As a HubSpot RevOps Correspondent, I had the pleasure of attending all the operations-related sessions at INBOUND 2021. It was amazing to see so much focus on ops and especially on RevOps this year!
Ops people are usually the unsung heroes and behind-the-scenes players. It's nice to see the spotlight start to shine on ops professionals!
What is RevOps? Well, I'm glad you asked. I'm actually working on a book with that exact title, after the popularity of this blog post in SEO results!
For the book, I interviewed 35 experts in RevOps-related roles and one of the questions I asked was "What is RevOps?"
The shortest working definition of the most common elements of those answers combined was:
The people, processes, and tools used to strategically manage the full customer lifecycle and experience...
which optimize the revenue engine through operational efficiency and alignment across leadership, departments, industries, and more.
It combines traditional sales ops, marketing ops, and customer ops, breaking down silos to ensure teams are working toward shared goals that focus on the customer.
Now that we've covered some background info for you, here are a few highlights from six of the ops sessions at INBOUND 2021. (Again, how exciting is it that there were so many ops-related sessions!?!?)
A Crash Course on RevOps with Rosalyn Santa Elena, Alison Elworthy, and Maggie Butler
This session was a favorite since it featured amazing expertise from inside HubSpot (Alison and Maggie) and outside HubSpot (Rosalyn from Neo4j).
If you're not following Rosalyn Santa Elena, you are missing out on great insights! She answers questions in every community, speaks at many events, has her own podcast, drops knowledge every day on LinkedIn, and more, all to help elevate ops! Rosalyn explains concepts in easy-to-understand ways and has a generous spirit of giving, by giving her knowledge away to those in need.
Alison and Rosalyn both talked about investing in ops people. They discussed hiring ops sooner, since operations people are often the last type of team member to be hired, behind sales roles or marketing roles, for example.
They also went a step beyond that topic and discussed what needs to happen after ops people are hired: investing in the operations team members' success to retain them, such as providing career advancement for RevOps and other ops team members. All three panelists are on a mission to empower people within ops to make an impact on the business, in order to realize the true benefits of RevOps: to deploy and scale the function to your desired revenue growth.
These discussion points relate to the people side of RevOps which is often overlooked in favor of discussion around shiny tech and deep data.
A few favorite quotes from the session:
- "Create the right internal foundation for the right external experience," said Alison Elworthy.
- "Alignment eats strategy for breakfast." This is one of Alison's favorite sayings.
- "Nobody in the company is safe from ops, we’re up in everyone’s business." This is one of Rosalyn's favorite sayings and it is very true! If you work here at Remotish, we refer to this as "spying" on everything and have many spy emojis to illustrate the point in a friendly way (FYI ops is also in charge of Slack emojis 😀 ).
A few more insights from this session from a fellow HubSpot RevOps Correspondent:
Diving Deeper -- what does RevOps look like?— T R O Y | Strategy Hacker® (@FindTroy) October 13, 2021
1. Strategy & Planning ♟️
2. Performance & Metrics ⚡️
3. Insights & Analytics 🔍
4. Operational Rigor ⚙️
5. Enablement & Optimization ⚖️
6. Technology & Systems 🤖#INBOUND2021 | @HubSpot pic.twitter.com/DcGXAXbXze
90 Days to Revolutionizing RevOps at Your Organization with Juli Durante
The people side of RevOps is rarely discussed, so it is memorable when it happens. This is a common theme throughout these INBOUND takeaways.
In this session, Juli spoke about the importance of how RevOps helps the company’s employee experience. "Employees want seamless ways to help customers and team members succeed," she said.
Julis also discussed how change management is an important part of the RevOps revolution picture...and recognized that topics such as change management are not as exciting for a lot of people compared to tools & tech topics.
(Shameless plug for a recent HubSpot blog series: A change management topic that is less exciting for many people to discuss is documentation, which helps people use processes that use data and tech. It ties all major parts of RevOps together, across all teams that RevOps works with.)
This session was really well-presented, had interesting information, and engaging delivery and timing.
Favorite quotes from the session:
- Sometimes you need to eat your broccoli before you can eat your ice cream." Juli said about how we sometimes have to do the not-so-fun parts of ops before playing in shiny new tools. Speaking of tools...
- "Technology doesn’t solve problems." Especially people and process problems!
- "Change. No one likes it. But sometimes you have to do it."
One more time, say it with me:
RevOps in Real Life with Mary Grothe and Kyle Jepson
If someone is looking to start RevOps in their business, what does that look like? How would they get started?
Some of the panelists today agreed that the first step is mapping the customer journey and seeing where the gaps are, where they are losing customers and revenue, and improving those areas first.
