5 tips to become the COO of the Future
Historically, we think of an Operations executive as a professional who is always connected, have high resilience and is a crisis management specialist. Not rarely, he/she has two or more smartphones and knows every possible way to have them recharged.
The reason behind it comes from the fact that a professional in such position has to deal with the unforeseen and the unexpected on a daily basis. The have customers with specific demands, service providers not delivering as expected, service interruptions caused by internal or external faults. End users, regardless if companies or individuals do not want and should not worry about that. To have the services they contracted available is their only wish.
This scenario got even worse: on one end, companies are offering higher complex services in order to gain scale, creating bigger operational departments while expecting lower costs. On the other end, customer power increases due to market competition, regulatory agencies or simply through the voice they conquered with social networks, where a single dissatisfied client can generate great damage to a company’s image.
Therefore, every operations executive mantra remains “Service Quality and Operational Efficiency”. However, what is really changing is the way – and speed – to get there, demanding operations to be more intelligent.
For this to happen, both the COO and other operation managers will need to impersonate the role of the agent responsible for evolving the foundations, working towards a more analytical and preventive way. Of course, there will always be crisis to fight, but the executive of the future will be evaluated mainly by his/her capacity to avoid new crisis and prepare the foundations to handle the unforeseen in an efficient way.
The good news are that technology and the market also evolved. What you see next are some of the resources we identified that can help the COO throughout this journey:
1 – MULTIFACETED TEAMS MANAGEMENT AND TRAINING
Transform a ordinary operation in an intelligent operation depends primarily on the COO capacity to build a multifaceted and cohesive team. Good “firefighters” will certainly still be needed, but the team must be able to grow their analytical and processual capabilities.
Besides the effort spent on evolving each professional, team management best practices and HR support may help the COO make the transition in a more efficient way.
Questions such as inspire the team with a clear vision of the future, develop individual training plans and efficiently distribute players in the field allow the team to support the change process instead of avoiding it. There will be resistance, but the ability to convince and courage to make changes are also part of every manager skillset.
And when we talk about cohesive teams, we don’t mean just putting away the everyday fire we are used to. It means the entire team – or a great part of it – needs to be focused on the operation continuous improvement process.
2 – ANALYTICS, BI, DASHBOARDS AND OTHERS
Management support tools have evolved a lot in recent years. Cloud storage and the rise of analytics, for example, made possible the analysis of large datasets, also known as Big Data. They also allowed professionals of several different areas to have access to information they did not have before, and to visualize them through cutting-edge control panel technology.
These tools allow you to:
- Consciência situacional, ou seja, rápido entendimento do que está acontecendo agora e suas implicações;
- Develop a situational awareness, or how to quickly understand what is going on around you in real time and its consequences;
- Entendimento do passado, tanto em termos descritivos como em diagnósticos;
- Understand the past, both in descriptive terms and for diagnosis purposes;
- Previsão do futuro, com análises preditivas (qual será o cenário futuro) e prescritivas (como posso induzir um determinado cenário). E quando se consegue antecipar um problema, ele deixa de ser um “imprevisto”.
- Predict the future, through both predictive (what will the scenario look like?) and prescriptive (how to influence a certain scenario?) analysis. Once you successfully anticipate a problem, it no longer becomes an “unforeseen”.
Technology is still evolving and must be handled with care. The critical point is to have people in your team with such mindset and skills, and make good use of them. To continuously transform large volumes of data into useful information needs to happen dynamically and will only be possible if incorporated into the team’s routine. Other teams like Quality and BI should act in a supporting role to help create and evolve the platform, but guidance and data consumption must arise naturally as part of each team’s daily activities.
3 – CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT PROCESSES
There are several reference models, standards and quality programs. We should thanks the manufacturing industry – who improved these models over the decades – and many organizations that evolved and adjusted them to be used by other segments, introducing terms like ITIL, eTOM, PDCA, Six Sigma, among others.
Start by choosing the models that are best aligned with your kind of process or service. For example, if you use ITIL processes, there are specific continuous service improvement processes and root cause analysis developed for them. You will certainly find areas within your company or external consultancy firms that can help you with that.
But there is one item, however, that cannot be outsourced: to create the culture of continuous improvement in your team. You may need to assign specific employees to kick-off the activities at first, adopting a formal process that includes activities management, schedules and deliveries. The major risk is to keep postponing what is important to prioritize what is urgent.
In addition, associate goals and create some specific report mechanisms of gains, productivity and continuous improvement processes will help reinforce the message. After all, what we want is for the whole team to be part of the continuous improvement plan.
Great rewards are sometimes generated by disruptive changes, but they usually come from the sum of small incremental changes. Such rewards, however, can only be achieved by teams that already have that culture, skills and empowerment.
4 – AUTOMATION TOOLS
With technological evolution, each new day brings new automation possibilities: processes, information gathering, decision-making and action execution are some examples – either from a technical availability or cost reduction point of view.
Since operational areas are structured over processes, large amounts of repetitive and automatable tasks are generated. Therefore, you might want to start with simpler tasks, such as data acquisition, control and restriction reinforcements, moving to more complex tasks such as diagnoses, correlation and remote operation to finally achieve cognition.
Do not forget to always evaluate the complexity, volume and repetition in order to establish a proper prioritization. The greater the analysis capacity and focus on continuous improvement, the better you will be at identifying the right gain opportunities.
Keep in mind that automation could be a good way to combine cost reduction with service quality improvement when you streamline and standardize the activities.
5 –SERVICE QUALITY DISCLOSURE TOOLS
What is the point of having a great service quality if operations only comes to mind when something goes wrong? To build a positive image is not just a matter of “self-promotion” or ego. To create a good reputation is something important both internally to improve credibility, and externally to face the market.
In addition, it is a critical aspect to motivate the team, who believed in the vision created by their leader in the first place.
It starts with establishing the service level agreements and their metrics. It is imperative that these tools have direct access to information and present them on a pleasant, fast and easy-to-use graphical interface. True transparency is always rewarded with credibility.
And for advanced users there are social media channels as well.
Finally, if you are an operation executive who believes your main responsibility is to be a team leader and already have on-going initiatives that empower your team to work in a more analytical manner with focus on continuous improvement, welcome to the future. Let it be brilliant!
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