Is the COO the New Champion for Transformation?

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30 years ago, I began my career as a speechwriter for a rapidly growing computer parts distributor to write presentations for the executive team.  It gave me a front row seat to witness how a large company was run, and a unique perspective on the role of the CEO and COO.

The CEO was a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School, who spent five years as a consultant with McKinsey, taking over the top job just before I joined.  He was an energetic, confident man, and even though he knew little about the day-to-day running of the business, his strategy would push the company to new heights as the Digital Age dawned.

The COO, on the other hand, was a former military commander from Tennessee. He built and oversaw a warehouse and logistical network that offered Just In Time Delivery and met all the demanding Total Quality Management practices required by Department of Defense IT contractors.  Furthermore, when I arrived, he had just installed the world’s first static-free robotic warehouse, where all orders were filled by a machine driven by a mainframe.

They were the classic combination.

The brash CEO brought the vision, worked with the board and arranged financing for his aggressive acquisition strategy, while the disciplined COO kept the business running.  Not just running, but at the forefront of innovation with a sterling reputation.  And as the business grew, the COO made sure they scaled to support the new business, proving the value of having a consolidated operational leader.

But times have changed.

Some say the COO job is in decline. Many feel that the Digital Office solves the operational issues that COOs used to focus on, and lately some large companies (Apple, McDonalds, Kodak) haven’t replaced their COOs when they were elevated to CEO.  Of all the C-Level titles, the COO is the only one that doesn’t have a magazine!

Yet if there were a time that called for a COO, it is now, during the Age of Disruption. COOs at the world’s admired companies have discovered themselves in a new role as executives in charge of business transformation.

Who else is best suited for the tough questions?  How to align the talent and resources in the company to create new business models?  How to inspire people to try new processes and procedures? How to make sure the company’s employees have the right tools to get the tasks done that make the customer satisfied?

And sooner or later, every COO involved in a change project will encounter business content. No longer relegated to the archive, business content is digital and active, woven into business processes inside and outside the firewall.  But when content systems fail, operations grind to a halt, employees become disengaged, teamwork suffers and customers are lost.

Call it Content Chaos.

It can appear anywhere, but the best place to see content chaos disrupting a business is to experience the business as a customer or a front line worker.  IBM has created a series of short videos called “Secret CEO,” where leaders of fictional companies go undercover to see how their company really works.  What do you think they find?

01_Are you at risk with content chaos-03Content Chaos.

Whether you’re a CEO, CIO, CFO or upper level executive, when you learn how to see Content Chaos, the first thing you’re going to do is turn to your COO. You’d better have one that understands the new rules and is ready to become your champion of transformation.

Read this eBook and take this journey to outthink content chaos and discover how your industry can gain real value from your business content.

WW Portfolio Marketing Manager, Enterprise Content Management

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