How ERM Can Help CIOs Manage the “White Space”

Among the top-level executives in an enterprise, the CIO is uniquely positioned to manage the “white space” between siloed business functions: processes that cross functional groups, the gaps where processes may fail, and the opportunities to achieve larger business objectives by coordinating efforts across these groups.

(The CFO and CEO also have a cross-functional view, but the CFO’s focus is financial rather than operational, while the CEO’s focus is strategic.)

how CIOs can manage the white spaceThe case for the CIO being uniquely positioned to provide this type of cross-departmental leadership was made recently by Martha Heller on CIO.com. Heller contends that:

“Effective CIOs need to help align their organizations’ functional and business leaders so they can move in the same direction… CIOs who hope to implement the technologies necessary for productivity and profit have to find a way to manage the white space.”

She cites, as an example, the challenge in optimizing the customer experience, which is affected by every functional group and (often) has no clear owner: “How do you overhaul, say, the customer engagement process, when each business unit in a sprawling enterprise has its own long-tenured way of doing things?” As one possible answer, she quotes Michael Mathias, CIO of Blue Shield of California, on the value of business architecture:

“We had been running customer service differently from business to business, so we used business architecture to help the business define the ‘what.’ What does the business want to be? What do they want to do? The business architecture showed us our strengths and gaps, and how to prioritize. Before business architecture, we had a siloed approach with tremendous redundancy. Now, it is much easier for us to agree on how to direct our resources in the right way.”

The first step in getting executives from different functions and locations on board with optimizing the customer experience is to have them try to get a technical or billing question answered using the same mechanisms a customer would. Experiencing customer service from their customers’ perspective can often open some eyes and change some minds.

But a great customer experience starts on the inside. Happy employees, well-equipped to do their jobs, are best able to provide excellent customer service.

That requires solid management, a pleasant and productive work environment, and fast, simple employee provisioning using an approach like enterprise request management (ERM)—which combines a single intuitive portal for requesting any job-related services or resources with back-end process automate to accelerate fulfillment.

An ERM strategy helps CIOs manage the white space from two different perspectives.

Unified Internal Customer Service

As noted above, Heller discusses “managing the white space” in terms of CIOs getting “their organizations’ functional and business leaders (to) move in the same direction.” ERM is the ideal approach for creating that kind of alignment in terms of internal shared services delivery and employee provisioning.

In the ERM model, employees have one central portal for requesting any products, supplies, resources, and services needed to do their jobs. Process owners in various functions (HR, IT, facilities, training, finance, etc.) have one set of graphical task workflow automation mapping tools enabling them to design, test, optimize and deploy their offerings, with minimal technical assistance.

These ERM portal and workflow tools leverage in-place enterprise and functional management applications, so process owners can capitalize on their knowledge of and comfort with existing tools. In this case, CIOs manage the white space by bringing the services and products employees need together in one portal, with one set of tools for all functional shared services groups.

Optimized Cross-Departmental Processes

The second way ERM supports white space management is by coordinating and automating more complex processes that span multiple functional groups, such as employee onboarding and offboarding, and information security.

ERM workflow automation tools enable process owners—or teams in the case of complex cross-departmental workflows—to create both sequential and parallel paths, ensuring all necessary requests, approvals, resource scheduling, and fulfillment activities are completed as quickly as possible and in the proper order.

CIOs are uniquely positioned to manage the white space, as Heller notes. ERM is an employee provisioning and process automation approach that can help make aspects of that coordination less challenging, and more effective, for everyone involved.

Download the white paper Enterprise Request Management: The Process for more information.


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