The chief projects officer (CPO) position is vacant


President and CEO, BRISK Business Inc.


Strategy formulation is no longer the annual one-off exercise it used to be, but rather a reiterative process that must be responsive to rapid changes in the marketplace and global economy. While a growing number of organizations worldwide have matured their processes of formulating strategy, many of them struggle with the challenges associated with implementing those strategies and their consecutive adaptation and agility. Research reveals that one of the ‘core’ roles that contributes to successful strategy implementation, adaptation, and reiterative alignment is that of the Chief Projects Officer, the CPO. Typically, the role of the CPO would be to implement strategies, provide feedback on their success or failure, and identify needs for adaptation and feedback on iterations of the strategic planning process based on the status on-ground, as well as oversee organizational maturity and the alignment of portfolios, programs, and projects with strategy as it evolves. This paper explores why organizations need a CPO and how a practitioner of portfolio, program, and project management (PPPM) can evolve into the role.

Introduction and Background

In today’s world, strategy formulation needs to be both proactive and responsive in order to cope with rapid changes in the marketplace, global economy, and surrounding regulatory environments as well as multiple internal factors within the organization, all of which influence today’s organizations of all types and sizes. While many organizations may have mastered the processes associated with the formulation of strategy, some are often faced with a myriad of challenges when implementing those strategies in an increasingly fast, efficient, and effective manner to stay afloat, let alone ahead of the competition. More controversially, some organizations struggle to implement strategies all together.

As a result, the role of the Chief Projects Officer (CPO) continues to increase in relevance and importance. A quick online search for the term will reveal a growing number of vacancies and job descriptions in multiple types of organizations that have come to realize the need to have someone in the C-Suite who can take those strategies and implement them, give feedback to the planning process on complexity, do-ability, and relevance of programs and projects, the likelihood of them deriving anticipated benefits, as well as oversee the growth of organizational maturity in portfolio, program, and project management (PPPM) and assure the efficient and effective delivery of projects and programs in the organization.

The CPO is typically someone who has the power and authority to transform the organization, and lead — if not take — decisions on selecting, prioritizing, and even terminating projects and programs in order to ensure alignment with the organization’s strategy, verify that these projects and programs are the right work to undertake in order to deliver the goals of the strategy, and is able to identify the need for, deliver, and sustain organizational change. However, many ‘evolved’ organizations face a dilemma: while they recognize the vital role of PPPM in delivering strategy and change, executives are yet to recognize the relevance of the role of the CPO.

What is the Role of The CPO?

In his paper, “The Case for the Chief Project Officer,” published on 19 May 2014 at Andy Jordan identifies the CPO as “an executive responsible for project execution,” which is a key part of their role in any organization, as well as participation in strategy formulation, implementation of organizational change, and responsibility to ensure organizations attain and sustain the maturity levels that best serve their needs. Ed Kozak, author of “The Chief Project Officer and How One Can Benefit your Organization,” a whitepaper he published on, defines the CPO as “a single individual at the Senior Management level who is responsible for providing governance over the organization’s internal projects.”


The definition of governance can mean different things to different people. Despite the hype about it in government, corporations, and non-profits, there is no one single definition of governance that is universally agreed upon and accepted. However, research reveals that two of the most common components of the definition of governance are “Assurance that risks at the organizational level are managed appropriately,” and “assurance that resources are expended and utilized responsibly.” PM Solutions published an article in 2012, “Governance and the Chief Project Officer” by Debbie Bigelow Crawford that demonstrates the link between having a CPO and good governance in organizations. According to the article, the McKinsey’s Investors Opinion survey, June 2000 revealed that “Organizations that have good governance practices in place are able to realize a premium of more than 20 percent from their investors.” (PM Solutions, 2012). Furthermore, Crawford argues “To have effective governance in the enterprise, the lower layers need to apply the same principles as executive management — setting objectives, providing and getting direction, and providing and evaluating performance measures” (PM Solutions, 2012).

