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3 Things CFOs Should Know about Project Management

A recent article in talks about CFO's and their lack of Project Management skills. "Yet CFOs rarely understand project management as a role, a profession, or an organizational competency that enables delivery of strategic initiatives." said Mark Langley, the author of the article and president and CEO of the Project Management Institute. I think the article is somewhat self serving in that while some CFOs are better project managers than others, it would be quite impossible to obtain the role without understand project management. What do you think?


Kate West
Title: President
Company: The C Corps, LLC
(President, The C Corps, LLC) |

Wayne, I saw that article yesterday as well. My first thought was, "Of course." I agree that it's nearly impossible to obtain the role of CFO without understanding project management: accounting and finance are, after all, about controls, documentation, process, consistency, continuous monitoring and measuring for success, collaboration, communication, strategic decision-making, etc.

I think we should consider petitioning PMI for honorary Project Management certifications. :-)

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

I think so.... such a (to repeat myself) self-serving article. I'm surprised published it.... it was embarrassing...

PMI, like many other associations bank on their certifications as a major source of revenue; so it would be logical that they create a need to cajol people to take their courses and tests.....

The problems with our certification crazy society.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

I am not sure if I was engaging on this topic that I would make it a discussion specific to the CFO. I do agree that it would be difficult to become a leader in a finance organization if one did not have some project management expertise. But, in terms of driving strategic change organization wide, project management needs to be a skill set across many, if not all, of the functional management.

Jim Burtt
Title: Director Global Financial Systems & Proc..
Company: formerly at Guidewire Software, Inc.
(Director Global Financial Systems & Processes, formerly at Guidewire Software, Inc.) |

CFOs have varying levels of awareness of, and commitment to, project management and project portfolio management. Before a CFO says “check” to their project management prowess, perhaps they ought to drill down on what it means by asking themselves a few questions. For example:

• Is there a PMO at your company?
• Is there a standard project management methodology that is used by your organization? Have all team members received training on it?
• How many projects have you officially sponsored throughout their life cycles?
• How many projects have you made sure are staffed with your most knowledgeable people? Have they been given enough time away from their operational duties so that they can actually lead?
• Have you revised your people’s incentives so that they are based on the success of project team efforts rather than solely individual efforts?
• Is there a cross-functional organization at your company that collects project proposals, vets them, socializes the trade-offs, and sends their funding recommendations to the executive team?
• Do you have a formal means for measuring the effectiveness of the portfolio of ongoing projects? What are your project-based KPI?
• How often do you talk with other C-level executives about projects in which they are stakeholders?
• When you plan, do you employ the project dimension?

Numerous statistics over a long period of time have shown that projects have an incredibly difficult time of meeting their objectives on time and on budget. One primary reason is because they draw team members from multiple functional silos, each with their own objectives and priorities. Another is because few people like change. Projects urgently need pro-active direction and air cover from the CFO (or their designate) and other stakeholder executives in order to succeed.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |


While you wrote is true, it doesn't dispel the author's contention that CFO's don't know or don't have project management skills.

You've just highlighted some of the reason's why a CFO may want to designate a PMO and not take on the responsibility themselves.

Which if you think about it, says they understand project management.


Bob Dupree
Title: IT Global Senior Project Manager/PMO
Company: Tronox
(IT Global Senior Project Manager/PMO, Tronox) |

I don't see the correlation between a CFO and Project Management other than the fact that CFO's need to understand what a PMO is, what the business benefits of a PMO are and lastly the cost of a PMO. The most important thing is knowing what projects are underway (project portfolio), the associated costs (project budget) and the status of current and future projects. This all affects staffing and the OPEX and CAPEX budgets. Do they really need to know more about PM? Don't CFO's have employees who should be well versed in PM? Just my initial thought.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I think the line that I found most intriguing was this: "Neither a CFO nor any senior executive should leave strategy implementation to chance or assume that the operating divisions will “figure it out.”

As an executive leader of the company driving strategic initiatives is our concern and if it isn't that is a bigger problem. We are responsible to forecast, provide cash flow projections, budget for these projects, etc. I think to Robert's point, I certainly do not need to lead the PM team, but I sure better be able to understand it, fund it, realize the resources being allocated towards it and be able to report about it.

bob deville
Title: controller
Company: atlas tool
(controller, atlas tool) |

I actually have rounded out my experience not only as Controller/CFO but also having been a construction project manager that led a 4 mil year long mfg & install project, and also have my masters in PM. Realize a lot we do like budgeting, strategic planning, month end closing and reporting, year end audit prep, insurance admin, erp system implementations, are all projects that need to be properly planned and managed and led to completion while controlling cost and enhancing quality- PM skills are very needed

Topic Expert
Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

A similar thread ran about 2 years back, including some CFO comments on managing projects (albeit the topic was about a specific type of project). See

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