What Does a Director of Operations Do?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn more about the role of director of operations. Discover the main duties of an operation director and what skills and education you’ll need to become one.

[Featured image] A director of operations is at their desk talking to an employee.

A director of operations leads and models expectations for each department within a company so that all departments can work together to create a successful, organized, and efficient business. 

The Director of operations may work with a marketing manager to assess the effectiveness of marketing campaigns against the company’s marketing goals or discuss budgeting and forecasting with the financial department manager. 

In this role, you’ll act as a liaison between managers of a company and its executive decision-makers, communicating information about employee performance, company productivity, financial status, and much more. This job requires a broad knowledge of business acumen, strong communication skills, and the ability to multitask and delegate. 

Director of operations role 

A director of operations is in charge of managing the day-to-day operations of a company, which may include a wide range of tasks depending on the industry and size of the company. In many cases, the director of operations works with managers from different departments within a company, as well as other executives. They’re often involved in improving efficiency, setting budgets, or implementing employee policies. 

Main duties and responsibilities of a director of operations

The responsibility of the director of operations is to ensure that the company's overall goals, objectives, and mission are carried out through daily operations and customer interactions. Core duties and responsibilities of a director of operations may include:

 

  • Improving the cost efficiency of certain business operations through resource allocation 

  • Creating and overseeing employee evaluation metrics and methods 

  • Conducting budget reviews and report findings

  • Implementing, reviewing, and modifying company policies and procedures 

  • Supporting the HR department in staff management, hiring, termination, and disciplinary actions 

  • Helping department managers set goals, manage employees, and improve efficiency 

  • Ensuring company operations meet financial goals and objectives

  • Identifying more cost-efficient ways to do business, set and execute department and company-wide budgets, and forecasting efforts 

Read more: Operations Manager: 2022 Career Guide

Who does the director of operations report to?

The director of operations typically reports to the chief executive officer (CEO) and is an executive level position, working with senior level management and C-suite positions. A director of operations reports information to the CEO on matters such as:

  • Employee performance

  • Budgeting concerns

  • Suggestions for new company policies and procedures

  • Updates on sales performance

  • Other company performance metrics and markers 

Who does a director of operations manage?

A director of operations manages the company’s senior-level management, often those who lead individual departments or are responsible for a division. Such roles can include the marketing manager, office manager, sales manager, HR department manager, and manager of the financial department (also called a controller).

Each department manager reports to the director of operations to provide feedback and ask for support when needed. It’s important that managers see the operations director as someone who supports their efforts. A key responsibility for this role is to maintain consistency across all departments and that the company vision is carried out through the daily operations of all divisions. 

Director of operations vs. chief operations officer (COO)

The title of director of operations and chief operations officer (COO) are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to the same position, but these roles have differences. One title may be used over the other based on the size of a company. 

C-suite executive positions like COO, CFO, and CEO usually lead larger companies and corporations. Smaller companies may not have those titles, so the duties of company operations management falls on the director of operations, who essentially has the same tasks and responsibilities as a COO would at a larger company, on a smaller scale. 

Larger companies may also have both a COO and director of operations with the main difference being the scope of management and oversight. For example, a company that already has a COO may hire a director of operations to oversee a specific procedure that needs more attention and focus, but the COO would be the more senior position. 

Relevant experience and skills 

The essential skills of a director of operations center around being a good leader, communicator, and problem solver. Technical skills are also important and differ by the industry. Experience, training, and education will help you build these relevant skills. 

Earn your degree

To become a director of operations, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field such as business administration or business management. Earning a master’s of business administration (MBA) degree may be required since a director of operations is a C-suite business management position. Through your MBA coursework, you’ll learn relevant skills, including business ethics, business analytics, decision-making in business, operations management, and leadership. 

Gain professional experience

Relevant professional experience is a requirement to work as a director of operations, ideally in business management positions, however, experience doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same industry. Employers will likely seek candidates with extensive leadership experience of 10 years or more. Relevant professional experience may include positions in lower-level management. Operations directors may also work up from less senior positions within the company. 

Consider certification

Professional certifications are available for careers in business operations, including director of operations. The certification you choose may vary according to the industry you work in and your responsibilities. A few common certifications for director of operations include 

As an operations director, certifications can positively affect your salary, improve your job prospects, and enhance your business management skills. 

Decision-making skills

A director of operations should be able to make smart and efficient decisions when faced with scenarios that affect the company’s overall goals and objectives. Making the best choices that positively affect a company can include financial, staffing, or operational decisions like inventory management and cost. You may also use decision-making skills when tracking performance metrics regarding sales, customer service, employees, or the software system a company uses. 

Be a leader

A director of operations leads managers within a company as well as other employees. What’s unique about this position is the need to manage granular tasks and projects within departments when needed, while also seeing the overall company goals. Leadership often requires the ability to empathize, motivate, and guide. Having strong leadership skills is key in this executive management position. 

Have effective communication

A successful operations director will need to be an effective communicator  as the role is the liaison between managers and executives, as well as the management team and employees. Communicating the needs of managers to key decision makers in the company is an essential skill, as is informing new policies and procedures created by executives to the managers that implement them. 

Communication in this role centers around building relationships, maintaining trust and respect, and creating a team mentality to ensure the daily business operations are upheld.

A director of operations will bring together different people and roles to work toward one common goal. This role will carry out multiple mediums of communication from emails to business meetings. 

Read more: What Is Effective Communication? Skills for Work, School, and Life

Business acumen

Business acumen refers to the ability to make smart business decisions. It’s the knowledge that is taught and learned through professional experience in business management. Business acumen skills are either industry-specific or general business knowledge like budget planning, how to improve profitability, or an understanding of sound business strategies.

Understand business processes.  

Key business skills essential to your role as a director of operations include understanding business processes. Common business processes include:

  • Sales and marketing

  • Invoicing

  • Product development

  • Customer experience

  • Order processing

These processes vary by industry, but in general, are processes most businesses need to manage to ensure a smooth operation. Directors of operations need an understanding of a company’s products or services, from production to purchasing.

Typical career trajectory

The typical career trajectory of a director of operations includes several years in entry-level business management positions. Since an operations director can be found in private, public, non profit, or government sectors, the job titles may be different depending on the industry. 

Starting work in your desired industry or a similar one  after graduating with your undergraduate degree is useful. It’s possible to work toward your MBA while in an entry-level management position so you satisfy the experiential and educational requirements when you’re ready to apply for a director of operations position. Since director of operations is not an entry-level position, you can expect to work your way into this position through years of experience in other business management positions. Some common management positions that director of operations may hold early in their career include:

 

Another possible career path for this role may be working as a business operations manager at a small start-up company. Sometimes smaller companies will have fewer roles and fewer divisions to manage, so you might find fewer requirements. These positions can give you the experience you need to catapult your career as a director of operations. 

Get started

To work towards a career as a director of operations, start by meeting the educational requirements by enrolling in an undergraduate business degree program. Gain professional experience in management positions in business and work towards your MBA degree. Many directors of operations positions will require an MBA since it is an executive-level management job. 

Certifications and other professional certificates are beneficial in this career, so consider gaining certification specific to the industry you want to work in as a director of operations. 

As a first step, enroll in a course that can teach you the core skills you need as a director of operations. On Coursera, you will find business management courses for beginners and advanced professionals. To learn more about the foundational skills you’ll need in this role, consider enrolling in Introduction in Operations Management offered by the University of Pennsylvania. Completing online courses can boost your resume and help you build essential skills for director of operations positions. 

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Written by Coursera • Updated on

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