Go Back

COO of the State

In Focus
NAME:John Suter
COMPANY:Oklahoma Office of Management & Enterprise Services
POSITION:Executive Director
LOCATION:Oklahoma City, US
John Suter has made cutting red tape a mission as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services – without cutting the quality of services.

John Suter never once considered joining government during his illustrious career as an executive in the oil and gas industry – much less after retiring, when he dedicated his time to family, faith and improving his golf game. But Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt came calling with an intriguing offer to oversee operations for the state government.

“I never thought I would work in government. I consider myself fairly apolitical,” Suter tells The CEO Magazine. However, the Governor had different ideas.

“He saw my resume included a lifetime of operational process management, and he really wanted somebody to manage the business of the state.”

“All the agencies want to grow, but let’s grow in what we accomplish.”

Suter serves as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), which acts as a collaborative partner for other state agencies.

With the mission statement “serving those who serve Oklahomans” as its north star, OMES oversees the state’s accounting and reporting, procurement and capital assets management. It also manages everything from IT to employee health plans. Suter, in addition to being Executive Director of OMES, also holds the title of state COO.

“I kind of sit in a unique position, where the Chief of Staff handles the policy and related affairs and the Secretary of State handles most of the legislative agenda,” Suter says. “I oversee more than 120 agencies and approximately 30,000 people in the state government, and try to drive the Governor’s will throughout the agencies, building unity around what he’s trying to do.”

Small Government State

For Suter, Governor Stitt’s positioning of Oklahoma as a business-friendly state means cutting unnecessary red tape, making government easy to deal with and avoiding duplication across agencies. Reducing bureaucracy, he adds, attracts investment, too.

“As long as businesses know that they are not going to experience unnecessary delays or overly burdensome state processes, they can really project costs for their projects at a more aggressive rate, which is a big benefit to us,” Suter says.

“The State of Oklahoma sets the new standard when it comes to being a good steward of taxpayer funds. Instilling integrity in how governments control their financial operations starts with transparency. Process mining and process intelligence is the first step in that journey.” – Colin Wardlaw, Senior Vice President of Public Sector, Celonis


Another of the Governor’s goals is keeping the government small. Suter says a smaller government cuts wasteful spending, promotes efficiency and avoids duplication of tasks – such as accounting, payroll and IT services – while still providing the essential services that state residents depend on.

“All the agencies want to grow, but let’s grow in what we accomplish,” says Suter. “Let’s use technology to increase things there. So more specifically, we focus on operational efficiency and transformation.

“We make sure there’s a return on investment for everything that we’re doing. If it doesn’t have a return on investment, it’s just wasting taxpayer money.”

People, Leadership and Structure

Suter assumed the reins at OMES in October 2022.

“I found an agency with some good parts to it, but also a lot of frustration with not being competitive with the outside private markets,” he says.

He outlined three priorities for his administration of OMES: people, leadership and structure.

“The very first thing we did was try to find who are the passionate, driven leaders that could take over these mid-level roles so we could get some drive and determination behind some of our initiatives. And then second, we wanted to empower them,” Suter says.

“We wanted to treat this more like a business where you make sure someone actually tells you ‘No’, before you give up on an idea.”

Just Common Sense

A petroleum engineer by training – who received tutelage from luminaries such as Aubrey McClendon and Harold Hamm – Suter has quickly learned the idiosyncrasies of government and has developed relationships with lawmakers as he promotes transparency with OMES.

“To get something done with lawmakers, you really have to be a partner of theirs, letting them know what you’re doing, what’s causing grief within the agencies that come to them,” he says.

He also focused on the service OMES provided to other agencies. He has assigned a customer service manager to every agency, making OMES a more customer service oriented, metric-driven agency than it has been in the past, he says.

“If it doesn’t have a return on investment, it’s just wasting taxpayer money.”

The focus on efficiency extends to OMES’ relationships with suppliers, and even debuted an expo for suppliers.

“This not only promotes efficiency but allows us to see what business opportunities we have,” Suter says.

OMES has also established a consolidated IT group for the state, too, which works with partners such as Celonis, the industry leader in process mining technology.

“It’s all about the empowerment of leadership to drive new technology to do things, using existing resources and driving change within government,” he says.

“It’s taking business practices and applying them using common sense.”

Back to top