The Ultimate Guide to Operations Management

"What's the most efficient, cost-effective way to deliver our goods and services?" If you’re searching for an answer to this question, you already know how critical operations management is for business success.

Operations management is critical when working with people, processes, technology, materials, and machines. To thrive in the marketplace, this entire value chain needs to be managed efficiently — which is where operations management comes in. 

What is operations management?

Operations management is a unique function that connects multi-disciplinary departments, including sales, marketing, finance, business development, and customer services.

From overall strategy to daily activities, operations managers handle diverse responsibilities in both the services and manufacturing domains. Operations management encompasses daily activities that help in planning, executing, and managing the production of goods or services.  

Operations managers solve the puzzle of how work gets done: uncovering the biggest bottlenecks, fine-tuning processes to save time, and fixing their team's most persistent frustrations. They balance costs with revenue to achieve higher operating profits — and who doesn't like bigger profit margins?

What does an operations manager do?

Now that you know what operations management is all about, you're probably curious about the specifics of an operations manager's role and responsibilities. What does their daily routine look like?

An operations manager oversees the delivery of goods and services. They evaluate current and proposed systems and procedures, recommend changes when necessary, and supervise the implementation of new processes. Operations managers lead and direct others' work and typically report to a senior manager or head of the department.

A typical day in an operations manager's life can involve meeting with department managers, reviewing staff performance reports and presenting findings to executives, researching and training team members on new tools to improve efficiency, and managing quality assurance programs.

Ultimately, the operations manager ensures that the organization is running smoothly while fulfilling customer and client expectations.

What is an average operations manager salary?

The median annual salary for an operations manager in the U.S. is currently $70,183. Do note that the salary amount changes based on location, educational background, years of experience, and various other factors. 

However, the benefits for operations managers extend beyond the high pay. It's a field with relatively high job security and demand. All kinds of industries need talented operations managers, which means an operations professional can have a varied career working in retail, transportation, technology, healthcare, or any field they find interesting. 

How to become an operations manager

There is no one set path to a career in operations management. Some operations managers pursue a degree in operations management, while others work their way up through the ranks by gaining experience in different operational roles within their company. 

With that said, some management qualifications and experience are typically required. Most operations managers have a Bachelor's degree in a business-related field, and many either have or are working towards a Master's degree in business administration. If you're ready to hit the books, you can find online operations management degree or certification courses or complete an online MBA program

However, the most important qualification of a good operations manager is a passion for both people and processes. Since you'll be working with teammates daily to figure out ways to make their jobs function seamlessly, diplomatic and interpersonal communications skills can come in handy.

You'll also need excellent creative problem-solving skills, familiarity with business management and process software, and strong prioritization and organizational skills. 

What are the functions and roles of operations management?

Not all operations managers are alike. Operations management's functions and roles change significantly in line with the nature and size of the business.

The role of operations management may include a few or all of the below tasks:

  • Project management
  • Planning for information systems
  • Supporting in product design, product planning, service planning, and service execution strategies
  • Handling supply chain, optimizing logistics
  • Optimizing customer deliveries for time and effort
  • Maintaining quality control activities
  • Streamlining procurement, logistics, buying, and purchasing of raw materials

Even though the operating principles of driving organizational productivity, slashing costs, and enhancing operational efficiencies remain the same, some crucial elements differ in their execution. For instance, an operations manager in an airplane manufacturing company will have a completely different role than the manager in an IT software company.

Operations management strategies you need to know

Operations managers can be quite busy. If you’re spinning your wheels on everyday matters in operational management, your team is also spending an increasing amount of time on pressing issues in strategic management.

You may spend your day streamlining costs, boosting product quality, beating competitors, or innovating approaches for newer markets or territories. A few key operations management strategies can help you do this exceedingly well.

Data analysis

There can be no decision-making without data. It is the key that unlocks the door to higher organizational productivity and helps identify growth opportunities for individuals, teams, and the entire company. Data-driven organizations are more likely to outperform their competitors by a 5% higher productivity and 6% higher profitability levels.

Cross-functional collaboration

The operations manager facilitates entire company collaboration by working seamlessly with interdisciplinary teams, including sales, business development, marketing, finance, accounts, product development, etc.

Goal setting

To get ahead, your team needs to review the historical data, keeping in mind the rapidly evolving business and competitive landscape. With this crucial element in place, optimizing any business function becomes so much easier.

