I just did a search for “ops hack definition” on Google (and DuckDuckGo, just in case) and nothing relevant came up.
But we used to throw around this term a lot at Uber, especially during the early days.1 What we referred to as an “ops hack” was really anything that the operations team came up with as a bandaid solution to problems we couldn’t get resources for - like signing up drivers using Typeform and running the driver onboarding process off of Google Sheets. Were these processes perfect? No. But did they get the job done at least for a while until we could support from eng or other teams? Yes.
The term eventually came to encompass not just the ingenious solutions concocted by ops managers around the world, but also the spirit of resourcefulness and the hustle in the act.
Towards the end of my tenure at Uber, the need to come up with ops hacks became infrequent. The company was nearing a level of maturity, where:
Most of the internal processes were put in place and only incremental optimizations were required
We had built a lot of proprietary internal tools to address specific use cases
Perhaps most importantly, there were much more rigorous policies and procedures that restricted ops hacking
Then I joined a pre-seed stage company where ops hacks were required again, and for similar reasons - too many things to do and not enough resources. Connecting multiple SaaS apps using Integromat, creating the company website on Webflow, and of course, signing up more drivers using Google Sheets. That was fun.
And it made me think that I should start sharing my favourite ops hacks, and learn from others in the process as well. Some of the “hacks” I share might be super obvious, or not even the best way of doing things - if so, let me know! I want to level up my ops game. And if anything I share is in fact helpful, then that’s great and I’ll be a happy man.
So there you have it - what an ops hack is, and why I’m starting this newsletter. Good idea? Bad idea? Click the button below to let me know your thoughts!