Monday, 11 July 2011

Chief Programme Officer

I was really interested to see an advert for a Chief Programme Officer in the Appointments section of the Sunday Times yesterday. This is still a rare event, but this job role is becoming better known and I think reflects the changes in how project and programme management is seen within organisations now.

In the last five years there has been a growing recognition that programmes and all the projects and change initiatives that they deliver are the mechanism for realising the strategic objectives of the organisation. This recognition is driving a change in the perception of the importance and relevance of those that manage these significant transformational change programmes.

At board level there are well understood processes for strategy formulation, backed up by lots of executive training in the models and theories of strategy including evaluating the environment, identifying target markets and setting quantitative targets.

Setting objectives and working out how they will be realised are very different disciplines. Who should be responsible for identifying what the organisation should do and how it should do it is not as clearly defined.

The board needs to ratify the decision on what programmes are required. However, the reporting lines between those who scope the programmes (programme managers) are not formally represented on the board. There is a gap that is usually filled by the CIO or COO, which is an imperfect situation.

Programmes are cross functional and to imply they sit within the remit of either of these directors is not strictly true. The remit of the programmes is transformational change, touching every part of the organisation and cannot be pigeon holed as either the responsibility of operations or IT.

By trying to funnel the responsibility for cross functional programmes into one functional reporting line the organisation creates a management structure that runs counter to the matrix management environment that it is asking its staff to embody.
Forward thinking organisations are now addressing this gap in their management hierarchies by creating the role of Business Transformation Director, Chief Programme Officer or Chief Projects Officer.

This role is a board level appointment that complements the more traditional CIO, CFO, COO roles by creating a ‘single version of the truth’ regarding the progress of all the change activities that are taking place, irrespective of the business function that is sponsoring them.

It is an important piece in the career path for those interested in a long term future in project and programme management. If you want to plan your career path, view this link for ideas on the different types of roles available:

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