#TechJobs: Operations – conductors of a different sort of orchestra

Home Blends & Trends 9 April 2020

Friday, 9:00 pm, Hong Kong, a local bar. 

“So what do you do, Liosa?”

“I’m a Business Operations Analyst, I do internal consulting at a data marketing company!”

My companion raises their eyebrows ever so slightly. I try again: 

“Well, it’s about coordination across the company. I help different departments and employees in their development and collaboration.”

Awkward silence…

“But… what do you actually do on a daily basis?”

Here we go again. People ask me this question so often that I should have the answer memorized, but I always hesitate. Now that it’s being asked again, I know I’ve got to reply clearly and with a bit of humor – but rather than answering, I’d prefer to write it out. Why not use a metaphor? Business Operations Analysts are like musical conductors for a company.

A conductor serves as a messenger for the composer. It is their responsibility to understand the music and convey it […] so that the musicians in the orchestra understand it perfectly.Those musicians can then transmit a unified vision of the music out to the audience. [Classic FM]

The role of a Business Operations Analyst includes strategic and organizational challenges, performance measuring, or knowledge management. Like conductors, this job can be split into three phases: preparation, rehearsals, and performance! Lend me your ear.

Preparation: knowing and understanding the work by heart

The first step is all about structure, and involves understanding the company’s strategy, identity, and goals. You must identify corporate objectives in order to make strategic recommendations – things like international expansion, for example, or developing a new partnership, or even redesigning training programs.

During this phase, the job of operations analysts – or “ops” – is to centralize, structure, and prioritize all the necessary information to make a fair assessment of the situation. Then they must outline clear objectives and create an action plan to meet them.

For example, last year I worked on the business plans for the opening of new offices in Asia, alongside the heads of Asian offices and the Finance team. At the time, fifty-five had already been around for almost 10 years in Paris and had subsequently opened offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, but wanted to continue to grow in Asia. My job was to gather as much information as possible about certain countries or cities, to determine whether or not each zone was a good strategic location for a new office. I looked at the economic context and scanned the list of fifty-five clients already present in the area, as well as potential partners. I explored the competition, too, and proposed a strategic business plan that included legal and financial specificities for each target zone.

The choice was made to open two offices in 2019, in Shenzhen and Taipei. The first is the Chinese Silicon Valley for hardware, and is home to almost 3 million companies – including several existing fifty-five clients. Taipei recently made its comeback on the international tech stage, and is enjoying R&D investments from tech giants. Once the locations were chosen, I worked with several teams (finance, human resources, etc.) to prepare for the office launches and deal with operational aspects. We had to ask the right questions: how can we be sure that we’d be able to sell and facilitate projects in these offices? What offices and teams will be called in to help with the first projects? How can we properly welcome and train new recruits who will be in charge of these offices? What will the synergy with the existing fifty-five offices in Asia and across other countries look like?

Once these questions have been outlined, we’re ready for the next step: rehearsals.

Rehearsals: interpreting the work and organizing the orchestra

In the second step, an action plan must be established and rolled out for each internal project, with collaboration from the relevant teams. This means planning, analyzing, and regular measuring progress in the projects’ different aspects. This phase is the longest and requires frequent follow-up with each stakeholder, as well as open (and vital) communication about successes and potential pain points along the way.

These pain points could be things like having to adapt offers for the Asian market, or even defining new local ones. As a member of the Ops team, I help decide the pricing and the presentation of each of our services according to the market in question, as well as establishing adapted processes to set projects up for success – including financially. Teams won’t always use the same solutions for clients in all locations; while we opt for Facebook Ads in Europe and the USA, for example, we’ll use WeChat in China.

Ops work to coordinate these initiatives, including centralizing deliverables, making sure that estimated time spent on a project is aligned with the initial agreement, training local teams on the company’s offers, informing other teams of new ones, and identifying improvements or best practices to be adopted.

Performance: keeping time, but also keeping track…

The final step is crucial, as it is the summation of work carried out in the project’s earlier phases and allows us to reach our goal. We’re talking about, of course, the performance – the last phase of the project.

Let’s take the example of the redesign of fifty-five’s intranet. The performance phase here would be the site launch, when it became available to internal users. We worked for months on a beta version, and then finally replaced our old site with the new one. It was a project that required a lot of work and collaboration from different stakeholders, from those who published content (main contributors like service experts, some consultants, the marketing team) to those who “consume” it every day.

However, the site launch didn’t mean that the project was finished. We also had a post-launch phase, where we measured the impact of the new site using tools like Google Analytics (number of visitors, time spent on the site), gathered qualitative feedback, communicated regularly about new content and features, and continued to update the site.

When the concert is over, the conductor’s job continues. It’s a strategic job, both in its importance to key business decisions for the company, and in its collaborative aspect across different entities and regions. The show must go on!

Would you like another cup of tea?