I accept that the CPO role isn’t very common at the moment and many organisations will say they have thrived without one. But he stresses that times are changing and organisations need to be more proactive. You could argue that during the pandemic many CEOs became CPOs as they identified and prioritised the best projects to ensure business survival. As organisations build increasingly complex portfolios, the C-level needs a person to take organisational strategies and implement them, providing feedback on the feasibility, planning and complexity of projects, programmes and portfolios designed to deliver strategies."
He concludes: "I accept that the overriding objective around CPOs is making the voice of project management heard more loudly in the boardroom. Perhaps the title isn’t that important. It is what happens at board level that really matters. Everyone is hastening to do things faster, cheaper and better, and the overall corporate project management capability is moving further into the spotlight. There is still a lot of hesitancy and uncertainty around the CPO position, and it will take between five and 10 years before it is more widely accepted as a role. But for those global, multi-disciplined, enterprise-oriented companies that require complex projects for profit, it could be an answer."