How to prevent an ‘operational disaster’

5 steps that really work for a fast-scale operating business

Julia Ivzhenko contributor

Julia Ivzhenko is head of operations at Futurra Group, a Ukrainian IT company that develops math services Master of Mathematics.

Developing a fast-scale, supply-side business at an early stage requires high dynamic growth and few resources. Operational errors at scaling may have exorbitant costs.

We faced it when we decided to get into edtech and launch an educational app aimed at giving experts the ability to answer millions of student requests in online chats, almost instantly.

We started with a team of 20 people, which was enough to cover initial requests. To make a business profitable, the real race begins: Marketing teams must scale the number of users, while operations must follow their lead and develop the supply side.

We scale requests without considering team resources.

We’re up to speed quickly: 120+ experts solve 3,000+ math tasks every day. We risked high speed to stay in the market, so the operations team scaled the supply side rapidly.

We’re concentrating on scaling and don’t have time to think about whether our team has enough resources to continue at such a pace.

Our marketing is booming, and that’s a good thing. Following a need to cover increased demand from the user side in a timely manner, my team scaled the supply side 3x in a month and a half and another 2x two months later. Finally, we get 300+ math experts who are able to solve 10000+ tasks every day. I am proud, happy and panicked at the same time.

I realized that in the last five months, our supply has worked on demand, service delivery time and solution quality. We’re concentrating on scaling and don’t have time to think about whether our team has enough resources to continue at such a pace.

As a leader, I have to stop and look at the bigger picture.

The five-step plan I devised to avert the approaching “catastrophe.”

1. Records all key processes “as is”

This is the first step that should not be missed.

This is a common problem when there is no process notation. Speed ​​of work may be high, and people must implement tasks and solve problems immediately rather than delineating current processes.

I described all the processes at that time as they were. It helped me understand the real point where we were at that time. I found out which things are out of control and may soon lead to big problems.

After that, all processes are updated according to the following framework:

Image Credit: Julia Ivzhenko

2. Identify all barriers

I noted two types of jams:

First: Subprocesses, which are added spontaneously to the main process on scaling.

I found that due to the large number of updates, my team members had to perform too many additional actions, which had not been noticed before. So, I reviewed everything we did and simplified the general process. We focus only on the “must do” things that most impact outcomes and put off other “good to do” tasks.

Image Credit: Julia Ivzhenko

Second: Managers, who don’t delegate tasks on time and are stuck with a large number of tasks.

Unfortunately, I am one of them. I do too many things at the same time, and it never ends. In my case it happened mainly due to recruiting mistakes, which are apparently the most costly mistakes.

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