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What is an Operations Department?

By Dale Marshall
Updated May 16, 2024
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An operations department typically attends to the administrative, logistical and other duties that are necessary for an organization's day-to-day functioning. Depending on the nature of the organization, an operations department — sometimes referred to as a back office — might be responsible for a diverse range of responsibilities. Operations departments exist in government entities, businesses and other organizations in every segment of the economy, including the financial services industry, educational institutions, manufacturers and the military.

In Financial Institutions

Financial services companies, such as banks, often have operations departments that are responsible for such duties as internal accounting, compliance with government regulations, clearing services and legal matters, as well as the maintenance of clients' records. In a brokerage, the operations department might also be responsible for monitoring clients' accounts and alerting clients when appropriate. The operations department in a financial services firm might also be responsible for human resources management. Many times, the operations department has little direct contact with clients.

In the Military

In a military organization, a staff officer often will be designated as the operations officer and, depending on the size of the unit, might have additional support staff members assigned to him or her. The operations function in a military unit is primarily concerned with training and planning, which generally is the largest and most important function of the staff. Other staff functions, such as logistics, personnel and administration, are coordinated with the operations officer.

In Manufacturers

An operations department in a manufacturing company might be responsible for the functioning of all support elements in a factory except the actual manufacturing process, which falls under the jurisdiction of a plant manager or manufacturing director. The operations department in a factory setting is commonly responsible for such responsibilities as transportation, personnel administration, purchasing, housekeeping and other facility issues.

In many organizations, as the information technology function has grown, it has been recognized as a critical component of the organization's ability to fulfill its mission. In many cases, this function has become the responsibility of the operations department. This is especially true in the financial services sector, where having the most sophisticated information technology with the best staff is critical to serving the clients' needs.

In Local Government

Many cities and other municipal governments also have operations departments that help them function efficiently. Among the tasks that might be managed by these types of operations departments are planning and zoning, the maintenance of parks and other properties, building inspection, public works and voting registration. Libraries, theaters, senior centers, recreation facilities and other publicly owned buildings also might be managed by these departments.

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Discussion Comments
By anon966488 — On Aug 20, 2014

Are there any Operations Business organizations or groups that you know of?

By anon331276 — On Apr 22, 2013

What are the disadvantages of an operations department in any organization?

By strawCake — On May 17, 2012

It's interesting that the information technology department of a business can also fall under the umbrella of the operations department. I guess it does make sense, because keeping the technology running directly affects the operations of any business.

Anyway, it's kind of amazing when you think about all the things that go into running, say, a bank. I know I never think about the operations of the bank when I go in to make a deposit or something. But I imagine there are tons of people working behind the scenes to make things go smoothly.

By KaBoom — On May 17, 2012

@indemnifyme - Not everyone is cut out for customer service, that's for sure. It's much easier to learn to get along with the same people you see every day, rather than a bunch of new people (who all have complaints) every single day!

I have a few friends who work in the technical department of their companies, and their duties are pretty much what the article describes. They do all the technical stuff that keeps the company running smoothly, but don't have anything to do with the actual customers.

By indemnifyme — On May 16, 2012

I absolutely hate working with customers. I'm not wonderful with people, and I don't do well when customers have problems and start getting upset. I have trouble staying calm too!

I've been thinking lately about going back to school for some kind of operations job. I'm very organized, and I'm pretty good with interpersonal relationships with my coworkers.

Like I said, just customer service is a problem for me. So I've been thinking about pursuing a job in the back office of a medical facility. I'm looking into billing and coding, but I'm not totally sure what I'm going to do yet.

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