How to organize your operations team?

May 18, 2022 - 3 min
How to organize your operations team?

Operations is a key function within the company. They sit at the very core of every business. Like oil in the machinery, they help business teams be more efficient and reach their goals. Their roles do change from one company to the other, and their scope can be blurry, but traditionally they cover processes, data, and tools.

The structure and organization of the team is critical for the success of the business. From the standalone organization to the embedded structure, different models exist. Learn from the best operations teams at Swile, Quickbooks and SumUp—and choose the one better suited to your needs. 

The standalone model

In this structure, the business ops reports directly to the COO (or the CEO/CFO). It brings a 360 view of the business and allows operations to be independent of the functions they serve. They are taking the lead on cross-functional topics that will lack proper ownership by design, and are actively involved in defining OKRs for these topics.


First, it breaks silos between the company departments, then it does allow more autonomy. You are not tied to one specific department. Ops can  build one single source of truth that goes beyond one department and have a better overview over the entire customer journey.

Projects are :

  1. faster to implement because there’s little coordination with business teams;
  2. not much challenged as they come from the top management


As an immediate drawback, being standalone makes you less close to the business teams—whether it is marketing, sales, or customer support / success. Buy-in from these teams will be harder to get and adoption not automatic. Enablement will be key for that type of organization.

The integrated model

Operations teams can also be integrated in the department they are related to. In that case, the sales ops will report to the VP Sales, the marketing ops to the VP Marketing… You got it.


This model gives you immediate proximity and direct access to business teams. You sit with them every day and are considered as one of their peers. This structure enables trust, which in return brings productivity. You can execute faster and get things done more easily.


As for disadvantages, it does create multiple sources of truth and is not very scalable.

Operations teams will be doing a lot of run (vs build): helping business teams get the job done. The risk is that they will be doing the small everyday tasks the business managers are asking them to do: “Can you change this workflow? Modify this CRM field?” —prioritizing short term vs long term. As such, integrated operations teams can lack autonomy in their decisions and ownership in cross-functional topics. As they report to the head of department, they will be working in silos. 

For that use case, having a cross-functional role (CRO) on top of all business teams is essential to align everyone.

The embedded model

This hybrid model takes the best of both worlds—bringing together the proximity of the integrated model to the scalability of the integrated one. It best applies to companies with different office locations, or those which are trying to build new functions and want better collaboration between them—Finance and Revenue, for instance. 

Let's say you are a global company with operations and offices in different countries. Local operations teams should report to the country GM. You want to be as close as possible to the local business team to better serve them—but also, to the Global Operations leader in order to streamline processes and implement a long-term strategy.


This structure offers great flexibility. Operations teams are empowering business teams locally, while driving operational efficiency globally. Teams are agile while structured, with processes in place and resources at their disposal.


Sounds too good to be true? Well yes, this organization can quickly become difficult to manage as you have to juggle constantly. Conflicting priorities will arise inevitably. Resolving them will require a fairly mature organization with established processes and defined scope.

So, who's the winner?

As you imagine, there are no right answers here.

It all comes down to a few key principles:

  1. There is no one-size fits all organization: you should adapt to the stage of your development
  2. How you manage your focus on scale vs your focus on business
  3. Rely on processes and build them iteratively with the business teams to create trust

What's your Operations team's structure? Has it changed from the beginning?

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