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CPO – Chief Project Officer
By Lynda Bourne

CPOs should become CP3Os – Chief Project, Program and Portfolio Officers! It is impossible to deliver value to an organization if any of the layers of project governance are ineffective. Like C-3PO in Star Wars, the CP3O needs to be an expert in communication and understand the right language and protocols to use at different levels of the organization to tie the project, program and portfolio management processes directly to the creation of value.

At the portfolio management level, selecting the ‘right’ projects and programs to continue, cancel or start is vital to the future success of the organization. The CP3O should be a key adviser to the executive team responsible for the strategic plan and selecting the on-going mix of work for the organization; balancing high-risk, high-reward projects that may define the future of the organization with ‘safer’ projects that help keep the lights on and grow today’s business. The capacity and capability of the organization’s program and project delivery systems is a key enabler and the primary constraint on this process. The CP3O should be the person with the knowledge to facilitate effective decision making.

Program management focuses on the efficient coordination of multiple projects to deliver benefits. Each program is focused on delivering key elements of the organization’s overall strategy and consequently has a significant contribution to make to the organization’s ability to deliver value to its stakeholders. The CP3O should be actively engaged in ensuring the programs meet their businesses objectives. The program sponsor and other managers may have line responsibility for the initiative, the CP3O focuses on skills and support.

Project management is focused on the efficient creation of the deliverables defined in the Project Charter. Projects are most effective when their objectives are clearly defined and unnecessary change is minimized. Whilst Project Managers may report to a variety of managers, the CP3O should focus on skills development and performance.

Most organizations have developed PMOs to support the delivery of Projects and Programs and to provide the data needed for both governance and Portfolio Management decisions. The development and operation of the organization’s PMO structure should be a core responsibility of the CP3O.

The role of a Project Director (at least in Australia) is as the manger of project managers. The difference between Project Directors and Program Managers is the Program is created to deliver a defined benefit (the responsibility of the Program Manager) and projects are created to deliver the outputs required to enable the benefit. The Program Manager has overall responsibility for both the performance of the projects within the program and enabling the benefit; whereas Project Directors tend to be responsible for overseeing the performance of the projects within their area of responsibility. The Project Director is typically discipline and location based; eg, the Director for IT projects in Sydney. The project deliverables may contribute to a range of initiatives within the organization. Project Directors should be direct reports of the CP3O.

The CP3O (or CPO) role is becoming more common. Defining the value proposition for this executive will be critically important to the improvement in delivering value through projects and programs. One of the key initiatives a CP3O can use to drive continuing improvements within the organization is to develop a focus on process improvement using an effective maturity model. PMI’s OPM3 is probably the best tool from the perspectives of rigor and its focus on projects, programs and portfolio management.

Dr. Lynda Bourne DPM, PMP.

Lynda is the Managing Director of Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd. This business is focused on improving the capability of organizations to effectively manage their stakeholder relationships to the benefit of both the stakeholders and the organization’s projects. She is also the Director of Training with Mosaic Project Services Pty Ltd, where she is responsible for the development and delivery of OPM3, PMP, CAPM, Stakeholder Management and other project management training.

Lynda is a recognised international author, seminar leader and speaker. She is a SeminarsWorld® presenter and an accredited OPM3 ProductSuite Assessor and Consultant who has led a number of commercial OPM3 ProductSuite assessments.

She graduated from RMIT University Melbourne as the first professional Doctor of Project Management in 2005. Her research on defining and managing stakeholder relationships has lead to the development of the Stakeholder Circle® tool set and the SRMM® maturity model. Lynda blogs regularly on the Mosaic Projects blog.

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