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How to create an operations strategy in 8 steps

PostsStrategy & planning
Guest Post

Guest Post

April 05, 2024

An effective operations strategy is crucial for propelling an organization toward success. After all, it’s been found that organizations that commit to strategic management perform better than those that don’t. 

But, an operations strategy isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. You really do have to work to find your best fit. Simply taking a process you’ve seen at another company and slapping it on your own is a great way to alienate your team and waste buckets of money on ill-fitting outreach campaigns. 

So what’s a business to do? Take time to learn the ins and outs of operations strategy, get to know why businesses should prioritize thinking about theirs, and follow our guide to creating and maintaining one of your own. Let’s dive in!

What is an operations strategy?

An operations strategy defines how an organization’s resources are allocated to achieve its business objectives. In other words, it’s essentially a blueprint that tells an organization how to go about doing business. It’s crucial for: 

  • Optimizing business processes
  • Fostering innovation
  • Driving sustainable growth

What works for one organization may not work for another, and some businesses may even need to tailor their approach within each department. It only makes sense — processes that work perfectly in customer support may not serve a tech team the same way.  Catering to each team’s preferred way of working will give them room to thrive.

Furthermore, aligning this internal strategy with a market-focused approach is crucial. A coherent go-to-market strategy (GTM strategy) ensures operational efforts meet market demands, strengthening the company’s market position. This integration of internal processes with external market strategies is vital for sustainable growth and competitive advantage.

In essence, a successful operations strategy harmonizes a company’s internal environment with its external goals. And thus effective operations strategy managers should be the all-time experts in balancing internal and external factors.

Comparing strategy and operations

Strategy is high-level, big-picture thinking that involves setting long-term goals that align with the organization’s overall mission and vision.

Strategy looks at market positioning, competitive advantage, target audience, and overall business model. For example, deciding to enter a new market segment, developing a new product line, or implementing a new business model are all strategic decisions that shape the future direction of the company.

Operations is more granular and specific, dealing with the day-to-day implementation of the strategic plan.

Operations focus on optimizing resources, improving processes, and delivering products or services efficiently and effectively. This involves tasks like production scheduling, inventory management, customer service delivery, and continuous monitoring and improvement.

So, for example, once a strategic decision to enter a new market segment is made, operations come into play — by planning and executing marketing campaigns, managing production and distribution channels, and providing customer support tailored to the needs of that market segment.

While strategy sets the direction and long-term goals, operations focus on the daily activities that drive the company toward those goals. Both are essential for business success and effectively coordinating the two ensures an organization’s strategic objectives turn into tangible results. 

Core objectives of operations strategy

At a high level, a successful operations strategy is all about meeting internal needs to achieve business objectives. But more specifically, operations strategies should help optimize workflows, allocate resources, and ensure quality, among other things. Let’s explore each. 

Create and optimize processes

Operations strategy involves designing and refining processes to maximize efficiency, minimize waste, and enhance productivity across the organization. Effective operations strategies: 

  • Streamline workflows
  • Identify and eliminate bottlenecks
  • Foster continuous analysis and improvement

Allocate resources according to cost and risk

Whether we’re talking about human capital, technology, or financial investment — operations managers should heavily guide decisions on resource allocation to support project goals and overall business objectives.

Effective operations strategy also looks at cost optimization and risk management. It’s important to cut costs without sacrificing quality, as well as assess and mitigate risks associated with resource allocation to ensure smooth project execution and business operations.

Control quality

Delivering high-quality products and services is non-negotiable in business. Operations strategy accounts for quality management processes to ensure products meet or exceed customer expectations.

In terms of quality, an operations strategy should: 

  • Set quality standards: Establish and maintain high-quality standards across all aspects of operations, from product development to customer service.
  • Establish a quality assurance (QA) workflow: Implement processes to monitor and check for adherence to quality standards throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Ensure customer satisfaction: Make sure all products and services meet or exceed customer expectations, likely through partnership with the customer support department. This will drive customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.

Manage the supply chain

Where applicable, an operations strategy should also account for the following when it comes to the supply chain: 

  • Supplier relationships: Create and nurture strong relationships with suppliers to ensure timely delivery of materials and components. This also positions them as a partner or collaborator rather than just a vendor. 
  • Logistics optimization: Enhance logistics and distribution channels to minimize lead times, reduce costs, and improve overall supply chain efficiency.
  • Inventory management: Implement effective inventory management practices to balance supply and demand, minimize stockouts, and reduce carrying costs.

Improve the customer experience

By aligning operations with customer needs and preferences, organizations can deliver personalized experiences, foster customer loyalty, and drive sustainable growth.

Tapping into resources like customer support tickets and product data analytics to gain insights, make informed decisions, and optimize operations will result in better customer experiences and business outcomes.

How to create an operations strategy (8 steps)

Crafting a robust operations strategy is the cornerstone of organizational success. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help business leaders and/or high-achieving operations managers navigate the process effectively:

1. Define your objectives

Like many processes, this one starts with clearly defining your business goals.

What do you aim to achieve through your operations strategy? Whether it’s improving efficiency, enhancing quality, reducing costs, or driving growth, set a few objectives now to serve as your North Star metrics throughout the strategy development process.

