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Hire for change: Why you need a chief process officer

For organizational change to take root, it needs to be driven from the top. Many businesses know that leadership is vital for setting the vision, but sometimes management teams struggle to provide the required support when they already juggle so many other responsibilities.

What’s needed is empowering leadership that supports your active change agents who work with business teams at the grassroots level. It’s there that they can direct and encourage real changes in behavior that will lift the organization’s capabilities.

Without this executive support, change programs can fracture into disjointed efforts and half-hearted initiatives that lack focus and eventually fade out, becoming just another project vaguely recalled by a few team members.

Start at the top

Change doesn’t happen on its own. For it to be effective and ongoing, it needs a governance structure that outlines responsibilities to guide your change champions, as well as process owners and process participants.

That structure begins at the top. The chief process officer (CPO) is a critical appointment, a representative of the executive leadership team who drives change and keeps the organization on task. Often this appointment is made based on passion and skill, and while those are valuable attributes for the role, they miss one of the most vital components of an effective CPO.

The power to make a change

To be really effective, a CPO needs to have influence. Call it power, or clout, or authority, but the CPO needs to be able to create change by holding people accountable when they lag behind, and rewarding them when they achieve the goals that have been set.

For this to be possible, the CPO needs to be part of the executive team. While a flat organizational structure is to be admired, junior team members just don’t have the influence needed to implement change on an ongoing basis.

When the CPO is part of the C-suite, engagement improves and change happens much more effectively. It should be a red flag if the executive team doesn’t want to be involved in change initiatives. If they’re not invested, business process management won’t be anywhere near as effective. The emotional, financial, and organizational commitment from the top is what will drive adoption across the business and lead to success.

Without an expectation of involvement and effort from executives, business process management becomes an optional extra. More junior staff can’t provide the same kind of motivation that a C-level CPO can, and so change initiatives will stall as people find ‘more important’ things to do with their time.

Actively influence improvement

Nintex works with hundreds of businesses around the world, and we have seen firsthand how critical the CPO role is. It makes the difference between successful and ongoing improvement efforts and scrapped projects that fail to effect change. That kind of difference starts in the C-suite, yet many businesses still don’t have someone in this vital role.

Without executive support it’s very difficult to engage the rest of the business, and when teams aren’t on board with process improvement and organizational change, you can almost guarantee it isn’t going to happen.

The C-suite provides the impetus for creating a culture of collaboration and change, and their support ensures that process management and improvement can be both operational and sustained.

Maintain the momentum

Momentum on any business project can be hard to keep up. They start out well, but if engagement falters, teams will soon go back to doing things in old, familiar ways, and progress is lost.

If process documentation is hard to access or understand, there are further barriers to maintaining existing wins, and if management doesn’t make a point of celebrating achievements as they occur, they can easily be forgotten, leading to apathy.

When the CPO has executive authority, they can keep the focus on making the change effective, proving top-down commitment to success. People pay attention to C-suite communications and act on them more readily.

Celebrating success can lead to more success. Recognizing people’s contributions to change efforts will spur them and others on to more. Emails, dashboard notifications, and shout-outs on project portals can all be used to acknowledge those who have gone above and beyond.

Sharing those stories – and the cautionary tales of things that didn’t work out – are essential communications that preserve the integrity of the project and keep people engaged.

Empower the CPO to lead regular improvement activities like workshops to encourage creativity and collaboration between and across teams. Quite apart from audits or reviews, these opportunities can pinpoint issues and support the sharing of ideas that lead to greater customer satisfaction.

Be intentional about driving change

Executive ownership is essential, but it isn’t all you need. There still has to be buy-in from the people who use your processes. Teams need to be the ones engaged in creating and managing the processes. If that is taken out of their hands, they won’t have any sense of connection with the resulting documentation, and chances are it won’t connect well to the procedures they know so well.

Business process improvement isn’t something that happens when you flick a switch. It’s a strategy and a structure, and a culture that touches every part of the organization. It needs to invite everyone in to participate and builds on incremental changes with continuous iteration.

By appointing a CPO at the executive level who can work with and motivate process champions at the business team level, real change can occur and keep happening. When that is part of the organization’s heartbeat, business processes will achieve their goal of bringing better outcomes for everyone involved.



If you’d like to learn more about how the Nintex Promapp® checklist can help your organization to accelerate process execution and reduce costly process breakdowns, schedule a personalized demo of the Nintex Process Platform today.



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