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May 16, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Successful Business Operations

All companies and organizations, regardless of industry, size, or maturity, have a set of foundational activities required to run the business—often called “business operations.” Running your business operations successfully requires juggling many moving parts across multiple organizations with limited time and resources.

You need diligent maintenance, well-informed strategic planning, and disciplined execution to succeed.

This means setting your strategy and establishing targets at regular intervals, developing and maintaining an operations design that enables your organization, ensuring you have the right team in place to prioritize and support strategic initiatives, executing these initiatives, and then understanding if they are driving your strategy and overall success. These activities, when executed well, allow your teams to focus on more important things. Or as we are fond of saying: “Strong business operations makes the small things easy so the big things become possible.”

This is the first in a 5-part blog series defining The Spur Group’s unique perspective on the often overlooked, but incredibly valuable world of business operations. 

Part 1: This blog will focus on an overview of each part of business operations
Part 2: Strategic planning
Part 3: Operations design
Part 4: Initiative execution
Part 5: Business intelligence

At the Spur Group, we believe business operations must be viewed as and approached within a framework. Only when all elements are addressed can an organization fully reach their potential. Our framework demonstrates how the individual elements of strategic planning, operations design, initiative execution, and business intelligence relate to, influence, and depend on each other.

business operations model

For now, I will provide an overview of the key elements of this framework to understand their importance, the specific benefits they drive, and how they all fit together.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning starts with identifying an organizational vision, mission, and set of objectives. Then you can define your approach and tactics to drive success. This comprehensive approach is your organization’s strategy. It is important to note that your organization’s strategy does not exist within a vacuum and should align to and support existing corporate strategy.

Make sure your strategy has an initiative selection and prioritization process that ensures you are using your resources in the most impactful way. Finally, you will need to commit to a set of metrics that tell you if your strategy is successful. These metrics should also highlight the overall health of your organization.

The number one issue we see within an organization’s business operations is that initiatives and programs are not aligned to and don’t support the organization’s strategy.

This is often because setting the strategic plan can be overwhelming or simply ignored by companies focused on meeting crucial deadlines. However, overlooking your strategic plan can become costly and cause serious problems downstream. It is, after all, the foundation that outlines where the organization is going, how you are getting there, and what success looks like.

At The Spur Group, our first step when tackling any business operations transformation is to understand the strategic direction of the company, the supporting initiatives and priorities, and how these elements are measured and benchmarked. Only with this baseline understanding can any element of business operations be successful.

Operations Design

Operations design establishes the systems, processes, rhythms, and templates an organization uses to run their business on a day-to-day basis. It ensures your team has the right set of tools for executing their work, and that the processes, rhythms, and templates produce useful information for leadership without overburdening your team.

This is how you create the environment within which your team works – so getting it right is important.

A well-designed business operations environment can streamline your team’s workload. This means they are focused on more important things – like driving your strategy. A poorly designed environment can have huge negative impacts on your business and on team morale. According to a recent article on Foxbusiness.com, 42 percent of employees surveyed say they have searched for a new job due to poor operations management, and 15 percent of those workers quit due to their frustrations.

Our experience has shown that most organizations deprioritize this element in-order-to more quickly execute. This is always a mistake – cutting corners will always catch up with you. A thoughtful design will inevitably lead to better execution, and poor design to significant inefficiencies.

Initiative Execution

Initiative execution focuses on the initiatives that will drive your strategy. It is imperative that you have the right teams in place to drive each initiative, the right tools in place for the teams to execute each initiative, and that you and your teams understands how each initiative drives the overall strategy in conjunction with each other. Initiative execution also requires project management to ensure initiatives stay on track, are well organized, and deliver the best results.

Initiative execution is vital because it is where the rubber meets the road. You are bringing your strategy to life.

Without the right team – either size or expertise – initiatives can fail to meet their objectives. Without the right tools in place, your teams can get lost in disorganization or bogged down by simple tasks.

Execution can either be a pain or a pleasure depending on how well the strategy, design, and initiatives have been laid out. It is the culmination of all your planning, finally putting the strategies and designs into action for the first time.

The Spur Group’s approach is to optimize and maximize within an initiative’s plan of record. And by ensuring that initiatives are well organized and within the design parameters, we can identify gaps and potential overlap that can then lead to improved design the next time around. Strong initiative execution is only possible through effective strategic planning and operational design.

Business Intelligence

When we think about business intelligence as a part of business operations, our focus is on creating the necessary tools and views to measure the impacts of each initiative on the overall health of the organization and ensuring that they are easily refreshed. The metrics and views you develop should be able to effectively inform business decisions, and the reports you build need to be easy to use to pull in new data.

Each initiative should be measurable and benchmarked against other initiatives. Further, the impact of the collective initiatives should be measured against your metrics created during strategic planning. This set of measures should then inform updates, modifications, or redesigns of your organization’s strategy. Business intelligence completes the business operations cycle, execution to strategy.

By measuring how each element of your operations is performing, you identify opportunities for improvement operationally, and for your business as-a-whole.

Business intelligence can also provide an organization with an understanding of how future initiatives might impact their business. Modeling and forecasting allow for future looking business intelligence, which is equally valuable to looking back at performance.

There is an almost infinite amount of data modern businesses can collect, and understanding that information can be an invaluable asset. Good business intelligence uses data analysis to measure the impact of initiatives, the health of your organization, and provides visibility to accelerate key decisions.

Business Operations is a symphony of strategy, systems, execution, and intelligence that makes your organization run. Ensuring that each element is in place will bring harmony to your organization and allow it to perform optimally. Stay tuned for the next blog that will dive deeper into the strategic planning element of The Spur Group’s business operations framework.

Stay tuned for the next blogs in the series: 

Part 2: Strategic planning
Part 3: Operations design
Part 4: Initiative execution
Part 5: Business intelligence

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Dan Overgaag

Dan leads The Spur Group’s channel management, sales transformation and business operations practices with over 11 years of industry experience. Dan has led countless projects and strategic initiatives across channel management and channel incentives programs within technology companies such as Microsoft, Cisco and...