To achieve such synergies in an organization, it is important to differentiate between two verticals: the first being that following the organizational breakdown structure reporting into the Chief Operations Officer (COO), whereby the COO is responsible for cascading governance to their direct reports into daily recurrent operations of the organization, and the second being the project management vertical. In many organizations, project management either occurs on an ad hoc basis, or is the role of the PMO, with the PMO situated below the executive level. In these situations, the head of the PMO has little or no authority in enforcing organizational governance on the projects and programs run by the PMO given the matrix setup in which they are run and the shared authority with the line/functional heads that have different — if not conflicting — priorities. Despite such situations, the head of the PMO is still accountable for governance, and that leads to a situation of complete dependence on the individual’s personal skills and influence. By having a CPO at the executive level of the organization, not only are the importance and significance of PPPM highlighted and clearly emphasized, but also the appropriate levels of authority and control are afforded to implement organizational governance.

Strategic Alignment

Kozak further adds that it is the CPO’s responsibility to “Link all projects to strategic and operational business plans; make sure that every project supports the right business goals; require that every project have an effective manager or leader in charge; implement and maintain an appropriate PM Methodology; rigorously and formally manage changes to project scope, budget, schedule, and requirements; group similar projects to them in a similar manner; and implement, lead, and coordinate project portfolio management.”

One of the vehicles — for lack of a better term — that helps organizations with alignment of programs and projects, guarantees consistency in their practices, and helps maintain visibility, governance, and efficiencies is a PPPM methodology. Typically, and as best practice, such a methodology is developed, applied, governed, and continuously improved by the PMO, (Portfolio/Program/Project Management Office). The extent and magnitude to which such a methodology is developed and applied is correlated to the type of PMO within the organization. Referencing a different whitepaper, “The PMO: Your Key to Strategy Execution and Results Delivery,” written by the author and originally published as part of the proceedings of the PMI® EMEA Global Congress 2014—Dubai, UAE, such a PMO would need to be a Tier-4 PMO in order to effectively perform this role, having enough power and influence throughout the organization both vertically and horizontally. A Tier-4 PMO is a PMO that has control over portfolios with down-reach to the project level, and is headed and directed at the executive level by a Chief Projects Officer.

The PMO and the CPO are not Mutually Exclusive

But both Jordan and Kozak have adverse views on the PMO, its role in the organization and value presented thereto. This is not the position of the author, as our research has proven that the ideal situation would be to have a T-4 PMO headed by a CPO. Jordan, Kozak, and a number of other authors tend to present a mutually exclusive proposition—an organization should have either a CPO or a PMO. However, it is worthy to examine the views of both authors in the context of this paper. As Jordan clearly states: “Ask a CEO today what benefits their PMO is delivering and they’ll struggle to answer; ask them who is ensuring that the portfolio delivers on its objectives and they may well list everyone that they know of who is working on projects. Neither answer should be acceptable; there should be a clearly identified individual who is accountable for the portfolio and a single person who is ensuring that the PMO is delivering a return on the investment.”

Kozak argues “many [organizations] have tried to achieve this governance by creating a project management office, or PMO, at their sites. Unfortunately for many organizations, this costly endeavor has not been successful, providing limited, or no, value.” He further justifies this phenomenon by claiming that “A PMO is not for every organization.” The author agrees with Kozak on the fact that many have tried to achieve governance through creating a PMO, but disagrees with Kozak that a PMO is not for every organization. In fact, research conducted by the author’s organization has revealed that value delivered by the PMO in any organization is strongly correlated with the amount of authority and empowerment vested in it by the organization. If a PMO is tasked with the development of a methodology, but incapable of assuring the adoption of such methodology throughout the organization, little value can be expected from that PMO. Therefore, a PMO headed by an executive (the CPO) would deliver value to the organization and achieve governance.

