What Are Business Operations? (And How to Improve Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 12 October 2022 | Published 19 May 2022

Updated 12 October 2022

Published 19 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies are often a combination of several business operations that work together to provide a service or product for consumers. Different departments focus on specific aspects within an organisation that support the company's mission, values and goals. Learning more about different types of operations can help you determine which department aligns with your professional goals and can help you manage this type of business. In this article, we review what these types of operations are, list different types of company operations and explore some ways to help improve different business branches.

What are business operations?

Business operations are different departments a company needs to accomplish its goals. Companies often have several different business departments that work together to help them create a product or provide services to their customers. Companies in different industries such as the sales, service, manufacturing and technology industry, have a varied range of operations that help them accomplish their mission. To improve productivity, profits, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction, an organisation might allocate resources or assign tasks to a manager to help improve one or more business departments.

Types of business operations

There are several types of operations that companies need to conduct their operations. Here are some different types of business organisations that work together to help companies conduct their operations:

Service

Service departments provide a specific service to customers rather than company products. This type of business operation is common in IT, automobile maintenance, hospitality, health care and government. Retail and sales companies also have service departments that often provide support to customers who have purchased a product or service from the company. Some examples of what a service business operation might do include providing vehicle maintenance for customers, troubleshooting computer or software errors or providing support to health care customers. Some professionals who might work in a service-focused business operation include:

  • customer service representative

  • IT service technician

  • front desk receptionist

Related: What Is Good Customer Service? Definition and Guideline

Sales

Sales operations focus on selling products, services or goods to customers. These professionals accomplish this by sourcing new sales leads, responding to customer referrals, conducting sales meetings to gain the interest of new customers and retaining the loyalty of existing customers. Sales departments are common in retail, IT, pharmaceuticals, real estate, insurance and consumer product industries. Some examples of what a sales department might accomplish day-to-day include distributing product pamphlets to customers, hosting product demonstrations, conducting educational sales meetings, negotiating consumer contracts and performing cost-analysis for customers. Common professions you might find in a sales department include:

  • inside sales representative

  • account manager

  • sales development representative

Related: 7 Sales Positions (With Job Descriptions and Salaries)

Manufacturing

This type of business operation is essential for companies that produce components, products, materials or finished consumer goods. Manufacturing departments might operate differently based on the company's industry. For example, a food manufacturing company might have different processes than an automobile manufacturing company because they produce different consumer products. Manufacturing operations are in several types of industries, including consumer products, aviation, transportation, IT, health care and pharmaceuticals. Manufacturing operation tasks might include receiving raw materials, inspecting finished products and producing goods according to customer specifications. Some professions involved in this type of business operation include:

  • production manager

  • cable assembler

  • machine operator

Related: What Does a Manufacturing Engineer Do? (Plus Skills)

Research and development

A research and development or R&D department helps develop new products or services for a company. Similar to other business departments, the tasks in an R&D department may vary between industries and the specific products a company makes. For example, a company that produces computer software might have their R&D department focus on developing new software and creating new updates for existing software. An R&D operation in the food service industry might research new flavour combinations for packaged food products. Here are some jobs you might consider in an R&D department:

  • applied scientist

  • flavour technologist

  • packaging development engineer

Procurement

Procurement is an essential operation that supports other departments like manufacturing and sales. Individuals in this business department might procure materials for production or might source semi-finished products from another company that can be then finished at the individual's organisation. This type of department is common in manufacturing, retail and consumer goods companies. Common tasks in this operational branch include tracking procurement orders, researching different suppliers, negotiating contracts and analysing supplier performance. There are a variety of professions in this department, which include:

  • purchasing manager

  • logistics manager

  • buying agent

Related: What Is Procurement Management? (Definition and FAQs)

Marketing

Marketing branches within an organisation help advertise company services or products to gain consumer interest. This business branch often collaborates with sales and R&D departments to target certain customers based on consumer trends and feedback. Some industries that rely on marketing operations include consumer goods, automotive, pharmaceuticals, health and hospitality industries. Common tasks accomplished in this department include generating new product market campaigns, conducting market research and issuing consumer feedback surveys. Some jobs you might consider in this business department include:

  • advertising manager

  • marketing specialist

  • brand manager

Finance

This branch of business is essential in every industry, including the non-profit industry, because it's responsible for maintaining the financial health of an organisation. This department often affects the operations of other departments such as sales, marketing, procurement and R&D because they all involve financial resources. Some responsibilities that are common in this type of department include preparing financial statements, researching new finance regulations and auditing financial records. If you're interested in entering this type of business operation, some roles you might consider include:

  • portfolio manager

  • financial analyst

  • accounting administrator

Related: What Is the Role of the Finance Department in Business?

Methods to improve operations for a business

If you're a manager in an organisation, you might be in charge of an individual business operation. Here are some methods to help you improve operations in different departments:

Measure individual operation performance

Analysing the performance of your team members in their respective departments can help you identify improvement opportunities in each team member's capabilities. This can help you discover actionable improvement items that can directly correlate to improving sales, revenue or profits for the organisation in which you both work. To help you start measuring individual performance, you might establish certain goals for the department or departments you oversee.

For example, if you manage the sales business operation, you might establish that team members reach a certain number of sales for the period. This can help you both improve this metric and measure future performance. It's a good idea to ensure that each goal is:

  • realistic

  • measurable

  • actionable

Research the latest industry trends

Understanding trending items in the industry can help a company remain competitive in the market. This can also help gain the attention of new customers and maintain the loyalty of existing customers. Learning about these trends can also help bring innovation and reduce expenditures in certain business departments. Some items to research when discovering these trends include:

  • technology innovations

  • changing or new regulations

  • local economy changes

  • social media trending items

Enhance current processes

Intentionally developing current processes can help a company improve its current operations, which can then improve productivity or profits. Learning more about new tools, software, technology and equipment can help a company find new ways to complete established processes in the operation. It's important to conduct risk analysis and performance evaluations when enhancing current processes so the company can find new methods that are beneficial.

For example, a company currently sources new leads through marketing calls and emails. The manager in charge of the sales department researches lead generation software that has marketing capabilities, such as sending marketing emails and gathering potential customer data information. After pitching this software to company leadership teams, the sales team can allocate its time towards following up on sales leads and completing sales transactions. This reallocation improves the business operation's productivity, which helps increase sales, profit and revenue.

Provide professional development opportunities

Employees at any level can benefit from professional development opportunities. Offering learning opportunities to improve certain skills that team members might use can help improve their productivity and capabilities. These training sessions can also enable employees to develop additional skills that are useful for future positions in the company.

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