This topic focuses on the role of business operations in Strategy Planning and Implementation. I have spent a considerable part of my career on working in and evolving the role of business operations – while many people do understand that operations plays a major role in the implementation of strategy, very few actually realize that business operations can drive strategy.
Business Operations (see definition in Wiki) is often perceived as tactical with little or nothing to do with strategy (have heard the role referred to as back-end, boring, clerical – you get the drift). On the contrary, nothing could be farther from reality – given value, authority and attention, operations can make a significant impact on building your strategic plan and ensuring that it does not remain only at a planning stage on beautifully presented slides.
Here are five ways that Business Operations can drive Strategy – tried and tested many times through my long operations career:
Driver #1: Leading Indicators
Dashboards, Metrics, and Reports are all in a day’s work for an operations team. While the main purpose of operational dashboards are to track, analyze and improve lagging indicators like earned revenue, margins, costs, attrition, quality etc, they could be a rich source of leading indicators and levers for strategic decisions. Sales pipeline, say prospective customer requests for Information/proposals – RFIs/RFPs – can help predict market demand. Sales conversion cycles can be used to predict future revenues and the best times to hire or invest in new strategies. Customer Satisfaction scores can be used to determine target market segments. Margins broken into per product/offering or per customer can be used to arrive at the most likely to be successful offer/product strategy. The operations team can link metrics to strategic planning as they are closest to defining measures and setting the targets.
Driver #2: Predictive, Proactive Data
The business operations team is your best source of data and analysis of historical and current trends to predict the future. What products and services can be released, whether they will be successful, whether customer base will expand or shrink based on a strategic decision, or whether investments will pan out as desired – all these critical elements of the strategic plan can be vetted by good quality data organized with a high level of granularity. A year-long data strategy is a must for the successful creation of any plan that depends on trends. The operations team is usually the best fit to be the repository of such data given their engagement in and their understanding of the complete business cycle.
Driver # 3: Test Launches
The Operations team can help vet Strategy Plans before it is put into full-scale action. Think of the operations team as a well-oiled engine with hands-on people and defined processes to handle painlessly all situations that could arise. Use this team to test launch in a small way your “dream” because it is in the operation cycles that innovative ideas can get a reality check on whether the idea/strategy can actually transform profits and further sustain the business.
Driver #4: Mapping Operational Vision
A Good Strategy Plan will always entail some level of organizational transformation, a shift from business as usual to unchartered territories. The Operations team can assist in creating a map with directions to these territories – clear communication is critical to the success of strategy. Breaking the strategic plan into tasks with timelines, identifying the stakeholders best suited for each task, aligning existing processes and designing new process to ensure sustainability, assigning accountability within the organization – all help in providing a clear line of sight for achieving the strategy while building confidence in the strategy within the organization itself.
Driver # 5: Implementation
Here is where strategy boils down to business results. Using all or some of the factors above, one can come up with a great strategy plan, but that does not mean the plan would be successful. Citing Murphy’s Law, anything that could go wrong usually does. The business operations team drives the successful outcome by tracking all aspects of the strategy plan while ensuring that there is no impact on business as usual activities. Skilled operational leaders can translate the strategic dreams into tangible business results.
No one knows the inter-dependencies between people, process and opportunities better than the business operations team in an organization. So why not leverage this team to create fool-proof strategies?
How have you applied innovation into your business operations ? Do you tap this team in your strategic planning process ? Would love to hear from you.