All you need to know about COPIL: The steering committee

In the world of project management, the term COPIL comes up frequently. But what exactly is a COPIL? The COPIL, or Comité de Pilotage, plays a crucial role in the success of many projects. In this article, we’ll explore what a COPIL is, its main functions, and why it’s so important to project management.

What is a COPIL?

A COPIL, short for Comité de Pilotage, is a governance structure set up to oversee and guide a project or programme. It is generally made up of representatives of key stakeholders, such as company directors, project managers and sometimes external experts.

What is the role of a COPIL?

The COPIL, or Steering Committee, plays a crucial role in project management by guiding and overseeing strategic initiatives. It is responsible for defining the objectives and expected results, monitoring the progress of the project and taking important decisions in the event of problems or necessary changes. The COPIL also ensures communication between stakeholders and assesses and mitigates risks. Made up of senior executives, project managers and experts, it ensures that the project remains aligned with the organisation’s strategic objectives while maintaining optimum transparency and responsiveness.

The COPIL’s objectives

The COPIL has several key objectives:

  • To guide and supervise: The COPIL defines the broad guidelines of the project and ensures that the strategic objectives are achieved.
  • Make Decisions: In the event of a problem or a necessary change of direction, the COPIL makes the important decisions.
  • Ensure Communication: The committee facilitates communication between the various stakeholders and maintains transparency on the progress of the project.
  • Assessing Risks: The COPIL identifies and assesses potential risks, then implements mitigation strategies.

What are the four possible roles of the steering committee?

The four possible roles of the steering committee (COPIL) are :

  • Strategic Direction: Defining the broad guidelines, long-term objectives and expected results of the project. The COPIL approves project plans, budgets and schedules.
  • Progress Monitoring: Regularly monitor the progress of the project through periodic meetings to review progress reports and ensure that the project remains on track.
  • Risk Management: Identify, assess and mitigate potential risks associated with the project. The COPIL implements strategies to manage risks and readjusts resources as necessary.
  • Decision-making: Making crucial decisions in the event of unforeseen challenges or opportunities. This ensures rapid adaptation to changes without disrupting the overall project.

Who should be invited to a COPIL?

For an effective COPIL (Comité de Pilotage), it is crucial to invite the right people. Here’s who should typically be invited:

  • The organisation’s senior managers or executives who provide a strategic vision and approve the project’s major decisions.
  • Project Managers: Those responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the project and who report on progress and challenges encountered.
  • Technical or Sector Experts: Specialists who provide technical or sector-specific expertise to inform the COPIL’s decisions.
  • Stakeholder Representatives: Internal or external stakeholders, including customers or end-users, whose interests need to be taken into account in the project.
  • Strategic Partners: Where appropriate, consultants or external partners who play a key role in the project.

By carefully selecting the members of the COPIL, you ensure a balanced representation of interests and informed, effective decision-making.

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Composition of the COPIL

A COPIL is generally made up of :

  • Senior executives : Who provide a strategic vision and approve the major decisions.
  • Project managers: who are responsible for day-to-day implementation and report on progress.
  • Experts: who provide technical or sector-specific advice.
  • External Partners: Where appropriate, consultants or strategic partners may be included.

What makes a good COPIL?

To make a good COPIL (Steering Committee), here are a few essential practices:

Define clear objectives

  • Establish objectives and expected results: Make sure that all members understand the aims of the project.
  • State responsibilities: Clarify the roles and responsibilities of each COPIL member.

Select the Right Participants

  • Include key decision-makers: Executives, project managers, technical experts and stakeholder representatives.
  • Ensure balanced representation: Include diverse points of view for complete decision-making.

Preparing meetings effectively.

  • Plan ahead: draw up a clear and precise agenda.
  • Distribute the necessary documents: Send out reports and relevant information before the meeting.

Conducting Structured Meetings

  • Follow the agenda: Keep to the time allocated for each item.
  • Encourage active participation: Allow each member to speak and contribute.

Follow-up and Communication

  • Document decisions: Keep clear and accessible minutes.
  • Communicate regularly: Send updates on project progress between meetings.

Risk Management and Adaptability

  • Continuous risk assessment: Regularly identify and discuss potential risks.
  • Make rapid decisions: Be ready to adjust plans in response to new challenges or opportunities.

Commitment and Transparency

  • Foster a Collaborative Environment: Encourage open dialogue and collaboration.
  • Ensure Transparency: Maintain openness in reporting and decision-making processes.