Arguments against a PMO that is not headed by a CPO are plentiful, as per Jordan and Kozak, and all arguments are viable. The PMO is a costly endeavor that is expected to perform the work of the “engine” that delivers projects and changes the organization by implementing the strategy. What was not considered in their work was whether such PMOs are endowed with adequate authority or not. Not having enough authority that the PMO would not be able to fulfill its responsibilities to the organization, and will not have enough influence over the matrix structures with which it operates. On the other hand, replacing the PMO with a CPO is equally damaging to the organization. A CPO without the appropriate organizational structure supporting them would (1) be incapacitated to perform all duties of the CPO; (2) leave the organizational vulnerable to the limitations of the capacity, knowledge, and skills of the person occupying the position of CPO at any given time; and (3) leave the organization vulnerable to the availability of that person: consider the consequences to the organization should that individual leave his or her job for any reason.

However, empowered with the right PMO, the CPO would be the executive responsible for the development, adoption, deployment, and constant improvement of PPPM methodology as well as its penetration “into areas that have not historically been exposed to structured project and/or PMO structures, which will in turn help to further improve the overall quality of project execution.” (2014, Jordan). Furthermore, Jordan argues that the CPO will receive enough empowerment and authority, as a result of his or her formal position, to instigate the practices of PPPM that fragmented PMOs otherwise would not, giving the example of “benefits realization. From a portfolio management perspective, the benefits that a project is expected to deliver is much more important than the specific deliverables that are outputs of a project. This is because the goals and objectives of the organization are based on those business benefits, not on scope items.” (2014, Jordan) The specific scope items or deliverables of a project would be the focus of a departmental PMO, one that is focused on delivery of projects for a certain department, hence, increasing the probability that projects deliver their scope while that scope goes astray from the desired business benefit. In the context proposed in this paper, the specific deliverables of every project (hence the scope) would always be the focus of the PMO, and so would the benefits anticipated from the portfolio, creating a de facto mission of the PMO to align the two together, all in the best interest of the organization.

It can be derived that the CPO is in effect an executive-level owner of project execution that provides clear accountability for project success as well as clear accountability that the organization will conduct the right projects to achieve strategic outcomes, aided and supported by a viable and capable PMO.

Organizational Maturity

Another element of the role of the CPO is to act as “The Sponsor Of Project Management.” Our research has revealed that in various large organizations, fragmented PMOs lead to fragmented practices, methodologies, and consequently conflict among them. Each PMO or departmental project team would typically adopt the program and/or project management practices that best suits it, creating an unintentional “comfort zone,” leaving out tools and techniques or methods that the PMO or project team finds challenging or unfamiliar, despite their vitality to the success of programs and projects and their alignment to strategy. Such disparity in practices across the organization would consequentially lead to the rise of conflict between the different PMOs, each claiming that “it knows better” or is the one whose methodologies and practices should prevail. Such conflict would eventually lead to a decline in the level of maturity with which the organization manages its programs and projects. The CPO in his or her formal capacity would avoid such adversity for the organization, whereby he or she would act as the “sponsor” for all program and project management practices, ensuring that the organization adopts only a unified methodology, tools and techniques, governance, and processes that best fit its strategic objectives, and continuously oversee their improvement and customization to serve the implementation of that strategy.

Example of CPO Listings

A manifestation of the above is evident in a recent online posting for a job vacancy by the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority in California. The job description for the role of Chief Projects Officer included the following duties:

  • Assist the CEO with the overall executive direction through subordinate senior management staff for all Authority construction and engineering functions to ensure successful completion of the Authority’s light rail transit system
  • Ability to provide overall executive direction through subordinate senior management staff for all Authority construction and engineering functions to ensure successful completion of the Authority’s light rail transit system
  • Provide policy direction to assigned major functional areas
  • Direct the establishment of goals, major priorities, and advises in the development of strategies and resolution of major problems
  • Direct the implementation of transit project goals and objectives, policies, work standards, and controls for professional staff and consultants
  • Evaluate project performance against goals and take necessary action to address deviations
  • Direct the preparation of and present managerial and policy issues with recommendations on matters related to the Authority’s transit design and construction to the CEO, Authority Board and to political entities and advise on related issues
  • Direct the execution of studies, investigations, and analyses of technical issues for the CEO and Authority Board, including reports of findings, corrective action recommendations and supporting research
  • Provide overall direction and control of the Authority’s technical management team and the Authority’s Design Build Contractor
  • Represent Authority at meetings and conferences with elected and public officials, the community, private citizens, and public and private organizations
  • Approve cost estimates, staffing plans, and schedules; and establish and maintain effective business and working relationships with the engineering, construction and supplier community

Why Can’t Another CxO Perform This Role?

