Job Title Confusion: Strategy vs. Operations

Job Title Confusion: Strategy vs. Operations
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I have seen business roles defined in ways that confuse many individuals because of the close connections to other positions. These may be the same roles that you have questioned during your professional career. Join me in this series of articles where I'll take you through what differentiates the job roles along with a vivid example to demonstrate. Let's get started.

What Is The Difference Between Strategies vs. Operations?

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Think of strategies as roadmaps for the business; it lays out the company's vision for their future and the plans to achieve their goals and objectives. Strategies are long-term, typically 3 - 5 years, established by the leadership team, and are measurable, actionable, clear to the organization's employees, and evolves with the business.

On the other hand, operations are the department's plans relative to how the strategies will come to life daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Operational plans are short-term, less than one year, created by each department's management team and answers the questions of who, what, when, and how much.

IBM’s Strategic Acquisition Of Red Hat

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Okay, now for the example. Remember when IBM publicly announced their plans to acquire Red Hat, a leading provider of enterprise open software solutions, back in 2018? This was a key business growth strategy for the company, led by former CEO Ginny Rometty. IBM recognized that Amazon and Microsoft were leaders in the cloud computing industry and they would have to do something dramatic to be competitive. That strong incentive led to the strategy to acquire Red Hat. By acquiring Red Hat, IBM positioned itself as the leading hybrid multi-cloud provider through its open-source solutions. Even though the acquisition plan was made public in 2018, one thing to remember, the executive team was already discussing and preparing their strategy long before any public relations announcement.

IBM Integrates Red Hat's Operations

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Now let's move on to operations. Keeping with the strategy example above, after an acquisition of Red Hat's size, multiple departments' operational plans, within IBM and Red Hat, have to be evaluated and re-adjusted. This ensures that each department's operating plans fully support the overall business growth strategy that the IBM/Red Hat solution provides. For the sake of simplicity, let's focus on what the operational plans for the sales organization and service & support organization may include. Please keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list of all the operating plans to consider post-acquisition but is meant to provide an easy example.

The sales operations department will want to review their sales methodologies, processes, metrics, education requirements, tools, and content and plan accordingly to implement any changes to support the sales teams whose mission is to drive an increase in business. Similarly, the service and support operations department will review their processes and determine what changes are needed to ensure customer success. Customer success leads to loyal customers, and loyal customers recommend your product or service to others, thus driving business expansion. As you can see from this example, both the sales organization and the service & support organizations are supporting the strategic goal of business growth.

Some individuals may prefer working on the strategic side of the business where they are developing long-term initiatives that take more than one year to implement. Others of you may opt for the operational side of the business, executing on short-term initiatives, less than one year, that directly impact the long-term strategy. And then there will be some of you who like to work both strategically and operationally. Whichever you choose, remember, strategies are meaningful when translated into operational plans, and operational plans are effective when tied to the strategic plans.

Man on laptop enjoys summer while working full time

There you are: sitting on the beach, covered in sunscreen, reading your favorite book, drinking your favorite drink under the cool shade of an umbrella. Life doesn't get any better than this. Suddenly, a door slams, a phone rings, a printer turns on. You jolt back into consciousness. You're at work, sitting in your cubicle, without even a hint of sunshine streaming in from outside.

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