What is the Difference Between a Chief Operating Officer and a Vice President of Operations?

The COO is usually second in command of the company, reporting directly to the CEO. The COO is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company, while the VP of Operations plays a more hands-on role with the operations team. The VP of Operations is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day activities, while the COO looks to the future and prepares to keep operations running smoothly within a changing company. The COO is part of senior management and is one of the highest-ranking executive positions in an organization.

The VP of Operations is a strategist and decision maker, using information, data, metrics and statistics to plan the company's operational future. The COO is usually referred to by other terms such as executive vice president of operations or chief operating officer. The chief operating officer usually has more scope of work than an executive vice president, but generally has less power and responsibility than a chief operating officer. That's why an executive vice president is higher than a chief operating officer.

Common high-level executives include the CEO, CFO, COO and CIO. The COO falls into the category of “C” positions (CEO, COO, CIO, CFO), positions that sometimes overlap with the president and vice presidents. While vice presidents lead their departments, chief operating officers generally have responsibilities that span the entire business, including the position of chief of staff of a CEO.