Stumped? Here are some ideas: 

  • Streamline workflows to reduce process inefficiencies and optimize productivity.
  • Enhance product quality standards to exceed customer expectations and drive satisfaction.
  • Strengthen supplier relationships to ensure timely delivery of materials and components.
  • Optimize logistics and distribution channels to minimize lead times and reduce costs.
  • Implement effective inventory management practices to balance supply and demand and minimize stockouts.

Keep reading, we’ll show you how to refine these goal statements just a few steps down!

2. Get to know your audience

Before you go any further, it’s also a good idea to gain a deep understanding of your target audience and their needs, preferences, and pain points.

This is something that operations managers don’t always consider, but think about it — a customer-centric approach will ensure your operations strategy is aligned with market demands and focused on delivering value to your customers.

3. Develop a deep understanding of your team

It’s time to get a lay of the land before you start deciding how to navigate it. That means zooming in on one key internal factor: your team.

Think about the diverse work styles within your team. This will guide you in creating an operational strategy that allows every department and individual to wield their unique strengths to work toward the same goals. 

Here, you might even do a comprehensive SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) or SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) analysis to assess your organization’s internal and external factors. These analyses will provide valuable insights into areas where your operations strategy can make the most significant impact.

4. Evaluate current processes

Take stock of your current operational processes and workflows. Identify areas of inefficiency, bottlenecks, and waste that are hindering productivity and performance. This evaluation will serve as the foundation for identifying opportunities for improvement.

5. Build actionable strategies and workflows

Based on your objectives, SWOT analysis, customer insights, and process evaluation, develop actionable strategies to address identified challenges and capitalize on opportunities. These strategies should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

6. Align operations with go-to-market

It’s vital to synchronize operational strategies with your GTM (go-to-market) plan to align every team and project toward the same growth goals, no matter from which side they’re approaching the product/service or customer market. 

Be sure to apply quality data to your GTM strategy so that it’s built on a strong foundation of up-to-date market information, can make accurate buying predictions, and even helps your team act on these signals at the right time with the right message. 

7. Allocate resources

Determine the resources required to implement your operations strategy effectively. This includes manpower, technology, finances, and anything else necessary to execute your strategies. Ensure that resources are allocated wisely to support your strategic objectives.

8. Implement and monitor

Roll out your operations strategy in phases, starting with pilot projects or small-scale implementations.

Monitor progress closely, track performance against KPIs (more on those shortly!), and make adjustments along the way. Continuous monitoring and evaluation are essential for ensuring your strategy remains aligned with evolving business needs.

Best practices for effective operations strategy

How can you build onto these steps to make your operations strategy performance go above and beyond? Implement these best practices once your groundwork is laid.

Stay agile

An operations strategy doesn’t have to be stiff. In fact, it shouldn’t be.

With a strategy that’s flexible and agile, you’ll be prepared to enact changes quickly instead of wasting time and energy on something that isn’t right. Agile operations strategies allow businesses to respond swiftly to market changes, customer feedback, and emerging opportunities, enabling them to stay ahead of the curve.

Flexibility is part culture — we’ll touch on that next — and part technology. Choose innovative tools, such as modern project management software, with features that allow for automation, analytics reporting, and other functions that give you both the time and data you need to move with agility and increase operational efficiency.

Promote a culture of continuous improvement

Foster a culture of continuous improvement within your organization, where feedback is encouraged, and lessons learned are integrated into future iterations of the operations strategy. This is key to innovation and agility to adapt to changing market dynamics and stay ahead of the competition. Encourage cross-departmental collaboration with tools and systems that allow for it.

KPIs to consider

SMART goals and North Star metrics share something important — they need defined key performance indicators (KPIs) to provide an observable, repeatable way to measure change. 

The KPIs you choose will depend on lots of things, such as your industry and business model, your strategy, your overarching business goals, etc. 

That said, here are a few ideas to help you get to thinking about your own: 

  • IT KPIs: total support tickets vs. open tickets, product load time, mean time to detect or resolve bugs, etc. 
  • Financial KPIs: operating cash flow, net profit margin, operating profit margin
  • Sales and marketing KPIs: customer acquisition cost, lead conversion rate, deals closed YTD, etc. 

Operations strategy software

What are you waiting for? Now you have the knowledge needed to unlock the full potential of your operations. 

Once you’re able to align internal goals with external processes and forces such as market demand, you should have the foundation you need to build a strategy that smooths workflows and resourcing allocation, boosts quality, improves customer experience, and ideally delivers on ultimate business goals!

Backlog, Nulab’s project management tool, offers everything you need to keep operations on track, teams in sync, and goals in sight. From analyzing and visualizing data to keeping track of tasks, bugs, code, and clients in one central hub — project management software is a game-changer in the world of operations strategy. Try it for free today! 

Author bio

John Marquez is a seasoned digital marketing specialist with eight years of experience working in the trenches with high-growth SaaS startups and leading enterprise companies like Zoominfo. When he’s not busy experimenting with new strategies in SEO, he’s at home sipping coffee with his seven dogs.



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