Monday, January 09, 2006

I've Been Promoted to Chief Process Officer

I stumbled across some interesting reading in the blogsphere recently related to business process management (BPM) and the associated culture changes which seem to trump any technology issues. Take Phil Gilbert’s blog Perspectives in Process . He has an article “
Is it Time for a Chief Process Officer?” where he makes a few interesting points.

“These factors combine to mean that the complexity of running your business is
way up, even as the old costs of doing what you do are going way down. It's less
costly - on a direct basis - to build something in China and ship it here than
it is to build it here. But guess what, it's a lot more complicated. And if you
don't get a grip on these new complications, you will eat up in costs and in bad
service everything you wanted to save!

Process, then, is the word we use
today to describe "getting a handle on the complexity, putting programs in place
to reduce the complexity, and scaling our ability to consume the supply chain
and deliver to the channel in as easy a way as possible." The companies that are
able to do this - scale the integration and complexity - will win.
Because of this, "process" becomes the business. A business is no
longer defined by its goods and services as much as it is defined by its
capabilities. Is Wal-Mart in the, um, what business is Wal-Mart in? What do you
call a business that provides retail hard goods, medical services and banking?
In the end, the products don't define Wal-Mart as much as their capabilities
define them.

So now, back to the original question: Is it time
for the CPO? Absolutely. The only other person who is capable of leading such a
shift (or who should be tasked with leading such a shift) is the CEO. So if the
CEO isn't ready to take this on, then some, one person should be designated as
the person to move the company's capabilities into the limelight.”

Another interesting read is in James McGovern’s blog called Enterprise Architecture: Thought Leadership He has an article “Recent Thoughts on BPM” in which he takes a few shots at Phil Gilbert’s notion of a Chief Process Officer and asks why he is

encouraging yet another ivory tower role be created
within the enterprise. Curious if he doesn't think that this is already covered
by folks who practice real enterprise architecture? If I were a vendor though, I
too would encourage creation of such a role as it makes it a lot easier for me
to identify whom to sell to...”

Incidentally, if you don’t like James McGovern’s ideas on Enterprise
Architecture, you may be amused by the assortment of completely unrelated
photographs and political cartoons mixed in with all the architecture
discussion. Conservatives beware, most of his political commentary in the margins is often on the liberal side... but his blog is never boring.

Phil Gilbert responded to some of McGovern’s points in a second blog article “A Chief Process Officer.” In it, he distinguishes he idea from an “ivory tower” position as follows:

”The single biggest reason process-centric projects fail today is bad
governance. Processes span functions and when optimizing a given process,
political disputes arise, and there's no single owner that has the power to
drive the project to completion. Something that is good for the organization is,
basically, killed because someone's power would have been
diminished. The answer is not another reorg! The answer is to drive a
process-based culture, but in the short-term (read: the real world) what this
means is that someone will need the power to make this stuff happen. You can't
change culture without changing reality. I propose that this means - in
practical terms, not in "ivory tower" terms - someone with clout has to be
driving the process initiative.”

All this talk reminds me of previous post on my blog, “The Role of the Business Transformation Architect” in which I quote a colleague of mine Douglas McDavid, a member of the IBM Academy of Technology. Is a Business Transformation Architect basically a Chief Process Officer with political clout?

Oh, I was just kidding about getting promoted.... but I'd take it if they gave it to me.

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.


James McGovern said...

Calling me liberal is fighting words. I would like to think of myself as neither Democratic nor Republican. Likewise I am neither liberal nor conservative. I would say though that I do tend to look at things in a way that is contrary to the masses.

The enterprise needs to be wary of folks who advocate new roles especially ones that are chief fill in the blank officers. It is usually an indicator that something else is broken and simply appointing an individual doesn't fix the root cause.

Philip Hartman said...

My apologies for being too cavalier with the political labeling. As for the role of new roles... I'm afraid I'm straddling the fence somewhat. I'm not sure what the solution is but often the status quo is broken. I'm certain staying the same won't work either.