Research has also revealed that many organizations make the fundamental mistake of assigning the role of the PMO to another executive, most commonly either the Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), or the Chief Operations Officer (COO). The reasons why this mistake can have detrimental consequences to the organization are obvious:

Conflicting Priorities

Regardless of their original role, the CxO who has been tasked with overseeing the PMO and the practice of project management in the organization would always have conflicting priorities. For instance, the CFO would prioritize bottom line and treasury, the CIO would prioritize IT strategy, and the COO would prioritize the day-to-day recurrent business over implementation of strategic change and projects that lead to it. The conflicting priorities are not only for focus, time, and dedication, but also for resources and decisions.

If the CxO needs to choose what to allocate more time to, he or she would obviously opt for his or her “native” function, since this is what his or her appraisal and performance measurement are based on, and is what is more definitive of his or her career. The same applies to resources. Would it be more viable to maintain the current operation or IT infrastructure or reallocate scarce resources to new projects? No matter how strategic they are.

Presence of a COO in any organization tips the scales in favor of operational efficiency as opposed to strategic change. Marshall says: “A CPO will provide a good balance to the COO.” This is the ultimate conflict between the CxO and his or her acting role as CPO: decision-making. Any CxO, by virtue of his or her native position, is expected to take decisions at his or her executive level. Those decisions can often be conflicting with strategic change: for example, if a CIO has expended most of his or her time with the company on building and implementing specific ERP systems, and the company strategy requires more agile and dynamic solutions based on Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, the CIO may influence the decision-making process against the latter, hence undermining the strategic direction. Such influence or decision may or may not be intentional.

Lack of Know–how

Another reason why another executive within the organization cannot perform the role of CxO is the need for the person in that position to possess specific knowledge and skills related to the role of the CxO. Such knowledge is demonstrated in the growing number of standards, practice guides, and whitepapers constantly curated and updated by organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI), including but not limited to: The Standard for Portfolio Management, The Standard for Program Management, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide, Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide, and many more. Because this body of knowledge is constantly evolving supported by thought leadership and research, for any CPO to be successful he or she would need to (a) acquire respective certification and (b) keep himself or herself abreast and updated with all such knowledge. Neither can be considered an easy or brisk task, and would be daunting to other CxOs who need to enrich themselves with the knowledge and best practices in their domains. Therefore, the CxO acting on behalf of the CPO will never provide the organization with sufficient know–how in their practices.

Lack of Experience

This is very similar to the lack of know–how. A CxO who hasn’t been managing multiple projects and programs on-ground would find difficulty in understanding the special circumstances related to the planning, monitoring and control, and execution of such projects and programs. The CPO needs to have a clear vision of “what it takes” to manage and successfully deliver programs and projects, the body of knowledge for such undertakings being dense and diverse, as well as fundamentally different from ongoing operations or discipline-specific tasks that other functional heads are tasked with in their native roles. They would need to have extensive practical experience with tools and techniques, methods, and implementation of matters specific to this practice, including but not limited to, planning, execution, change control, benefits realization, benefits tracking, etc. Hence, should a CxO be tasked with performing the role of the CPO, that CxO would struggle to speak the same language of the persons managing the projects and programs and with understanding and catering to their specific needs and requirements. Ultimately, this would shift the balance of the matrix organization toward the functional heads, which very well may not be in the best interest of delivering strategy.


In a recent article published in the Dutch CIO Magazine on Finance in 2013, it was stated that the Dutch government took a recent decision to appoint a CPO in every Department, however, the duties of the CPO were attributed to the CIO of the respective Department. This would only work if the strategy of every one of the Departments was strictly limited to Information Technology.

