Optimising financial processes

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Global Process Ownership – Influencers, Coalition Creators, “Experience” & Execution Champions

Global Process Owners have assumed many titles since their inception. Over time, the GPO role has expanded, been re-written and, in almost all cases, evolved. GPOs are now known for their skills as ‘Influencers’, ‘Mediators” and ‘Coalition Creators’ and their roles have greater autonomy, ownership and, ultimately, impact than ever before.  

Evolution, as we know, is change, and change breeds some significant challenges that GPOs and the GPO model itself are now facing. Whilst some organizations are well-equipped to tackle these head on, others are taking time to reassess and regroup.

On a recent webcast we welcomed Shelley Davies, Global Process Excellence and Automation Lead at Anglo American and Steve Fox, former VP Global Business Services at Thermo Fisher Scientific to share their Global Process Ownership experiences. There were certainly lots to be shared, and 1100 people registered, so clearly something resonated.

We commenced by sharing the 5 BIG challenges currently facing GPOs;

  1. The “control vs influence“ challenge in the role
  2. Building the cross functional coalition to drive change
  3. Driving “AS-IS” performance improvement while designing the “TO-BE” (design vs operate)
  4. The natural tension between process-driven and technology-driven change.
  5. The impact of human behaviour on process change

And, whilst we recognise ambition is high, execution remains hard for many organizations, it was positive to see that 57% of you are prioritizing collaboration with stakeholders across the end-to-end process as your primary enabler to deliver the business value of the GPO capability.

But back to the challenges – let’s break them down….

  • Control vs Influence

Let’s face it, the ability to influence what you cannot control is becoming a critical leadership skill in the business world today. The GPO is expected to engage with stakeholders, identify ‘champions’ (as Shelley did within business units), deeply understand the business challenges and options and influence and align stakeholders around continuous improvement and a simplified “experience”. Of course, there can be a fine line between influence and control BUT GPOs are good communicators and even better listeners. They can show the advantages of change and align stakeholders and participants around the vision and execution of a better end to end process. But be mindful of the different paths or “journeys” through the process. Even the best process don’t have just one journey, there are a number . .  and it’s the GPO’s role identify, simplify, optimise and navigate these journeys.

  • Coalition Creators

GPOs need to form a cross-functional coalition of ‘buy-in’ in the business. This means getting different functions, operating units, regions, customers, executive stakeholders, IT and HR aligned – so that the objectives and desire for process excellence can be achieved. And, once you have your coalition in place, as Steve said, ENGAGE with them, take on that mediator role so that you know what’s going on and you can act accordingly. Coalitions are never static, so keep working on them!

  • Design vs Operate – knowing “what good looks like”

 The hardest question to answer about an end-to-end process is ‘what does good look like?’. It might seem obvious at first, but it is a very delicate balance. You also have to analyse what’s going wrong (think ‘defects’), understand where the barriers to improvement are and identify where optimization opportunities lie. To do this, GPOs have to be both accountable for the design of the process, as well as its operational efficiency. That means knowing every piece of the process; defects, behaviours, habits, trends, risks, challenges and opportunities. Shelley shared great insight into the role data can play here, giving her the ability to assess process performance whilst incrementally improving targeted metrics and KPIs. But, remember that the essential, existential need to understand and agree “what good looks like” is for ALL stakeholder and participant segments. Don’t even start thinking about KPIs until you are clear on this.

  • Process-driven vs technology-driven change

Before you even begin to consider technology and its role, ask yourself “what is the outcome we are looking for?”. This is the “what does good look like” challenge. It is the answer to this that drives the process. We need to be clear on the process and desired journey Only then should you engage with technology…. but remember….

“Elimination is the best form of automation”

Technology offers huge support in end-to-end process excellence – we know that. But, if the process is not streamlined, technology will magnify the inefficiency. Get your process clear first, engage with your coalition (wise words by Steve) and technology will then become your best friend.

  • The human element of process change

 I said earlier on, evolution breeds change and change breeds challenges – a fairer way of saying not everyone likes change! The GPO needs to be the catalyst for effective change, whilst helping others to embrace it. Both Shelley and Steve shared their thoughts on the characteristics of a great GPO;

Remember that EQ, even more than IQ, is needed for a GPO to “win hearts and minds”. It’s no longer just about subject matter expertise, but about understanding and delivering the overall “experience” needed to delight customers, stakeholders and participants in the process.

Having listened to Shelley and Steve, what became clear to me is that GPOs are making a real difference to their businesses. Their perseverance and influence makes them the perfect ‘eyes and ears’ to assimilate the “voice of the customer” across the process. They strive each and every day to achieve simplicity (through the elimination of the unnecessary) and to align the common view around ‘what good looks like’. They do this by remaining adaptable, resilient and innovative.

We have put together a GPO Playbook, a resource used to help GPOs start with the WHY of their process performance aspirations, before jumping to the WHAT and the HOW. This approach has proven to be highly effective. If you’d like the Playbook for yourself, please drop me an email at  

Thanks for reading ……