It takes a little more than good intentions or a great sales idea for a company to run smoothly and achieve its business goals. It is important that there is a plan that considers all areas of the organization, explains their responsibilities and unifies them for common objectives. That is, you have to create an operational strategy.
One of the advantages of an operational strategy is that it can always be done better, and although it is quite a challenge to design it the first time, it offers a great opportunity to know in depth what the company is, where it is going and how to achieve success. You want to know more?
What is an operational strategy?
An operational strategy is the plan with which a company outlines the way in which all its areas work together to achieve its objectives. It includes company policies, use of resources and how the coordination of all levels of the organization will work, depending on the goals and challenges it may face.
Therefore, an operational strategy has a level of flexibility to adapt to the sudden changes that a company regularly faces in the market, industry requirements that meet these adjustments and the same innovations that the company must take into account to remain in force.
So everything that has to do with operational strategy refers to the way in which the company or business creates its products or services (from sourcing the raw material to the talent that designs it and makes it a reality) and how it offers them to the public.
To delve into this topic, we will discuss the functions that this strategy fulfills.
Functions of an operational strategy
- Finding the company’s competitive advantage, that is sustainable in the long term and that makes it stand out from the competition.
- Create a detailed plan that establishes the actions that the organization must take to achieve its objectives, such as the efficient use of resources, standardize the production or implementation of the service it offers to meet the expectations of its customers, increase sales, among others.
- Define the operational value proposition, which includes the price of the product or service, customer service, the quality of the offer, innovation and the possibility of customizing the product or service.
- Make long-term decisions in aspects such as technological strategy and product or service design, and also in the short term, such as the organization of the company and human resources or quality policies.
As you can see, an operational strategy does not exclude any department of the company, in fact, everyone must participate in the strategy for it to be successful: marketing, sales, customer service, human resources, finance, production and quality control.
So how can you design an operational strategy that is valuable to your company? Next we will give you some basic keys.
How to design and implement an operational strategy?
1. Know the current situation
An analysis of where the company is located will help to have a starting point. We refer to knowing the operating environment of the company, even when it is quite new, because this way a comparison can be made with the competition (both with those who already have more experience and those who are at the same level), the opportunities that are possible detect and current threats.
Applying methods like SWOT goes a long way, because it also identifies strengths and weaknesses that may not be on the radar and that, if left unaddressed, can create problems down the road.
2. Establish the objectives and goals to be met
It is necessary that there is an understanding of the priorities of the business sector in which the organization is developed or wishes to enter, because from these the competitive advantages are better defined. In other words, it is possible to establish more realistic goals, which really influence the growth in the business and the strengthening of the areas that comprise it.
In addition, it is important that roles are established at all levels and communicated throughout the company. The structure of the company and the responsibilities of each area, and the way in which they relate to the rest, should not be a secret, but quite the opposite, so that each role understands its importance in the process chain and the reason for his objectives.
3. Define the actions to be implemented
Once the above is defined, then it is possible and more natural to think about the actions that will lead to the success of the company. Even if it is necessary to implement some corrections or improvements in any of the departments, regardless of the level, so that the internal obstacles disappear.
Here it is also necessary to make clear the level of quality that the company wishes to achieve and maintain, always depending on how it seeks to differentiate itself from the competition and meet customer expectations.
4. Find the right tools and processes for the chosen goals
That is why we spoke before about the flexibility of the operational strategy. On many occasions, you will find yourself with the opportunity to modify processes, methods and tools; adopt new techniques or adapt them to the needs of your particular goals. Whether it is to find alternatives to raw materials or new ways of doing business with your customers, you will have the opportunity to learn about new criteria that will facilitate some tasks and will point out those that you had not considered. In other words, there is an opportunity for constant learning.
Your customers will evolve too, so you must grow with them, know the levels of demand and satisfaction, and the ways in which you can reach the people who need your product or service.
Examples of operational strategy
Here are some examples that will be very useful when thinking about an operational strategy in your company. Ultimately, we always need a little inspiration or a role model.
1. Microsoft: B2B in continuous improvement
Business to business or B2B companies offer their services and products mainly to other companies, which in turn have business with end consumers. Microsoft is an example of how a good operational strategy helps you become a benchmark in your sector.
Thanks to the innovations that it has created so that other giants, such as Walmart, carry out operations with its products, it continues in continuous research in artificial intelligence, development of tools for teamwork, machine translation, technology for cybersecurity, medical care, among others, not just an operating system.
Microsoft is on the lookout for customer demands, whether it’s to make an online class more user-friendly or to help other companies stay on their feet during tough times, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Inditex: retail with artificial intelligence
Companies that are dedicated to retail sales, or retail, are not always examples of the use of technology. However, the changes push to adopt elements that were not considered typical of, for example, the sale of clothing. Of course, the more outreach you have with the public, the more you need to improve operational processes.
That is what Inditex saw recently when it decided that it was time to improve the management of its database, before online purchases increased during 2020.
The solution was to hire the founder of Yokozuna Data, Africa Periáñez, to identify patterns in the behavior of users of the online sales pages of the clothing firm that has Zara, Pull & Bear, Mango, among others, and thus offering a better shopping experience, not only in their physical stores.
Perhaps to a lesser extent, retail companies can stay ahead of digital needs by considering adopting some of these innovations in their own operating strategy, if not immediately, then at least for the not-so-distant future.
3. Todo Mejora: non-profit and supported by a digital operational strategy
Nonprofits also need an operational strategy to achieve their altruistic goals. This can be a greater challenge than in other types of companies, since it is not a business, but depends on other support and donations to function efficiently. Todo Mejora, a Chilean NGO that supports young people who live experiences of violence based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, in particular with the danger of a suicidal tendency.
To reach precisely the audience that needs it most, Todo Mejora created a series of ads with Google focusing on certain keywords in its search engine to show, in the results, paid ads with messages aimed at providing help and a little hope, both to young people who considered hurting themselves and to relatives who came to the search engine for support.
In this way, they supported its operational strategy, which already had assistance channels, donation programs, volunteer programs and cooperation with other organizations in Chile, so that its scope and impact could also be expanded, by being present in digital fields, such as the app available for Android and iOS.
We chose these examples from a very varied range that exists on the market because they have proven to be successful. We are sure that they will be useful to you.