Strategy of any organization rarely involves one specific discipline, and hence the programs and projects that are necessary to deliver strategic outcomes are multidisciplinary. Let’s consider the example of an oil and gas giant that decides to revamp their downstream operations simply by refurbishing and enhancing their gas stations, giving customers a better, more pleasant experience and by doing that attracting more customers to their filling stations and increasing revenue. Such a program would be split into multiple projects, all of which contain IT, construction, marketing, customer service, civil, electromechanical, business process reengineering, and human resources work streams. Should the leader of that program, or the CPO come from one specific background, for instance, civil engineering, the likelihood of successful realization of strategic benefits diminishes, since he or she would primarily focus on delivering an outstanding product in civil engineering, with less emphasis on the other work streams, and little to no alignment with the strategic purpose of the program.

One very important argument that Jordan makes is that by embedding portfolio management into a departmental PMO is that “At best, the PMO (and by extension, PPM) is a subset of the accountabilities of a CIO or COO—and the focus and objectives of those functions reflect that. Sooner or later (probably sooner), that is going to send the message that portfolio management is not a top organizational priority—which will in turn result in a loss of focus and a degradation of performance. To address that, there needs to be a meaningful strategic accountability.” (Jordan, 2012).

Thus the person best suited to undertake the role of CPO is someone who has extensive experience in managing projects, programs, and portfolios, and is discipline/industry agnostic. Someone who understands strategic vision, is capable of accessing the expertise necessary to do the work, and is primarily focused on delivery of strategy.

Why do Organizations Need a CPO?

According to Jordan, by having a CPO in an organization: “From a perception standpoint, project execution and project management will be elevated to a level of importance where they can no longer be viewed as “optional” by areas of the business that have historically created their own approach to getting work done. This will make it easier to manage those initiatives, will reduce the organization’s risk exposure, and drive lower costs, better results and a more engaged employee base” (Jordan, 2014).

In his article posted on a website called “” Paul Marshall claims that a CPO role “will help demonstrate just how important projects are in the continual development and maturity of an organization. Effective project delivery will be viewed as a ‘must-do’ rather than resourcing projects with existing staff using a ‘best-endeavors’ approach. The future of an organization might be dependent on benefits being realized through the delivery of a successful project.” Marshall continues to explain the vitality of the CPO role in resourcing projects adequately. He says that “Historically there has been a tendency for the functional areas to put their departmental needs and priorities above the needs of projects, even if those projects are aligned to strategic objectives of the organization,” and by having a CPO, such imbalance would be avoided in the best interest of program and project delivery.

Jordan states, “An executive project execution function would also assume responsibility for any PMOs that exist within the organization, and can begin to drive an EPMO whose mandate aligns with portfolio management.” (Jordan, 2012) While this is true, we strongly advise against an organizational structure where multiple PMOs exist, since this will only lead to continued disparity in program and project management practices, as well as possible rivalry and conflict, ultimately leading to misalignment of projects and programs to organizational strategy if not controlled and omitted. The centralized PMO, reporting into the CPO directly, and utilizing resources across the organization by means of a strong matrix organization, is what the author is advocating, creating accountability and ownership of successful strategic execution across the organization, as well as vertically, from the strategic level down to the lowest project scope element. Jordan supports this in his paper by saying that “it may be easier because departmental politics from member PMOs are removed.”

Another argument that Jordan makes is that organizations often embed the portfolio management function into the PMO, and the author agrees with him, that such an undertaking can be beneficial to the purpose of strategic alignment and implementation, and in that instance the head of the PMO would evolve into the CPO role. However, Jordan makes a very important observation, that many PMOs are incapable of delivering strategies as they are set up departmentally (Jordan mentions the IT PMO as an example) and hence are not empowered at the strategic level as would a Tier 4 PMO (Aziz, 2014). He argues that creating the CPO role indicates that organizations are committed to aligning their projects and programs to their organizational strategies, as well as delivering them effectively and efficiently.

