When a big job needs to be done in an organization, company leaders might appoint a project manager to oversee the planning, budgeting and daily tasks that go along with turning vision into reality. Larger organizations, however, are finding the need for someone even more senior, who acts in an executive capacity to ensure projects are chosen and executed in a way that's aligned with the company's overall goals. That executive is sometimes called the "chief project officer," or project officer.
Developing Goals and Projects
A big part of the project officer's job is developing projects that bring value to the business, while at the same time factoring in the environmental, social and economic factors that might affect the project's success. In other words, the project officer will develop projects that help the company increase its visibility in the marketplace, increase revenue, or succeed in other goals company leaders are striving toward, while staying within the realm of best practice within the industry. Once projects are identified, the project officer will help to plan and implement the project and select project managers to handle the day-to-day details of the project.
Direction and Guidance
When a project is underway, the project officer will provide direction and guidance to keep the project moving forward. That can include evaluating the performance of subordinates, including the project manager and support staff. If things aren't going according to plan, the project officer might help the project manager come up with solutions or change the project goals to meet the challenges. This part of the job can also include reviewing financial statements and progress reports and reporting project progress to other members of the executive team or to stakeholders on the project.
Fine Tuning Processes
As a senior-level professional, the project officer will typically have extensive experience in project management, and will know what's worked and what hasn't, and what risks the company might face when choosing a certain process over another. To improve work flows and reduce the risks involved, a project officer's duties can also include fine-tuning processes and coming up with company protocols. This might involve developing a project manager handbook, for example, or devising a set of protocols to follow when employees face a legal or medical problem related to a project, or safety protocols for workers to follow on the job.
Becoming a Project Officer
Project managers and officers need to be problem-solvers who are organized and excellent communicators. While these professionals can come from nearly any professional or technical background, a bachelor's or master's degree in management, project management or business can help the aspiring project officer develop the skills in budgeting, planning, oversight and business best practices that are crucial to the role. Since it's an executive-level job, a chief project officer might have several years of project management experience under her belt before taking on this more advanced-level job.