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Panel Discussion
Has the Time Arrived for a Chief Projects Officer?

Mr. Vijayakumar, Mr. Killough, Mr. Mohan Kumar, Mr. Keswani, and Mr. Seshadri at the panel discussion

Anchor:
Mr. C. Mohan Kumar, honorary president, National Human Resource Development Network, Chennai

Panelists:
Mr. Avinash Keswani, director, SAP technologies, Deloitte
Mr. Craig Killough, vice president, organization markets, PMI
Mr. Madhavan Seshadri, vice president and global head (testing services), Wipro Technologies
Group Captain (Retd.) R. Vijayakumar, VSM, executive director, Madras Management Association

Mr. Kumar: Project management is becoming more difficult as geo-political dynamics make projects more complex. If a company delays in the commissioning of a crude oil refinery project, it could incur losses to the tune of Rs. 50 crore a day. Somebody needs to take the responsibility. Here the role of a chief projects officer (CPO) becomes important.

Mr. Seshadri: The world of project management has become increasingly complex. In IT services, we face a plethora of issues, such as new technologies, glut of data to process, challenges regarding the consumer, shorter project lifecycle, and tighter control over capital and discretionary spending. Tolerance of failures doesnít exist today. It is time to think of a CPO and create a charter to define its role.

Mr. Keswani: I donít think we need a new position of a CPO. Like Sri Sri Ravishankar said, we will have one more person who will stop smiling. This position must be created only if there is a need for it. If this structure makes your company more successful, then do so most definitely. But be careful not to create more bureaucracy at the top by adding one more position.

Mr. Killough: The role of the CPO already exists in many organizations but it may not be known by that name. In organizations like Samsung Engineering, Bechtel, and Larsen & Toubro, the CEO is the CPO. In PricewaterhouseCoopers, the partner for a specific business area is the CPO. Letís not get mixed up with terminology.

Mr. Vijayakumar: Itís important to understand the level of accountability in a project. In 1980s, the infrastructure in India was far better than China, but today the scenario is completely different. China overtook us because they put a higher degree of accountability on their people for each project. Make someone accountable and give him/her the authority to deliver right and on time.

Mr. Kumar: What should be the role of the CPO? I believe he/she should orchestrate between the many functions. Mr. Vijayakumar: Be passionate about what you do. We also need innovation at the CPO level.

Mr. Keswani: There has to be a healthy balance of authority and responsibility. We donít want to create a czar that will kill innovation.

Mr. Seshadri: There must be accountability in terms of ensuring quality, timeliness, and delivery of projects. Organizations cannot afford failed projects and hence, executive power to the CPO is the need of the hour.

Mr. Killough: As the profession matures, more CEOs with project management background will be running organizations the world over.
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