CIOs who expand their role beyond the traditional purview of IT can significantly boost the bottom line by improving business processes. It requires CIOs to have business acumen and organizational skills, on top of technology prowess, but the result can be a more competitive and nimble business.
Business execs manage a complex set of processes within their departments and, as a result, don’t have the bandwidth to comprehend the ever-changing process complexities in other departments.
CIOs, however, are in an ideal position to see the broad array of interactions among employees, customers and business partners–and identify opportunities for improvement across the entire enterprise. As Jim Stikeleather, chief innovation officer at Dell, puts it: “CIOs should know more about how the business runs than any other executive.”
An enterprise process map is a basic tool used by CIOs to improve business performance. When Steve O’Connor was hired as CIO at AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah Insurance Exchange, he quickly discovered that an enterprise process map didn’t exist.
With the approval of the CEO, O’Connor created a tiger team of IT and business personnel to map out the business processes so he could partner with his C-level peers to improve processes so they could achieve the company’s aggressive growth plan.
Randy Spratt, CIO and CTO at McKesson, collaborates with C-level peers to focus on improving the processes that will have the most dramatic effect on business performance. For example, Spratt developed the Business Integration Office, which integrates acquired businesses into the McKesson business model.
Previous integration activities weren’t documented and required an average of three months to complete. Spratt’s team developed a process playbook that reduced that time to three weeks.
At Global Partners, a major fuel distributor, CIO Ken Piddington has an extensive background in the energy industry, which allowed him to see an opportunity to improve the process of serving customers at distribution terminals. The setup process was manual, extremely slow and not competitive. So Piddington says he took over the operational support group and re-engineered the setup process to produce an 80 percent improvement in average customer setup time.
At Procter & Gamble, CIO Filippo Passerini’s team collaborated with R&D to virtualize the process of redesigning the packaging for consumer products by using 3-D design software. “Now, instead of taking five or six weeks to redesign a physical mock-up, we can now do it in days or hours,” he says.
“We’re at a unique point where the stars–business needs–and the moon–enabling technology–are aligned for the CIO to play an unprecedented leadership role in the business,” says Passerini.
How do you become the king or queen of process?
- Know your business, its competitive environment and the value that your company’s products and services provide customers and partners.
- Understand the key processes across the enterprise and identify opportunities for improvement.
- Collaborate with your C-level peers to develop improvements to business processes.
- Immerse employees in internal and external user experiences so they learn how business processes operate.
Building these competencies will move you into the strategic CIO role and, more importantly, create customer value, improve margins and increase shareholder wealth.
Phil Weinzimer is president of Strategere Consulting and author of the forthcoming book, The Strategic CIO: Changing the Dynamics of the Business Enterprise. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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