NOTE: please see an updated article “What do operations people do” outlining differences between business, technology, people, sales, and marketing operations.
I feel like I correct perceptions about what operations professionals are and are not at least 2-3 times per week. Most folks, especially from organizations in technology-heavy industries, automatically assume “operations” is purely systems management. While an operations person may really just be a senior network administrator in some organizations, the true responsibilities of a (business) operations manager/leader are much broader. Unless one specifies they are referring to technology operations, people should always assume they are talking about business operations.
In many of the companies I have served and become familiar with, the responsibilities of the operations team are extremely broad. The head of operations (be it COO, VP, or Director of Operations) is usually responsible for coordinating and managing the execution of the vision and the road map developed with the CEO and the board. What does that entail? Although it slightly differs from organization to organization, most heads of operations will oversee everything from talent management (HR) to finance (unless there is a CFO), forecasting, infrastructure, IT systems (where we hire technology operations people), customer service, product development, and even sales. As operations professionals, we pride ourselves on our ability to conduct this “orchestra” and keep everyone happy, working efficiently, and supplied with all the tools and resources they need to do the jobs. Our unspoken responsibility is also to protect the organization, locate and remove rogue employees and suppliers, and reduce risks as much as possible.
For example, if I was in technology operations, my success would be in the hands of the software development and/or IT team. In business operations, my success is in the hands of EVERYONE in the company. Technology operations folks are very important part of my team, but they are only a small part of it. My team is the entire company. That is why 1. I am so protective about the best and brightest in the organization 2. I will rip out every “bad apple” before they can spread their “noxious rot” (and make sure we don’t screw up hiring someone like that again).
Hope this help in understanding the differences between the two professions.
P.S. There are also trading operations, manufacturing, and couple of other industry-specific operations, but somehow nobody ever confuses those.
Photo credit: Leo Reynolds