This is further enforced through Kozak’s observation that “Only someone at the senior level has the authority and wherewithal to link projects with strategic goals and to reach horizontally across departments to review expenditures and schedules, to regulate resource utilization, and to cancel projects that no longer are in alignment with strategic objectives.”

The CPO and the PPPM Career Path

Many PPPM practitioners are unable to plot an evolutionary career path for themselves. While some practitioners phase into and out of PPPM voluntarily, considering it an evolutionary phase in their careers and more of a step towards an ultimate goal they would be looking for, others have passion for the profession and view it as their career. It is for this type of practitioner that frustrations accumulate when they realize that they’ve hit a glass ceiling in their respective organizations. They are either forced to change careers, make horizontal moves, from one program to the other or from one organization to another, or even worse, sacrifice their organizational roles and venture into the worlds of consulting or freelancing. This clearly presents an organizational development dilemma.

While organizations struggle to find dedication to delivery of strategic objectives and organizational project management maturity in the C-Suite, their qualified practitioners of PPPM are leaving, either into other roles within the same organization or to other organizations all together, as a result of not being able to see a clear path in the PPPM career.

In a very specific example, Company A acquired Company B in what was unknown territory for them: a different country, different market, different types of customers, and different products and services. As an initial step with the acquisition, Company A took the right and essential decision to headhunt one of the most highly qualified PMO heads in the market where Company B existed to manage and lead the migration and integration portfolio. For the sake of this example, we will call him Mr. T. Although not formally a C-Suite Executive, Mr. T. was effectively doing the role of the CPO: he consulted the board on their strategy formulation and objectives, oversaw delivery of projects and programs, managed the alignment of the entire portfolio and sub portfolios to strategic objectives, and increased the maturity of the newly acquired company in terms of portfolio, program, and project management. The migration and integration was a huge success. But then there was a problem. Mr. T, like all of us, needed to evolve. In an attempt to retain him, the CEO decided to promote Mr. T. to the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO), giving Mr. T. the salary, benefits, recognition, and standing he deserves. Four years later, Mr. T. continues to deliver benefits to the organization in his role as CIO, but the organization is struggling to change, evolve, and grow inorganically. The current head of PMO is too junior to be a CPO, and there is no such role on their board.

The status quo is that there is a clear need for the CPO the organization, and that need should be converted into demand, to harness what can be considered a very strong potential supply of practitioners who would very well fit into the role of the CPO. By doing so organizations would be preserving one of their most important assets: Knowledge, and capitalizing on that knowledge by making use of it in the C-suite.

Jordan agrees with this point. He mentions that “For people involved in project execution, the benefits [of having a CPO role in an organization] may be less tangible—but they will be no less significant. Project managers in particular often feel as though their career options are limited either because there is no clear advancement path within the organization, or because they don’t feel that the organization values project management sufficiently. While only one person can be the CPO at any given time, the commitment to the function helps to reinforce just how important project management is to the organization, as well as demonstrating that career paths do exist.” (Jordan, 2014)

Marshall further supports this by saying that “By introducing a CPO, whom manages change control and effective project governance and whom may also head up a PMO represents and highlights the potential of a career in change management and project management. It demonstrates that there is a clear career progression path. Historically a business analyst will move into project management and that is where a project manager will remain throughout their career. Strategic alignment and a strong business acumen is key to delivering effective change and would be aided by representation at Board-level through a CPO.”

How Can A PPPM Practitioner Evolve His or Her Career Into A CPO?

Any PPPM practitioner who would have read thus far and is passionate about the profession and their potential evolution into the role of CPO would only have one question in their mind “How do I qualify for the CPO position?” the answer is simple and straight- forward, follow these steps (not in any specific order):

Your Responsibility Is Not Only Project Delivery

Many project managers mistakenly perceive that their responsibility is limited to delivering their projects on time, on budget, as per the stated requirements, up to the predetermined quality standards, and with minimal risks. While all the latter is true, they often overlook the fact that the organization has commissioned that project for a specific reason, and therefore, that specific reason is their ultimate responsibility. The charter for any project specifies the “justification” for which it was initiated in the first place. As a successful project manager, you should always make sure that you deliver your project according to that justification, and if you simply can’t, recommend alternatives to your sponsor and customer.

