Add AMR Research’s Eric Austvold to the growing list of industry experts advocating creation of a Chief Process Officer (CPO) position to help companies become agile, efficient, process-oriented enterprises.



During the ebizQ webinar Extending BPI Beyond the Enterprise, part of the series A Manager's Guide to Enterprise Integration, sponsored by Sterling Commerce, the AMR Research Director showed how organizations could do just that: extend Business Process Improvement outside their corporate boundaries to their customers and trading partners, extend expensive but tough-to-integrate ERP systems, and generally reap the rewards of being process-oriented.

Those rewards include being able to respond quickly to competitive threats, streamlined responses to mergers and acquisitions, constant improvement of business processes, reusing enterprise assets, and improving relationships with those customers and suppliers through real-time collaboration.

Austvold said a pivotal factor is really structural, not technological: using Six Sigma-oriented principles, with CPOs as the central figures, to spearhead process improvement.

“A lot of people synonymously interchange Six Sigma with a process technology, like, ‘I’ll buy workflow or process technology and therefore we are going to initiate Six Sigma process plans within our organization,’ and unfortunately that’s not true,” Austvold said. He explained that Six Sigma is really an initiative aimed at pushing continuous process improvement.

While allowing that he has “yet to meet someone at a company with that exact title (CPO),” Austvold said he has witnessed the appointment of vice president-level executives charged with process improvement and the exploitation and reuse of existing technology.

“You have the current executives, VPs or C-level executives you put together by function, and where the process breaks down is where it has to cross boundaries; that’s the ‘Is that your responsibility or my responsibility?’ kind of thing. What we do in this particular scenario is take a person that’s responsible for all those gaps, and it’s their job to see that processes get developed,” he noted.

He displayed Six Sigma-based organization charts showing process “master black belts” and “green belts” matrixed throughout an organization’s engineering, manufacturing, sales and service and financial departments. “You have the black belts who are initiating the process and they’re the ones who are pushing the ball forward. When they run into obstacles, they work with the champions (green belts) who are there to break down the barriers and facilitate the process improvement.”

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