The COOs role in rebooting business

Is Tesla a car manufacturer, an energy company or a technology firm? Elon Musk envisioned Tesla Motors as a technology company and independent automaker, aimed at eventually offering electric cars at prices affordable to the average consumer. Tesla Motors shortened its name to Tesla in February 2017 to take the focus away from cars. Today its extraordinarily ambitious founder has a clear purpose; to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy with electric cars, solar panels and integrated renewable energy solutions.

In the year of the Great Reboot, executives are being asked to re-imagine how their organizations, people, processes and standards should work. The dramatic shifts triggered by the Coronavirus have accelerated changes in how the workplace and shop floor will operate. What was once “future” trends has become “now” reality.

In many businesses, the CEO focuses on longer-term strategies and delegates responsibilities to a COO (Chief Operations Officer) to handle short- and medium-term issues. The COO is responsible for creating operations and structures to support the delivery of the organization’s products and services; that includes IT architectures and business processes. Companies are relying more on the COO to define and build the necessary foundations, structures, processes and IT functionality for an organization to be successful.

What is the Great Reboot?

The term “reboot” is a common term understood by anybody who uses a computer regularly. Rebooting the computer resets the way it operates. When you reboot you’re changing how you’re currently operating, starting something again or in a new way.

In the 20th century, a number of Great Reboots changed the way people worked and lived. World War I ended the role of the aristocracy and changed societal order; the Great Depression heralded new ideas and policies about economic growth; World War II brought women into the workforce in large numbers; more recently, the information revolution transformed businesses and the nature of work. The shift from analogue to digital was a critical business drive before but in 2020 the Coronavirus has exponentially accelerated the need for this change and many COOs have already rebooted several parts of their organization to deal with COVID-forced changes.

The COO’s role in rebooting

The COO has overall responsibility for:

  • customer service and demands;
  • operational efficiencies, standards and processes;
  • IT and new technologies to support business goals;
  • governance and compliance;
  • company culture, values, people, and behaviour.

Because of this wide range of responsibilities, the COO could also be called the “Change Driver”. With markets, customers and technology changing so quickly, organizations have to transform themselves at a similar pace. A COO needs to oversee and steer those changes.

COOs play a key role in defining and executing the vision for a modern enterprise business architecture and in this case particularly IT architecture. This is needed to support current business needs and also offer new collaborative, customer-oriented, operational and analytical capabilities which are required to create and drive new business models.

None of these responsibilities is easy, they can only be successful if the human aspect of change like company culture, values, people, and behaviour also are managed effectively.

The methodology for a COO to reboot

There are several methodologies that can guide a COO on a transformation path. A typical reboot takes six steps.

  • Start with a systematic review of the current state
  • Develop a blueprint for a new business model
  • Define the road map for the path the organization needs to take
  • Decide what part of the old operating model will be the starting point
  • Deploy a deep transformation in that area (a front-runner)
  • Followed by a company-wide transformation

This is underpinned by constant and clear communication throughout the process.

Rebooting the organization

Two recent analyst surveys show how quickly the business world is moving.

  • 65% of global GDP will be digitalized by 2022 [IDC Top 10 Worldwide IT Industry 2021 Predictions].
  • Over two-thirds of companies have accelerated their digital business initiatives, and almost one half will be changing their business model [2021 Gartner Board of Directors Survey]

If they didn’t know it already, COOs have learnt that the ability to rapidly adapt and respond to unforeseen changes and disruptions can determine how successful their businesses will be in an increasingly digitalized economy. Much of an enterprise’s future revenue will depend upon the flexibility, scalability, and resiliency of its infrastructure, applications, and data resources.

A reboot is not easy, especially for mid-sized businesses in these times. In the US, 41% reported revenue declines this year, 24% had to close their businesses temporarily, 74% have less than one year of cash reserves [SMB Group – View Site].

COOs should advise and guide on how to take advantage of new technologies and developments, and map out where efficiency gains and cost savings are possible. One of the objectives should be reducing operational costs and ensuring a return on investment in new technology. These are the typical areas where the COO who can add insight into specific business operations and challenges.

Common areas where reboots are occurring include:

  • virtualization and remote work;
  • transforming the customer experience and the way they interact with the business;
  • re-invent supply chains to make them more robust;
  • modernize the way supplier interactions occur;
  • strip out complexity to reduce costs while maintaining customer service levels.

Technology can enable mid-sized businesses to navigate through the crisis and pivot where necessary. COOs realize they must do more to digitize their business processes and get the data they need to better understand, predict and respond to changing customer, employee and operational requirements.

Cloud-based solutions are becoming the preferred route to make these changes faster. The SMB Group’s research showed cloud solutions were viewed as extremely or very valuable by mid-sized companies in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Half reported that they are more likely to select cloud software for new application investments.

While the CIO may handle technology issues, it is the COO’s responsibility to make sure it is adopted throughout the business and delivers on the set objectives.   Finding the right people with the right skills and managing the human aspects of change, like company culture and behaviour is critical to the success of the initiative.


With all the dramatic changes happening in the business world, COOs need to think about making a reboot – i.e., digital transformation – a core operating principle for everyday business operations.

Businesses responding to the COVID-19 pandemic have produced technology changes and collaboration, and made gains in productivity that no one could have imagined. While these are short-term changes, COOs will be expected to match future investments with longer-term strategic objectives.

Ultimately, organizations that have survived, and some have thrived, through the pandemic have exhibited one characteristic – resilience. In a recent article, this was called the “single word that sums up 2020 and does encapsulate, in a deeper sense, the shared experience of billions of people this year … [defined as] the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.” [View Site]   Flexibility, adaptability and resilience are going to be goals that COOs will be aiming for.

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