Wanted: Chief process improvement officers

For companies that still see key processes slipping through the cracks as they get shuffled between departments, AMR Research Inc. has a solution: appoint a chief process improvement officer.

“”Isn’t process improvement fundamentally

the role of everybody within an organization? The answer is yes, but part of the challenge is that there isn’t a watchdog within corporations,”” said AMR Research director Eric Austvold during a Webcast hosted by software company Pegasystems Inc.

Those processes that aren’t being adressed could include expense management, adhering to government regulations, measuring customer complacency, or product lifecycles from R&D through to sales.

“”Those are key metrics that need to aggregated and looked at in total and then presented to someone who can make a decision on this process,”” said Austvold. “”This is pervasive problem, regardless of industry segment.””

If customer complaints aren’t rooted through the correct channels or dealt with according to policy, they could reoccur or cause customers to defect to a competitor, he added.

“”We’ve seen this ourselves a little bit,”” said Jon Pellant, director of technology for Cambridge, Mass.-based Pegasystems. “”A lot in the complaint management side of things, where people just don’t know why (customers) are complaining and don’t act on that information.””

Companies often deal with loss of revenue by setting their write-off threshold so high that they just accept billing errors and loss due to fraud as part of their business. That’s particularly evident with cellular carriers, said Austvold.

A CPIO’s role may overlap with those of the chief information officer, chief knowledge officer or chief technology officer, but it is designed to augment rather than supplant them, he said.

“”CIOs are logging information as to why things are happening the way they are,”” added Pellant, “”but what I don’t see as much is, what actions do you take when there’s a (breach) of policy? . . . How do I follow up? What work do I initiate? That’s where I think some of this (CPIO) role will help.””

There are software packages available that address some of these issues for a CPIO, said Austvold. The failure of enterprise resource planning to take care of every aspect of an organization’s business plan, for example, has given rise to process management tools in the last few years. “”What companies are looking for is an additional set of improvement that goes on above those packaged software applications,”” said Austvold.

The idea of a CPIO isn’t necessarily new, he added. They may already exist across various vertical markets but operate under different names. For instance, the telecommunications industry may refer to it as revenue leakage controller, or in the financial services arena, a chief compliance officer.

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