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“Operations” is currently a big EA buzzword, but too many parts of the organization are incorrectly classified under this umbrella.
In reality, “operations” covers practically everything that relates to the day-to-day running of the organization. The lack of clarity regarding what the organization really needs often means that it doesn’t get the right help.

We asked our experts how their services are commonly mislabeled as operations, and tips for making sure that their area of specialty is given proper attention in your organization. Here’s what they said:

Deena Englander
Operations Coach

denglander@highimpactalliance.com LinkedIn


I consider the generic term “operations” to include everything that makes the organization run. That means that it’s lumping together many different skill sets, which I think it’s important to separate. Most people who work with me know that I’m a big fan of working towards your strengths, and it’s really important to be able to identify the subcategories of “operations” so you can make sure that you hire the right talent for each part of it.

When I think of what “operations” should mean, I think of project management or office management – but I think it’s important to give it those labels in order to maintain clarity about what the job looks like. These jobs typically require responsible, internally motivated, detail-oriented and strategic thinkers. While some degree of creativity is required in all jobs, the kind of creativity required is different than marketing and social media specialists.

Too often, I see the following jobs being called “operations”, but I think they need different labels in order to convey the skills and talents required to implement them properly:

  •  Community organization – unlike “standard” operations, this requires a strong interpersonal talent set and creativity to build an engaged community. Yes, there is definitely a component of project management in it, but the core strengths for success are soft skills.
  • Event coordination – while a large aspect of being an event coordinator is to be a good project manager, it requires a lot more communication, creative, and planning ability, along with an ability to adapt easily and quickly.
  • Social media – as James mentions below, marketing strategy is given to the people who are supposed to put out the posts. There’s an art to being good on social media and promoting your organization – and asking your operations people to do it means that you’re not getting the talent of a digital creative.
  • Management – as Adam mentions below, it’s important for anyone supervising others to know how to manage effectively. It often doesn’t come naturally to the classic “operations” personality, and is often implemented poorly, which hurts the organization. Separating out the talents necessary to be a good manager is really important when hiring for a managerial role.


James Odene
Creative Director, User-Friendly

letstalk@userfriendly.org.uk LinkedIn

Marketing is seen as organizing and coordinating.  Often a blog, a social feed, maybe an ad or two. Therefore it’s given to great coordinators with some digital knowledge. But this isn’t marketing. These are tactics and just getting them out isn’t strategy. Marketing is a highly strategic practice, with substantial guiding practices that have been produced through systematic research. It shouldn’t be left to organizers and coordinators, though they may be the ones to implement the strategy, it needs to be crafted and devised by a practiced marketer.

We are currently offering free consultation calls for any organization that wants to explore its marketing approach and find ways to improve upon it. Get in touch with us at  to book a call.


Kait Miller
Executive Director, Canoe Collective

kait@canoecollective.us LinkedIn

I consider operations to mostly encompass HR, IT, and financial management (including bookkeeping), as well as compliance, governance, risk management, and office management.


Patrick Liu
Data and Operations Specialist

patrick@highimpactalliance.com  LinkedIn

When I think of operations, I think of the systems and processes for delivering the values and objectives from your strategy. This includes many functions and varies from organization to organization. However, there are some functions that are broader than “just operations” and should involve the larger team.

  • Project portfolio management: Project management can fit into operations but project portfolio management is much larger. Portfolio management is guided by the strategic focus for the year or quarter. Given the funding gap many EAs are facing, this is an all-hands issue that should be approached from a strategic position, not just thrown over to “ops”.
  • Data analysis: Data analysis for data science or business intelligence should not be strictly ops. I believe it is a failure when organizations are not using data analysis to drive strategy.  Strategic use of data analysis allows you to assess new programs, adjust outreach interventions to increase impact, and simplify engagements to be more inclusive.