In this panel, Mary Grothe had a great answer: audit audit audit audit. Audit tech stack, behaviors of the team, behaviors of customers in buying cycles, ongoing customer lifecycle, and more.
And though the previous panel explained that technology doesn't solve people + process problems, Mary brought up a good point that tech could be contributing to those problems. She said that people say they want alignment and no silos, yet they are operating in two different technologies. How can they reduce handoff friction (between departments, team members, or for the customer) if they have 2,3,4,5,6 databases?
This was the first time I had heard the phrase "behavior audit" and it makes a lot of sense. It sounds like it is related to "spying" on everything, but in a more systematic way. Behaviors are often the true root of issues when people blame tech, such as asking for a change in the CRM which oftentimes is not needed if they are correctly following the clearly-explained and accessible processes.
When auditing behaviors, think about what behaviors that each person or team performs, and do these behaviors align with the customer and buyer journeys?
For example, are your 18 deal stages dictating the process, or is the customer experience dictating the sales process?
"Who at your company needs visibility to data and analytics to tell the story they need to know in order to make decisions for the company? RevOps can solve all those problems if it is done the right way," Mary said.
Favorite quotes from the session:
- "You can’t force people to work within the process the tech dictates. Build tech around the most frictionless way that people work and buyers buy….build to the behavior."
- "Identify how your buyer wants to experience your brand."
One of the helpful slides from the presentation:
Rise of the RevOps Developer with Connor Jeffers
This session started with an explanation of how RevOps can help you decouple or detach the relationship between hiring more people and earning more revenue. This is a problem with growing businesses, there is an efficiency challenge where you usually have to hire more people to drive more revenue, but at a certain point, hiring more people will not create more revenue.
This people aspect also relates to how ops people can help you do more with the people you already have, so you may not need to hire more people to create more revenue.
The hiring market is tough right now for companies. It is expensive to hire, onboard, and train people since it takes a while before the people are efficient enough to start contributing to a company's revenue. So this benefit of RevOps is very relevant right now, and it alone could convince companies to adopt or transition to RevOps!
To further explain the benefits RevOps can produce for a company, Conner had a great analogy about the invention of the automated loom (the weaving machine, not the video capture software 😀 ) and how this invention allowed companies to produce more fabric without needing to hire more people. It increased the productivity of the people already employed. That caused an enormous reduction in the cost of fabric and an increase in quality. This invention drove the price of fabric from $120 to $20 per pound in 30 years, which changed the world, began the age of industrialization, and changed all types of production work.
- "The way companies become successful is decoupling these lines and driving additional revenue without hiring additional headcount...This is what RevOps does for your business." Connor said.
Another great slide from the presentation:
How to build a customer operations team that will enable your CS team to scale with Phil O'Doherty
First of all, it was very exciting to see a panel focused on customer success operations (CS Ops)! This is the least frequently discussed ops area within RevOps or within go-to-market teams. On that topic of where should this team be located in the organization's structure, Phil answered, "Put them where they will get the most results in your company." Great answer!
What is involved in CS Ops? I'm glad you asked. Here is an excellent slide from Phil that explains some possible responsibilities:
Phil provided this framework about how to structure or prioritize in CS ops. Notice how enablement and change management is underpinning everything. This is the people aspect of ops!
How do you know you're effective in CS ops?
Phil said to focus on two north star metrics: net retention and productivity leverage.
How do you start CS ops? Phil had this advice:
- Consider doing the CS ops work from day 1, though there doesn’t need to be a dedicated role right away.
- Focus on what you can bring in vs grow internally
- Focus on matching skills to the role, every role may not be technical.
- If you'd like to learn more on this topic of how you don't have to be super technical to start working in ops, don't miss the MoPros career fair panel (or recordings, depending on when you are reading this) "The State of the Marketing Ops Professional" where I discuss this.
- Focus on hiring and training for people skills such as communication (presentations, speaking skills). Phil said you can have the best data analysis in the world, but if the data analysis isn’t communicated well to leadership, it doesn’t help. On that note, this presentation did a great job of using data and storytelling to explain data.
Common pitfalls in CS Ops that Phil mentioned:
- Reactive versus proactive
- Ticket takers versus strategic partners
- Don’t worry too much about where CS ops lives or who it reports to
- Balancing traditional analyst roles and internal talent
- Your operations are only as good as your enablement + change management
The work you don’t see - how ops professionals fight the fires, clean the data, keep things running with Lindsay Rothlisberger
This session had a lot of actionable advice about how to move away from reactive problem solving (fighting fires) and become a strategic contributor. Lindsay spoke about how ops professionals are responsible for figuring out the right balance of efficiency and excellence.