By applying these practices, you can ensure that your COPIL functions effectively and contributes significantly to the success of the project.

Who appoints the COPIL?

The appointment of the COPIL (Steering Committee) is generally the responsibility of the organisation’s senior management.

Here’s how this process is typically carried out:

Senior management

The organisation’s senior management or executive committee is often responsible for setting up the COPIL. They identify the need for a steering committee to oversee a specific project and define the strategic objectives.

Project Manager

The project manager plays a crucial role in recommending the members of the COPIL. Depending on the needs of the project, they propose candidates who have the skills and expertise to oversee the project effectively.

Stakeholder representatives

Key internal and external stakeholders can also be consulted to ensure that the people appointed to the COPIL represent the interests of all parties involved.

Validation and approval

Once potential members have been identified, the list is generally submitted to senior management for validation and approval. They ensure that the composition of the COPIL is balanced and that all aspects of the project will be covered.

Notification and implementation

Once approved, members are formally appointed and informed of their roles and responsibilities. An initial meeting is often held to establish the basics of how the COPIL will operate and to define expectations.

The COPIL’s key functions

Strategic planning

The COPIL plays an active role in defining the long-term objectives and expected results of the project. This includes approving project plans, budgets and schedules.

Monitoring the COPIL’s progress

It is the responsibility of the COPIL to regularly monitor the progress of the project. Regular meetings are held to review progress reports and ensure that the project remains on track.

Risk management

The COPIL continually assesses the risks associated with the project and takes steps to mitigate them. This may include reallocating resources, adjusting plans or taking critical decisions to keep the project on track.

Decision-making

In the event of unforeseen challenges or opportunities, the COPIL has the authority to take important decisions for the project. This ensures that the project can adapt quickly to changes without disrupting the whole process.

Why is the COPIL essential?

The presence of a COPIL in project management brings a number of advantages:

  • Clarity and Alignment: Ensures that all stakeholders are aligned with the project’s objectives and expectations.
  • Responsiveness: Enables rapid decision-making in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
  • Transparency: Ensures fluid and transparent communication between all parties.
  • Responsibility: Each member of the COPIL is responsible for the success of the project, which reinforces commitment and responsibility.

What’s the difference between Comex and CODIR?

Comex (Executive Committee) and CODIR (Management Committee) are two governance bodies often found in companies, but they have distinct roles, objectives and composition.

Here are the main differences between the two:

Composition and function

Comex (Executive Committee) :
  • Composition: Consists of the members of the executive committee, generally the top-level managers such as the CEO, managing directors, finance directors, etc.
  • Function: Takes key strategic and operational decisions, often focused on implementing the company’s overall strategy.
CODIR (Management Committee) :
  • Composition: Made up of senior managers and directors of departments or functions, such as marketing directors, human resources directors, production directors, etc.
  • Function: Manages day-to-day operational aspects and projects, with a focus on coordination between departments and implementation of strategic decisions taken by Comex.

Decision-making level

Comex :
  • Level: Makes decisions at a strategic and global level.
  • Objective: To set the broad guidelines, long-term strategies and decisions of major importance to the company.
CODIR :
  • Level: Makes more operational and tactical decisions.
  • Objective: To implement strategic decisions and manage the company’s day-to-day operations.

Frequency and Type of Meetings

Comex :
  • Frequency: Generally frequent meetings, sometimes weekly or twice-weekly.
  • Type: Meetings focusing on strategic issues, performance reports and important decisions for the future of the company.
CODIR :
  • Frequency: Meetings often held weekly or monthly.
  • Type: Meetings focused on coordinating activities, monitoring projects and resolving operational problems.

Responsibilities

Comex : Defining the company’s vision, mission and overall strategy, overseeing major financial and organisational guidelines.

CODIR : Supervising the execution of operational plans, coordinating departments, and ensuring that projects comply with the strategic objectives defined by Comex.

Relations and Interaction

Comex : Comex sets the strategic guidelines that the CODIR implements. It may also monitor and evaluate the performance of the CODIR.

CODIR : The CODIR is directly involved in implementing strategic decisions and reports regularly to Comex on progress and challenges encountered.

Conclusion

The Steering Committee is a crucial component of project management. By providing structured governance, rapid decision-making and ongoing monitoring, the COPIL ensures that projects are carried out effectively and in line with the organisation’s strategic objectives. If you haven’t yet set up a COPIL for your projects, it may be time to think about it .