People management

What's the one thing every company needs to execute its vision? People. No organization can achieve its mission and vision without a great workforce, even with all the latest technology, software, and machinery. Having a unique mix of talent is critical to making it all work. Performing operations management means handling the most important resource in your organization — your people.

Inventory review 

When discussing operations management strategies, managing inventory has to be part of the list. Pareto's principle is often used to classify inventory into three key categories. Assigning resources to the most pressing issues will help the team solve problems that could significantly impact the business.

Common challenges in operations management 

Whether your teams are located across the globe or the room, each one faces challenges in operations management. These can include:

Ethical conduct

Ethics are a cornerstone in business today. Cutting corners to garner a larger chunk of the market may be tempting, but it has the potential to make the entire organization come crashing down. Ethically doing business is vital.

Globalization

No business can operate in isolation. Companies need to function both globally and locally — but this can cause dynamic business changes with many countries having the power to influence trade.

Sustainability

To achieve better outcomes, you need to place sustainability at the core of your team and organization as a whole. Maximize resources and streamline operations to ensure that your company's products and services withstand the trial of time.

Smooth communication

Today, with so many distractions at the workplace, your team may lose sight of how to communicate properly. As the operations manager, you may need to coach a peer or encourage them to do a particular task. Keeping your communication clear, fair, and consistent can go a long way in ensuring that any issues are ironed out.

Operations management best practices 

No matter what you think, you're always leading by example. Inspire your operations team by showing them how things are done, rather than just talking about it. This will ensure it is embedded in their minds as operations management best practices.

Trend is your friend

Use the latest technology, machine learning, and advancements to boost innovation, enhance productivity, and work as one.

Use simple technology that works

Companies of all kinds can utilize technology to resolve time-consuming and mundane tasks that typically hinder operations teams from serving an excellent customer experience.

Collect data electronically

Data is vital in making robust business decisions. Help your team obtain, process, and record all relevant data in a unified, digital space. Since it's secure and confidential, you can easily refer to it to make your analyses and decisions.

Set smart marketing goals

Keep your marketing plan SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Make sure it integrates the latest trends and has an in-built timeline to measure and deliver successful outcomes.

Stay customer-focused

Start with the end in mind. Understand what 'value' means for your end-customer and design all your processes and workflows to ensure this 'value' is delivered in a timely fashion.

Listen to your team

The ability to listen can make or break a manager. Spend at least an hour each working day with your team, field staff, internal sales teams, or key vendors to see what they see. You'll likely gain crucial insights that can be eye-opening for your role.

Review internal performance

Taking a step back always helps. Examine your team's internal workflows and processing timelines, and closely review any concerns conveyed by cross-functional teams. Frequent reviews can help you discover areas of improvement to boost individual, team, and organizational productivity.

What to look for in operations management tools

Without key operations management tools and software, it is impossible to manage operations in any business efficiently. But how do you find the best ones for the job? Here are a few features that you should be looking for in operations management software:

Adaptability

Is it scalable? This is probably one of the first questions you should be asking when reviewing the operations management tools on the market. Businesses grow over time, and various complexities can emerge. A robust operations management tool or software will be nimble enough to evolve with the company.

Automation

If a task doesn't require a deep level of emotional intelligence, automate it. The best operations management tools will help team members struggling with mundane activities, allowing them to actively work on tasks that need them to ponder and think.

Personalization

No tool will work if it's not aligned with your company’s goals. If the company's vision is to deliver a superior customer experience, their operations management tool needs to prioritize customer-facing or customer-serving activities.

Inter-disciplinary integrations 

Slashing costs, eliminating errors, and boosting productivity are ideas that need to be executed uniformly across the company. Whatever operations tool you choose should be compatible and easily integrate with the tools you're already using.

Why Wrike should be your operations management software

The good news is, you don't need "business operations manager" in your job title to improve the way you work. With Wrike, you can create a central hub for operations management. Communicate with your team, store files, and create progress reports — all in one place.

Prevent potential delays, identify areas for growth, and facilitate real-time communication within your teams by implementing an intuitive work management platform. Automate monotonous processes and save time with pre-designed templates that help your team to move towards better organizational outcomes. 

Wrike makes tracking resources and pinpointing process breakdowns easy, so you can start improving your operations management right away.

Start a free trial to see for yourself — all you need is an email address.

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