The Business/Process/IT Partnership (Your Secret Ingredient For Process Transformation Success)

Over the past 20 years, I’ve been involved in many process initiatives, working closely with business and IT execs. And I’ve seen some efforts work while others go south. But it’s only this year that I so clearly understood why some organizations zoom ahead in process transformation while others stumble, go in circles, or abandon the chase. My own big “ah-ha” moment came at a big business process excellence event in 2012, when I looked across an audience of 500-600 process practitioners and realized there were very, very few CIOs, IT leaders, or even technologists in attendance. Then I remembered some past technology events when my references to process technologies, techniques, or methodologies drew blank stares. Why was that? It was because few process experts were in the room! That made me start wondering — what’s wrong with this picture?

More and more senior execs are embarking on business process transformation. These new changes are catalyzed by many things: new business models made imperative by a new market leader, new threats or opportunities because of rapid changes in technology, a much more customer-centric business strategy, aggressive global expansion plans, or something else. As a result, many organizations are working to become process-driven by 2020.

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Calling All Chief Process Officers!

In early 2013, I plan to continue researching the business/IT partnership for process transformation by . . .  interviewing Chief Process Officers. I’ve only met two honest-to-goodness officially titled Chief Process Officers, although I’ve heard rumors of more, and I've talked with many who have that responsibility. If you are a CPO or know someone who would like to talk on or off the record, please send a note to cmoore@forrester.com. Many thanks!

You may be wondering, what is a Chief Process Officer? My working definition is:

A chief process officer (CPO) is the senior-most executive reporting to the board of directors, CEO, or COO with responsibility for an enterprise’s business process transformation and continuous improvement initiative. The CPO works with executive counterparts to develop strategic goals and objectives for process transformation in alignment with the business strategy; identify 5-6 cross-functional processes for transformation; and identify business outcomes (based on the customer’s outside-in perspective on processes). The CPO oversees process governance, methodologies, training, and change management and helps other process owners within business functions. The CPO may have more than one title and one set of responsibilities.

Some reasons why CPOs are as hard to find as unicorns may be:

  • Most companies have not yet embarked on strategic business process transformation.
  • Senior executives (including CEOs and COOs) are doing this job already without the CPO title.
  • Other titles compete, like Business Architect, Sr. VP of Business Optimization, and Sr. VP of Process Improvement.
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