Focus On The Business Benefit

This is tightly related to the justification: what good is the best piece of software or the most modern building if it does not make business sense? If it cannot be operated or sustained properly, or if it would operate at a loss. Many project managers argue with sponsors and clients that one or more of the requirements are unrealistic or simply not doable. These requirements may be technical or managerial. For example, a technical requirement would be a specific feature or functionality that the product of the project should have or be able to perform, and an example of a managerial requirement would be for the project to be delivered in a duration that is shorter than usual. Finding ways to manage your projects so that you can cater to business benefits, despite them being out of the norm, is a definite skill you need to be able to progress into the position of CPO

Don’t Fall In Love With Your Native Profession

This is a very common blunder. Just by browsing the Internet for career specific jokes and riddles one can easily derive that the extent to which an individual can be obsessed with his or her native profession (e.g., engineering, IT, accountancy) can be overwhelming, and can reach levels of dismissing any and all other professions as inferior. Project managers who have some infatuation with their native profession or career are sure to fail, not only in reaching the position of CPO, but also in their quest for the success of their projects. The reason for such failure is simple: they make the common mistake of believing that the profession-specific work stream of their project is the most important, leaving out others. In extreme cases, that work stream may even get completed at the expense of others. A CPO must deliver strategic change, and therefore needs to prioritize based on relevance and benefits realization, not passion.

Don’t Fall In Love With Projects And Programs

Similar to infatuation with professions, program and projects managers fall in love with their projects or programs. They need to be able to identify when a project or program will not derive anticipated benefits and flag such a discovery for the client and sponsor, making recommendations to alter the program/project or one or more of its components, or even maybe suggesting termination all together. Such “love” with a project or program may stem from multiple causes, some of which are: that the project is of a unique nature to the career of the project manager or that the project has visibility that is unprecedented in the project manager’s career.

Continuously Improve Interpersonal Skills

The more senior the management position, the more crucial it is to manage people and the more diverse stakeholders become. Seek to continuously improve on interpersonal skills. If you seek to become an executive one day, you need to act like one, and deal with people like one too.

Volunteer To Manage Multidiscipline, Complex Projects

This one cannot be emphasized enough. Multidiscipline projects are very unique in the interaction and interdependence of the different disciplines within. Always try to manage projects that are multidisciplinary to gain the experience and exposure, and to have a true sense of delivering strategic objectives. Remember that the majority of projects that deliver strategy are multidiscipline, and that the experience is unmatched in any other single-discipline project.

Get The Needed Certifications

Make yourself conscious of your readiness. By obtaining the Program Management Professional (PgMP)® and Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® credentials, you provide a testament to your ability to manage larger, more complex programs and portfolios, a key constituent of the role of the CPO.

Manage Upwards

Executives have very little time. Most of them want to be managed as much as they want to be assured of delivery. By managing executives you would be managing their expectations, the extent and depth of information they receive, and the extent and depth of their intervention and involvement with your project and program. Focusing on the project without being sensitive to the executives involved is a sign of limitation of ability to make it to the C-Suite. Another aspect of managing upwards is providing feedback: Can the strategy be delivered as planned? So we have enough internal resources? Are there potential conflicts? How complex are the projects or programs? Can we optimize? Can we maximize returns? All are questions a CPO is expected to answer. Volunteering the information backed by solid evidence indicates your readiness and ability.

Acquire The Business Training And Education Needed

c Credentials are crucial for the role of the CPO, but extensive knowledge of general management, business, and the field of operations of the organization are equally important for the C-Suite. Make sure you have the appropriate formal education and training in these fields.


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© 2014, Emad E. Aziz, PgMP, PMP, PRINCE2P, CSSGB
Originally published as a part of the 2014 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Phoenix, Arizona, USA

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