Improvement driver: the evolving role of the CPO


Financier Worldwide Magazine

February 2018 Issue

Effective leadership is recognised as essential in achieving business goals and driving organisational change, and can be the difference between making or breaking a company. Less well known, however, is the array of supporting cogs in the corporate machine which allow leaders to flourish.

One such cog is the chief process officer (CPO). A C-level position which has emerged in recent years, a CPO is responsible for a company’s business process management (BPM) initiatives and calls for someone with the ability to identify where business processes can be improved and recommend specific ways to carry out upgrades.

According to a multi-sector survey of more than 280 companies conducted by BearingPoint and BPM&O in 2015, BPM is considered to be important or very important to almost 75 percent of respondents. Furthermore, 49 percent of the companies surveyed confirmed they had a member of staff in place whose job it is to measure and improve performance, with the number of organisations with such a role doubling since a previous survey in 2011.

“The use of BPM has become a key driver for optimisation, cost cutting, effectiveness and enterprise transformation, especially in an environment of external forces and drivers initiating constant change,” states the ‘The Complete Business Process Handbook’. “As a result, many companies are beginning to develop a dedicated role to lead these initiatives: the CPO.”

As the leadership team’s designated representative, the CPO is clearly a pivotal role – an individual trained to a high level in the identification of process improvement methods that can streamline enterprise and multiple department-wide processes. The appointment of a CPO, therefore, is a challenging task for any company that is serious about achieving success.

Under siege

With companies under increasing pressure to streamline their processes in order to drive improvement and maximise profitability, the benefit of having a CPO in place to deploy new tools and technologies is plain.

“Procedural changes – changing the way people work both individually and together – can resolve many organisational problems,” notes George Dunn, founder and president of CRE8 Independent Consultants. “Revolutionary tools include technologies such as workflow and electronic content management. Properly deployed, these paperless technologies provide independent process measurements and break down organisational silos.”

A challenging role requiring a key appointment, the CPO is an integral part of the organisational change agenda – the corporate cog that identifies the improvements that allow a company to progress.

According to Dennis Parker, senior vice president of customer success at K2, companies are under siege on the process front like never before. “In financial services, for example, front line services are being impacted by increasing scrutiny and regulatory requirements,” he says. “This translates to processes and multiple systems which need to be navigated to provide a regulated service to customers. Understanding these new processes and streamlining them into an efficient experience is critical.”

Coping with greater regulatory scrutiny is but one scenario where a CPO can prove worthwhile but there are, of course, many others. “We think process understanding and technology will combine to create new ways of working,” continues Mr Parker. “Companies that recognise this change and adapt will thrive, while those that continue to rely on manual process and patchwork systems will struggle to compete. Clearly, this is an organisational imperative and should sit at the very top of corporate hierarchy as a priority.”

Organisational alignment

Despite the advantages of having a CPO in place, for some companies accepting the imperative of the role is an issue, as is the organisational realignment that comes with it. On the one hand, those faced with increasing competitive and regulatory challenges will recognise the need to quickly and efficiently streamline processes. Other companies not impacted to the same extent may well take longer.

“New generation financial services companies are coming to market with single integrated modern computing platforms that are driven solely by an online presence with efficient and seamless online processes,” says Mr Parker. “These companies will disrupt traditional banking and financial services in the next five years. In these situations, where survival is at stake, organisations will both understand and align with new process-based initiatives.”

CPO future

Clearly, a CPO can do much to influence how a company is structured, governed, documented, automated and measured, as well as its overall ability to change. “It is the synchronisation of processes and technologies that will drive change going forward,” suggests Mr Parker. “Ultimately, these come together and manifest as applications or ‘apps’ that touch both internal audiences and customers in new ways,” he says. “Many companies that failed to identify new business models and processes are no longer in business.”

A challenging role requiring a key appointment, the CPO is an integral part of the organisational change agenda – the corporate cog that identifies the improvements that allow a company to progress. Indeed, as Mr Dunn asks: “If a process is not properly defined and measured, how can it be improved?”

© Financier Worldwide


Fraser Tennant

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