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Blog post 06 Sep 2017

The Role of the Chief Project Officer

The Role of the Chief Project Officer

The number of projects and their importance for the success of organisations is constantly increasing.  

Some organisations deploy more resources in projects than routine tasks (e.g. IT Departments or Outsourcing firms). Other organisations generate their revenue by performing only projects (e.g. Consultancy and Engineering firms). We refer to these as “project-oriented”.

Organisations need to consider how they are managing the ever-increasing project environment. It is not sufficient to change the organisation structure only at the lower and middle ranks. They also need to rethink the way they are managing from the top. 

The Role of the CPO

A Chief Project Officer (CPO) is a new role for many organisations that are highly project-oriented or even project-based. The CPO is a member of the Executive Board and responsible for all project-oriented operations. The main responsibilities of the role are:

  • Establish a governance system for projects, programmes and portfolios
  • Direct all activities in the field of projects, programmes and portfolios
  • Perform leadership for the project, programme, portfolio managers and the PMO
  • Support all other board members in chartering or sponsoring projects in their areas of responsibility

A CPO should have sound competences in managing projects, programmes and portfolios.

However, also very important are experience and a strong networking capability as a senior executive in order to be respected and accepted in the role. The role of a CPO should also be aligned with all other roles in the Executive Board.

Typically, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) performs projects such as updating the equipment for production or improving productivity. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) also performs projects such as updating the ERP-System or installing new software programmes. The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) may also be in charge of projects in their areas of responsibility. 

The Executive Board thus needs to clearly define the tasks, authorities and accountabilities in managing projects. Typically, a PMO or a Portfolio Manager supports the CPO in directing all project-oriented activities.

What is the advantage of having a CPO?

Simply, the role represents projects, programmes and portfolios internally and externally.

A CPO is the “Voice of Projects” on board level, helps to shape a project-friendly culture and improves the performance of projects, programmes and portfolios aligned with the organisation´s overall strategy.

Furthermore, a CPO helps to balance the Matrix-Organisation and empower project managers. Through a CPO, the governance and management system can be improved, decision making is the focus,d and most importantly, the organisation's maturity in managing projects is increasing sustainably.

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