Chief operations officer and his key role in the digital transformation

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Overwhelmed by the high responsibility, endless working hours, and the need to report daily to the company’s general management, the chief operations officer’ position is very complex and challenging, and it seems to never end. The high level of requirements needed, the large set of skills, qualifications and strengths needed makes the candidate selection process one of the longest and hardest ordeals an organization must go through.
If you’re chief operations officer, you know you’re responsible for the timely fulfillment of daily operations in your company, and you must always be aware of new tools and practices to increase the productivity, to reduce costs and achieve more efficient results each day. And that is not easy to accomplish, considering the need to answer the customers’ demands in time.
In order to guide the search for added value in your company’s operations, today we’re offering you an article about the key points a chief operations officer should know to become more productive and reduce costs with the help of digital transformation.
Innovation capacity
In our information society, a time when the management of social media has become mandatory, and digital marketing strategies are a must for companies, we ought to keep an eye on your company’s operations from the angle of the ongoing digital transformation in order to see how they can be reconfigured and evolve.
The article titled “Digital transformation: the challenge for CEOs” published in América Economía points out that we are going through a historic moment when the digital society is radically changing the transmission of knowledge and the way how productive systems and our own society work. That means we are experiencing changes in the way we learn, in the way work is being distributed, and in how we interact with each other.
Chief operations officers should consider the digital transformation as a growth opportunity that, according to the article, requires building organizational skills to promptly identify the new challenges from the market and the industry, as well as the scenarios from which new agents and markets emerge in order to articulate rationally new business models and opportunities.
What do we need then? Innovation capacity, an essential tool to achieve a competitive advantage in an ever-changing industry. You can allocate some time during the day to promote the interest in new technologies, to know and try different management apps, or software for planning operations, apps to help you simplify obsolete processes, etc.
Chief of operations, key for the survival of companies
Joseph Pucciarelli, vicepresident of the specialized IT company IDC, told BíoBío Chile that 75% of Chilean companies today are going through a digital transformation. However, it’s a hard road ahead. “The process hasn’t been easy, because the main obstacles have been the lack of vision and the lack of skills to know how to apply the technology”, Pucciarelli said.
In a context of competitiveness and quick adaptation to change, companies are forced to join the digital age to meet their customers’ needs in order to survive. “Companies can’t pretend that these changes won’t affect them. Three years from now it could be too late. The time to act is now, and they need to understand how the technology must be used to change the business”, said Pucciarelli.
In this context, the role of the chief operations officer as liaison between the operational area and the general management, is essential. His adaptability to continuous changes allows him to act swiftly day after day. This skill that can also be used by chief operations officers by incorporating technology in the company. Therefore, through more efficient processes, the company can stand out among its direct competitors and offer better products or services in line with its customers’ new needs.
To sum up, every organization will have to join the digital transformation sooner or later if they don’t want to lag behind others. And the main experimentation lab will surely be installed at the office of the chief operations officer.
What stage are we in?
Absorbed by the management of complex operations, and focused on solving everyday problems, many times the chief operations officers ignore how much progress their company has made including state-of-the-art tech solutions and advanced software tools. Disengaged from the search process for the most suitable technology which can increase their productivity in daily activities, chief operations officers either accept tools which don’t fit their needs, or end up expecting miraculous promises which never arrive.
Considering these negative experiences, the bottom line is that chief operations officers must be involved in the digital transformation process, and therefore they must become the company’s ambassadors facing the different innovation options available, in order to choose the most convenient ones for the company.
As a guide, a study by IDC measured the state of evolution of Chilean companies in terms of digital transformation and rated them in a list of five states of maturity:
1.- The digital resistant: companies still handling information haphazardly.
2.- The digital explorer: companies currently evaluating or defining the corporative strategy in terms of digital transformation.
3.- The digital player: when there is an alignment between the IT goals and business goals to create products and experiences, even though they are not disruptive yet.
4.- The digital transformer: there is a systemic integration between the IT and the business areas, to develop digital products and services steadily.
5.- The digital disruptor: leaders have the required capacity and management to run digital initiatives and to carry out disruptive innovation in their industry, providing more agility and competitive value for their business.
The first step to suggest alternative ways to work more effectively with technology is identifying which stage our company is in terms of digital transformation. Once we have a diagnosis of the critical areas and processes we must focus on, then it’s time to find a perfect solution for each need.
The technological tools for mobile devices or hosted in the cloud, for example, are very affordable, and they are already available in different platforms to be used by chief operations officers in any field. These are state-of-the-art tools, highly malleable, adaptable to different conditions, and which allows a company to migrate from a correct management to a more efficient and effective one focused on clients.
In conclusion, the possibility of turning a company into a more productive organization relies mainly in the ability of chief operations officers to join the digital transformation train. The challenge is to build an organizational culture in accordance to the impending changes.

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