What is a Global Process Owner (GPO)?
The GPO or Global Process Owner is the owner of the process design and process deployment, end-to-end, for the purpose of helping the company meet and exceed performance targets.
In order to do this, a GPO works closely with the business and certain stakeholders to ensure that the deployment is successful, to identify key problems, and to decide on process strategy.
Although the definition of ‘end-to-end’ may vary from company to company, it is generally considered to entail cross-functional scope (ie to be across purchasing and finance) rather than operating exclusively within a function. However, those GPOs who do operate within a function are often supported by a team of GPOs in other functions, and together they have a cross-functional remit.
In finance, we typically see Procure-to-Pay process owners, Order-to-Cash process owners or Record-to-Report Process owners.
In some companies, a GPO is the owner of the process such that no change can be made to the process without his or her consent.
Read more: 3 Keys to GPO Success
What are the responsibilities of a Global Process Owner (GPO)?
1. Process design (including process mapping), process monitoring and process improvement.
It is the GPO’s responsibility to map the process, define the required process, identify key areas for improvement, implement improvement initiatives, and monitor and measure these initiatives.
2. Change management, including stakeholder engagement and training for users.
Because the process improvement will depend upon the successful adoption by users, communication and training is key. Users should receive regular training to refresh their skills with existing processes, and to help them understand any system changes and any new processes.
Change management at a senior level is essential for securing buy-in from senior management. Process improvement brings with it a high degree of change, and it is important that the senior management understand the intention and motivation behind the GPO role.
3. Monitor user compliance.
This is the process of tracking where, and how well, the required process is being followed by the users.
Because most organizations with a GPO are large enterprises, the GPO should be spared functional responsibility of operating the processes, and should therefore not be involved in the day-to-day management of the accounts payable, accounts receivable, purchase to pay, record to report or order to cash functions.
What does success look like for a Global Process Owner?
A GPO is successful and working effectively if the process is truly usable, is being followed and, ideally, is automated as much as possible. The wider effect can then be that the GPO is contributing to generating savings for the company, and supporting its strategic objectives.
Other features of success include:
- The establishment of a governance model/framework
- The establishment of a baseline against which to measure and improve
- Ensuring the process is leaner, and more efficient and cost-effective
- Being recognized within and across the organization as the ‘go-to’ expert and owner of process, so that the GPO is part of all debate about process design - and no process change happens without the GPO’s say-so
- Building best-in-class, standardized processes and functions which help the company create competitive-advantage performance
- Seeing that the business is compliant with the processes
- Ensuring that KPIs are in top quartile of metrics/ Although the group was agreed that processes should be as standardized as possible, there was an appreciation that flexibility is key to success. While the aim is to have a standard process, success comes in knowing where to allow for deviations.
Read more: What does success look like for a GPO?
What is a Global Process Owner’s impact on the business?
The GPO’s impact on the business should be wholly positive. The GPO is charged with designing the process so that it supports the best interests of the business, and delivering changes that result in an attractive ROI. The GPO must see that this impact is clearly understood by the business.
Positive impact is not just on the ‘back office functions’. By simplifying and streamlining processes, the GPO will have a direct impact on cost-reduction across the business by enabling efficiencies and reducing waste.
The GPO standardizes, defines and owns the process, such that there is (or will be) a single version of the truth, ensuring data is visible, accurate, accessible, credible, timely and complete, thus fueling agile decision making.
Process improvements made by the GPO will help users, functions and business units to operate more efficiently and effectively, and fuel collaboration and innovation.
The authority of a GPO
In order to be effective, a GPO needs to convey real authority, and be a strong individual in a position that the rest of the organization takes seriously. As is the case with any group or individual driving a transformation program, the GPO needs to have explicit support from the senior executive team, in order to avoid any improvement-initiative being undermined.
Furthermore, in order for improvements to continue, a GPO may well need to bring concerns to an executive level should process adoption be weak, to ensure that corrective action is taken.
Taking a wider perspective, it is advisable to have a network of ‘ambassadors of change’ across the organization who are supportive of the GPO’s improvements, and who can assist with deployment at a business level.
It is likely that the GPO will sit on a Governance Board and/or Change Board that collaboratively approves changes when a persuasive case is presented.
