The COO is at the center of business. While the role of the COO differs from organization to organization, it is the COO in conjunction with the Executive team that drive and build the necessary
foundations, structures, processes and strategies for an organization to be successful.
The role of the COO
COOs today have to handle the traditional operational responsibilities and at the same time lead a company’s strategic initiatives. They fulfill several key roles.
– Help make the CEO’s vision a reality
– Whereas the CEO is focused on strategy, the COO has to lead the execution and implementation of strategy
– The COO has to enforce and set controls within the organization ensuring execution of the operational plans
– The COO needs to work with the CFO to grow the business, improve decision-making and control spending
– The agenda for business change and adoption of new technologies that enable business to move ahead of their competition and in line with the overall strategy, is in many cases owned by the COO, while execution will happen across business functions and C- level executives.
In effect, the COO is the “heads down” counterpart to the “heads up” CEO.
The COO’s role
|Driving key change and transformation initiatives||Shaping the future of the business||Ensuring suitable operations management||Optimal operational processes||Designing a framework to turn strategy into operations||Managing the strategic assets of the company|
Adapted from McKinsey Global Survey
COOs and digital transformation
Many businesses have begun transformation projects, mainly in the wake of changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Gartner, over two-thirds of companies surveyed have accelerated their digital business initiatives, and almost one half will be changing their business model. Because this impacts so many aspects of the organization, the COO takes the lead on digital transformation.
As businesses change, the COO needs to oversee and steer changes. It’s not only standards, processes, and infrastructure that have to change, but also critical to manage the human aspects of change. Business changes not adopted and owned by the employees of a company will not be successful and will fail to deliver the desired results and objectives.
The COO should be driving the conversation on how to use new technologies, and decide how to create greater efficiency, resulting in high output and cost savings. . Streamlining investment in new technologies and operational cost savings are typical key focus areas for a COO. With their knowledge of the company, the COO can add their insight when it comes to addressing operations and productivity challenges.
COOs and technology
In the past, business strategies were often planned, and then IT was brought in during the final phases. Because technology is an enabler of business growth, there needs to be greater collaboration with the CIO. So while technology is the responsibility of the CIO, it is largely the COO’s job to ensure the adoption of these initiatives by the organization, as well as to ensure the business find the right people with the right skills to ensure successful implementation and integration into operations.
With the hard boundaries around IT fading, and the ownership of the technology portfolio changing, the COO is becoming responsible for creating operations and structures to support the delivery of the organization’s products and services; which includes architectures and business processes. Therefore the COO should play a key role in setting and executing the vision for a modern enterprise IT architecture that can support the existing business and that also offers new collaborative, customer-oriented, operational, and analytical capabilities that are required to create and drive new business models.
COOs and software to manage the enterprise
- Streamlined and automated business processes
- Responsiveness to customer inquiries and demands
- Visibility over all the operational aspects of the business
- Information to enable agile decision-making
- Manage and enforce controls, and verify compliance
- Ability to use new innovative technologies that can become game-changers
For enterprise software projects, the COO should:
- Give the lead in planning and ensure alignment of project goals with organizational goals;
- Bring the best people in the organization into the project;
- Be involved but limit their involvement to the strategic level;
- Identify which aspects of the project that require their involvement and delegate the rest.
Good communication takes center stage as the COO executive’s key objectives. One of the challenges in business and in technology projects is the ability to communicate and present information in a manner that all stakeholders and all levels of the organization can understand. It is therefore important that the software selected has a business process modeling component that can graphically represent the technical aspects of the planned implementation in a way that any staff member and any level of stakeholder can see, relate to and understand. This is more valuable and complementary to the, sometimes lengthy, business requirement document that is in many cases never even read.
The way a COO approaches an ERP implementation can have a significant effect on the success or failure of the project. ‘Four tips to starting an ERP project’ gives guidance on where and how to start. [https://za.syspro.com/blog/planning-for-erp-or-purchasing-erp/four-tips-for-starting-an-erp-project/]
How COOs can guide technology strategy
Businesses won’t succeed in the new digital age just by providing their old products and services through a digital medium. A COO needs to think about making digital transformation a core operating principle for everyday business transactions, integrated and embedded into the organization. The COO can provide important leadership in selecting technology and deploying it, ensuring cooperation from all the various parties involved in the project. COOs who spend time thinking about enterprise architecture and technology that will align to and support business strategies and objectives, and then direct the adoption and implementation accordingly, are going to provide significant benefit to their organizations.