Operations: A Necessary Paradox


The data center is an interesting animal. I’ve spent years in and around operations and have gained a completely different perspective of it since I started working in that area.

Think about this for a minute: it isn’t what you see operations do that matters, it’s what you don’t see them do that matters. Day in and day out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, operations is working behind the scenes to make sure your favorite business runs smoothly. The same applies to your credit union — operations works in the background so that you can focus on your members, your goals, and your business.

Even when something takes a bad turn – maybe a program does something unexpected or a comm line drops – operations jumps in, rolls up their sleeves, and gets things working again. And nine times out of ten, you continued about your day without realizing anything had happened.

For our credit unions, literally tens of thousands of processes are completed daily, switches are maintained, and files are built, sent, retrieved, and processed. All this happens without a second thought from .

That is, until the one time in the tens of thousands that an issue is apparent. Something breaks and existing safeguards couldn’t prevent the repercussions. Or ops can’t stop the issue without causing more disruptions in the process. Or it’s that one thing that slips through the net and they don’t catch it.

Unraveling the paradox

Then we are exposed to the Ops Paradox: when operations does everything perfectly, there is no reason to pay any attention to them. It’s really a good thing when operations is forgotten. Even here, inside a CUSO, most don’t think about Ops until something goes sideways.

So, when is it that you remember ops? Probably not the day you didn’t think about them once.

But when that something does break, you become painfully aware of a system that has been quietly working behind the scenes on your behalf all the while. And when you become aware of operations, that is the time you are going to have “that day.”

That is the paradox: operations remains an unsung hero every day it spends under the radar, and when they do come into the spotlight, they’re no longer the hero.

I have worked in and around operations for over a decade and the Ops Paradox is not only an interesting phenomenon to observe, it’s also a really hard thing to get past. How do we recognize operations when ordinarily operations is the last place you want your attention drawn to?

Keeping the man behind the curtain

The same thing applies to operations projects. I was in a meeting discussing work on operational processes. Here, the Ops Paradox kicks in: you don’t see anything cool when you are done with process maintenance and projects like that; nothing shiny and new pops out when the projects are done. There’s nothing “gained”, it doesn’t generate income, it’s not exciting; on the surface it doesn’t move the needle. Like ops, the value in such work is not overtly perceived.

But it is valuable work that I will always keep fighting for. This behind-the-scenes work is what allows processors to keep adding more clients without adding more operators. It is what allows us to scale processing seamlessly, to add dozens of processes every month without straining capacity. It is the difference between spending our time maintaining what we already have and devoting our energy to moving your goals forward.

So I smile at the Ops Paradox. And I’ll keep talking about operations even when they’re at their best – flying under the radar. My wish for you is that tomorrow, you enjoy the Ops Paradox as you execute your business goals and have a productive day.


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