Through the eyes of the COO: 2024 insights and perspectives

Helen Vowls, Mary Driscoll, Chris Davey, Emmeline Kuhn 26 Mar 2024

We spoke to COOs globally to find out what the next 12 to 18 months has in store. Six key themes were identified.


  • Prioritizing tech to drive down costs: as organizations continue to focus on driving efficiency, with technology as the catalyst to cutting operational costs, we are seeing a different type of operational leader emerging. One that combines strong operational experience with technology, data, analytics and transformation skills – all of which will enable them to deliver success in this new environment.
  • Improving existing assets: extending beyond digitization, the COOs we spoke to aim to deliver commercial value through enhanced efficiency and transparency, and organizational performance. These will need to be implemented with a keen eye on optimizing the workforce and processes using initiatives including off/reshoring strategies and negotiating stronger agreements with outsourcing partners.
  • Boosting operational outputs: for most COOs today, the synergy of technology, data, and securing top talent is central to enhancing and improving operational outputs. Most of the COOs we speak with also play an increasingly vital role in spearheading holistic business transformation – the capacity for making informed decisions and change, both short-term and long-term, hinges on robust data analysis
  • Optimizing talent for organizational agility: in this key period of transformation, we are seeing most organizations focus on embedding and maximizing the potential of newly onboarded talent.
  • Anticipating the impact of AI and machine learning: as the tech landscape evolves, we anticipate a rise in specialized roles such as head of AI to address these emerging skill gaps. Although it’s very early days, and still rare, we have already seen some of our clients start to consider this.
  • Evolution of the COO role: Over the next two to three years, three quarters of COOs we interviewed anticipate taking on a more critical role in devising enterprise business strategy.



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Image of Leathwaite employee Helen Vowls

Helen Vowls

Based in London, Helen leads Leathwaite’s global operations and supply chain practice placing COOs, operations and operating leads across Europe, North America and Asia. She is also a long established partner within he firm’s global technology and digital practice, advising…

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Mary Driscoll

Mary Driscoll

Mary is a Partner in our global operations and supply chain practice and also delivers interim work within the global HR practice. Her expertise lies in appointing exceptional interim managers to deliver improved business outcomes across all industry sectors. Mary’s…

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Image of Leathwaite employee Chris Davey

Chris Davey

Chris is a Senior Associate in the Technology and Operations practice in London. He executes global searches across various industries but with a focus on insurance, asset/investment managers, private equity, banking, payments and FinTech, helping to place exceptional CIO, CTO…

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Image of Leathwaite employee Emmeline Kuhn

Emmeline Kuhn

Emmeline Kuhn is a Partner in Leathwaite’s Global Operations and Technology Practice. The practice partners with global financial services, technology, fintech, telecommunications, energy, healthcare and retail businesses to assist them with benchmarking, executive search and market intelligence. With over 20…

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