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Should I have a career as an operations manager?

BY: Brigitte Schwartz|28 February 2019
BLOG| My future career

If you’re a ‘jack of all trades’ and master of multi-tasking, you might have already found yourself pursuing a path to operations management. A highly demanding role, an operations (ops) manager must have intimate knowledge of every facet of an organisation to make all the parts work together. Crucially, this means:

  • Managing the operations side – management of strategy, planning, systems, processes, policies and people
  • Managing the resource side – allocation of resources and creation of cross-functional teams to maximise productivity
  • Managing the financial side – oversight of financial management to ensure a constant cash flow


If a business’s operational side interests you and you’re a first line manager seeking ways to grow, a course in general management skills could be an excellent way to get the foundational capabilities required to move in an ops direction (read our General Guide to General Management). Why should you consider this as a viable career? Because there are lots of ‘opps’ for ops! In fact, McKinsey sees operations management as a crucial capacity in the digital age.


What does an operations manager earn?

An average salary for an operations manager is R324 811 pa, according to Payscale.


What personality traits do I need to be an operations manager?

  • Extremely good organisational, admin and analytical skills
  • A love for systems and processes
  • Strong logical thinking capabilities
  • Excellent at multi-tasking
  • Enjoys working with people and teams
  • Good knowledge of finances
  • Able to cope with fast-paced change and, sometimes, high-stress workloads
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong leadership capabilities
  • Technical and IT knowledge is becoming increasingly essential


Industries in need of operations managers:

Ops managers are in demand in most industries, from government and the public sector to the private sector. Operations managers also frequently specialise in particular skillsets for specific industries – for example, you could become a process engineer or a logistics manager.


Bodies and associations for operations managers:

If you are considering a career in operations then it is worth reading up, or even attending, some of these industry events. It could be an excellent place to network and maybe even scope for job possibilities.


South African Production and Inventory Control Society (SAPICS):

This organisation aims to professionalise the supply chain management community.

South African Institute of Management (SAIM):

A professional body that aims to develop competent managers.

Operations Research Society of South Africa (ORSSA):

A non-profit aimed at furthering operations research.


Trends in operations management include:


1. Data and cyber security:

For IT operations managers especially, security will be a massive focus going forwards, especially with the Internet of Things meaning more and more connected devices. Data will be another big factor to consider, as people become increasingly mindful of how their personal information is harvested and stored. For ops managers, a question will be how to shift around funding allocations to prioritise innovation in data and security solutions.


2. Say hi to AI:

Ops management professionals have expressed concerns about being replaced by robots. But McKinsey doesn’t foresee that happening. In fact, McKinsey believes ops managers will have increasingly important and varied roles as they build people’s capabilities to collaborate efficiently with machines. Creating a continuous learning culture is key to achieving this.


3. Trust, trust, trust:

The HR Technologist predicts that with employees doing everything online – from banking to online shopping – they’re going to carry this DIY approach to the workplace, and demand self-service platforms where they can schedule their own workflows with time-and-attendance tools. This facilitates more flexibility, allowing people to work out of the office more. Ops managers will need to consider how to bring in these tools, plus how to coordinate teams to work together whilst all being based in out-of-office locations.


What jobs can I do in operations management?

There are so many kinds of roles! Finance and operations manager, sales analysis and operations manager, supply chain manager, logistics manager, inventory control manager, production planner, line supervisor, manufacturing manager, production manager, IT operations manager, and programmer analyst are some of the many different job titles that branch out from the umbrella ‘operations management’.


The operations role is hands on and perfect for someone who gets a kick out of making things tick! When an operations manager rises up the rank to become Chief Operating Office, he or she will sit on the company’s board and effectively be the ‘Vice President’ of the organisation. So if you want to be the Joe Biden to your own Obama or the Sheryl Sandberg to Mark Zuckberg, this is a perfect choice for you.


SGI Managing Operations

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