Regarding budget - and the GPO’s access to it - which will vary from company to company, it is important for a GPO to have necessary funds. Either the GPO will have their own budget, or there will be a controlled and predictable process in place (ideally centralized) which supports the application of funding.
As the GPO is aware of the strategic direction of the organization, he or she will be able to prioritize the allocation of funds according to which program support the business’ best interests.
Resistance to or questioning of the authority of a GPO can sometimes be an issue when a GPO works with IT. There are a number of dynamics that can apply when looking at how IT and a GPO might collaborate (a supplier-customer dynamic or a partnership dynamic), but whichever dynamic is more appropriate, it’s important that IT resources are available to GPOs so they can take actions for specific and meaningful change.
The GPO’s authority – in the best sense of the word - will certainly develop over time with the gathering of evidence that positive changes are occurring. Working with the shared services organization, global business services, outsourcing organization, functions and users in general, the GPO may find him or herself in a customer/supplier, formal or informal, collaborative, peer-to-peer or inter-dependent relationship, always focusing on transformation in the context of the business’s strategic objectives.
Characteristics and Skills of a GPO
It is, without doubt, in the interest of the business, and therefore the GPO, that the users in the business understand and follow the process. This process often comes under the umbrella of ‘transformation’.
And in today’s business world, if you want to be successful in managing major transformation and the changes that come with it, you cannot afford to be confrontational. Therefore, the very character of a GPO is worth examining.
Some important skills and personality traits include:
Process knowledge, process mapping experience and subject matter expertise
The GPO might not be the highest authority on the subject matter, but it is important for the GPO to have the expertise to be credible, and to have appropriate process knowledge to make educated decisions on
possible improvements, and how they might affect the business.
Connections with key influencers
It is in the GPO’s interest to know who the key stakeholders and influencers are, build alliances with them, and ‘speak their language’. This means understanding their business needs, and positioning any process change as something that will assist those needs.
A GPO will potentially be asking many people in the organization to change their habits should a process change come into play. Being sensitive to how people respond to change, how people will best comply with the changes, and how to communicate with them so the change sticks, is an invaluable skill.
This key skill enables a smooth change management program. GPOs will find out how important it is to speak the language of their stakeholders, in order to secure their buy-in. Appreciating the many nuances that constitute an effective communications plan is key for a GPO.
Having business acumen, and appreciating how a single change in a process can have a wide impact, and, conversely, how one change in the business can effect a particular process, is essential.
Project management skills
The GPO will likely find that there are many workstreams of projects to be managed in order to drive improvement forward, so project management experience is useful. Being trained in Lean or Six Sigma is often preferable with some companies.
People management skills
A GPO will continually need to call upon ‘people skills’ when managing stakeholders, peers, his or her boss, reports, partners like IT, and the outsourcers. Much of a GPO’s success comes down to nurturing and navigating these relationships, so a GPO benefits from possessing characteristics like integrity, likeability, reliability and tenacity. It is also extremely helpful if he or she is a natural strategic thinker with a process background.
These skills are not considered essential, but will certainly give a GPO more awareness of possible technology solutions which may be needed to address a particular process concern.
Ultimately, a big part of the GPO’s role is securing buy-in, which relies on the GPO’s being able to ‘sell’ a vision and a concept, in the language that resonates with the stakeholder. So, having an awareness of a sales process is extremely helpful.
What should you look for when recruiting a Global Process Owner GPO
The ideal candidate should be used to communicating with senior executives; understand what drives human behaviou; be highly process aware; will own a budget and take responsibility for technology and solution investments; be able to apply tact, but also call on the thickness of skin if change gets uncomfortable (though, if they are good, this discomfort should be avoided).
Process owners need to be able to fully understand the processes they are owning, have authority in the business (it's not a junior position) and have skills to drive change.
For more - read what to look for when recruiting a GPO
The GPO role is certainly being more widely adopted, largely by enterprise organizations that have had a keen focus on shared services and now realize the power of this role to take them to their next step in continuous improvement.
Depending on several factors - the size of the company, their shared services background and whether the company works with a BPO partner, the maturity of the role, and the maturity of the given process in general - each company will have its own rules for setting up, managing and developing the GPO role. So long as there is a clear view on what role-success looks like for the business, and that each moving part (IT, users, stakeholders, senior management) is conceptually on board to realize that success, then the GPO will see that real business benefit can happen.
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