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Just what does Operations mean?

By Ian Crocombe

I’ve spoken to enough people to realise that defining operations is a bit like agreeing on the best formation and players for the England football team – there are as many opinions as people you ask.

Part of the challenge is that ‘operations’ is both a function (the part of an organisation that produces products and services for that organisation’s customers) and an activity (any transformation of ‘input’ resources in order to produce ‘outputs’ – products and services for that organisation’s customers).

So, let’s talk about Operations as a function as that’s the most used.

Whether you’re a commercial, charitable or social organisation, there will be a bunch of similarities across an Operations function.

First, they can all be modelled as a process, transforming inputs into outputs. Second, all operations carry out that transformation by acting on some aspect of those inputs – their physical properties, informational properties, possession, location, storage. Third, all outputs are either tangible or intangible (manufacturing vs services for example). Finally, all Operations can be divided up into a network of micro-operations that interact with each other – a bit like an ecosystem.

If you imagine your Operations function as the glue that brings together strategy, sales, marketing and product development activities in a way that delivers/fulfil customer requirements – specification, location, experience – then you won’t be far off. So, Operations matters

Understanding operations – what you do and how you do it, is all about understanding processes and after all, everything is a process as I’ll explain in my next post.

Ian Crocombe | UK Business Advisors (

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