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by Humayon Pramanik, Director, Association for Project Management
13 December 2023
Associate Feature: The Chief Project Officer - An Essential Part of the Future C-Suite

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Associate Feature: The Chief Project Officer - An Essential Part of the Future C-Suite

APM celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022 which led us to consider what the project profession could look like in the next 50 years. As part of the celebrations, we held a roundtable discussion with a group of project and business experts to discuss the role of the Chief Project Officer (CPO) in the C-suite. 

Projects have displaced operations as the economic engine of our times. In a project economy, organisations can future-proof themselves by appointing a CPO to their executive board, assigning them responsibility for continuous transformation and strategic initiatives.

Our panel outlined the steps organisations can take to ensure this role succeeds.

STEP 1 - Lay a foundation of good fundamentals in governance and assurance
The best possible starting point in project management is building a foundation of good fundamentals in governance and assurance. This way the CPO can be responsible for the total de-risking of your portfolio of projects. With a dedicated project leader there is also a powerful governing conscience, so you are looking ahead as well as looking back.

STEP 2 - Establish a project culture in the C-suite
The lack of clarity and ownership in the project space is one of the most common challenges voiced by CEOs and executives. Having a project culture in place will ensure the entire C-suite understands the purpose of a project, who is sponsoring it and who is accountable for it.

STEP 3 - Prioritise ethics and values
If we accept that an essential aspect of the CPO role is to serve as a role model, it follows that a code of ethics is required. Unfortunately, ethical issues do crop up in business, so project management needs an ethical framework, which is very much part of APM’s chartered journey. Project leaders often deal with ethical dilemmas, and this requires professional judgement and the active management of certain issues.

STEP 4 - Weave a golden thread of communication
Implementing a ‘thread of understanding’ between the top-level strategic decision-makers of a business and the project management of each part of the enterprise is vital. That transparency must apply whether it’s a public sector or private sector project. 

STEP 5 - Acknowledge behavioural change as a delivery target
Organisations need to embrace the journey from IQ to EQ and accept that many projects will be more about supporting behavioural change than physical additions. The CPO role will be shaped by the degree to which software and AI supplant human tasks, and indeed the duties of project leaders themselves will change as digital systems come in.

STEP 6 - Keep building project management skills
As a baseline, Project Management Offices should have professional qualifications to their name. APM’s qualifications offer a clear route to achieving Chartered project professional status, recognising the competence and success of project professionals. Project leaders will be under pressure to create high-performing teams and that will require highly polished skills of their own. 

What will a CPO deliver?
Well-managed projects help organisations to keep growing and generate value. Having a CPO in place to oversee and champion projects will ensure their bottom-line targets are delivered and that the end results maximise economic gain by saving time, money and driving efficiencies.
The full CPO whitepaper is available for download from our website.

This article is sponsored by Association For Project Management (APM)

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