This slide gives a great view of how an ops team evolves over time from reactive to strategic work, left to right:
For further explanation about some of the stages, Foundational is the stage where you're building operations foundation for scaling ops past one-off projects or programs. Strategic is where you are operating based on the "why" of your organization.
Lindsay said this model has helped commit to the vision of ops and prioritize making progress toward the ideal state. Use this to frame the way you structure the team and solve problems.
On that note, ops people are good at solving problems, which is one reason why we get stuck in the firefighting stage. Here is where Lindsay explained more about the skills of a good ops person. Note the "soft" or people skills!
Lindsay said one of the great skills of ops people is that we think through all dependencies before proposing solutions, we can see the end state, we know how changes impact other people inside and outside (customers), and we can communicate that impact.
Fires are likely inevitable, but we can become good at foreseeing them and enabling ourselves to determine what is really urgent, then enabling ways to solve them faster. Finding the root cause of the "fire" helps us focus on big strategic impactful projects and not get distracted. The goal is to prioritize the right problems to solve.
One way she prioritizes what is urgent is by using this awesome matrix:
Another way to move beyond firefighting and onto more strategic work is to know that if you say yes to solving everyone's fires, you become a bottleneck since you are taking on too much work for one person to complete on time.
If we haven't mentioned prioritizing enough, another great tactic is to always create a roadmap of where you or your department needs to go in a certain timeframe and be loud about it!
Use a shared live doc like a Google Doc, that others can comment on and see updates to the plan in real-time.
Share it everywhere, especially with leaders who send you those fires! If other people in your company are aware of the big projects you are working on, they can see that the strategic work will ultimately help them more than solving 5 tiny fires every day.
Make sure they have visibility to the scope and impact of all the work you do, not just visibility for their specific requests.
Here is Lindsay's roadmap framework for things to include when building a roadmap:
After you have a roadmap and have shared it everywhere and with everyone, make sure you are communicating the impact of the work you are doing, the results of the strategic roadmap work, and the results of the firefighting tasks.
This includes reporting on time spent and measuring your success.
Success for operations can be difficult to attribute back to ops work, but start where you can.
- Track how well you enable people to use the tools and processes you create, providing the right training and documentation
- Track efficiency by tracking the number of bugs fixed, number of request tickets solved, speeding up how long it takes to set up campaigns...
- The ultimate shared metric is customer success
People don't realize there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes to build the infrastructure to support a company.
Tips to convince leadership that firefighting isn’t healthy for long term success:
- Showing the business impact of addressing the root cause instead of symptoms
- Adopt a project management system that tracks all the fires that come up, categorizing them, showing how capacity is used for those things, then showing the bigger strategic projects side-by-side. Where would they rather have you spending your time?
- Look for misalignment between business goals and strategy, to find strategic projects to share with leaders
More change management advice:
- At Zapier, Lindsay uses a marketing ops channel in Slack to tag people when they release new documentation, have new functionality, and other change management news. Zapier uses Slack for all comms, so she'll also go into other team channels for questions and announcements as needed.
- Zapier has an internal blog for communicating information about larger projects all in one place, likely so people don't have to track down 100 separate Slack status updates or find closed tasks in the project management system to see the progression of a project.
- Identify someone to help champion the new processes you create, someone who gets it and is using it well. Have them be the voice for their team.
- Keep documentation somewhere easy to find and follow (We recommend HubSpot's Knowledge Base 😀 ).
Another communication and visibility tactic is if your company hasn't centralized all ops into one RevOps team yet, create a designated cross-department working group and meet regularly to make sure goals are shared and work is aligned across departments. This group can also ensure work is not duplicated in different departments as a result of silos.
Conclusion: Lots of ops! Lots of op-portunities!
Though there is confirmation bias involved, where I see the trends I am looking for, I think a takeaway from INBOUND was a real focus on the people. It makes sense since HubSpot has a human-centered approach to everything. They did a good job not focusing only on the tech side of ops even though their product IS tech!
If day one of INBOUND was generally about how important a company's people are, such as during the first keynote from Brian, Dharmesh, and other top leaders at HubSpot, then days two and three were more focused on how people and people-related topics like change management are more important than tech and how investing in people’s growth, success, and alignment internally creates a better customer experience externally, which then increases and retains more revenue.
Even non-ops sessions such as the From Calm to Chaos customer success workshops with Will Smith had a section about people and change management, related to onboarding clients to a new HubSpot portal. This is work our Remotish team does every day, making INBOUND a valuable event for our team!
Another takeaway from the overall INBOUND event is that now is the time to learn and grow in RevOps, especially RevOps using HubSpot! It’s in demand. RevOps covers such a broad variety of topics and skills, and it allows you to learn how the whole business operates. Therefore working in RevOps could help you learn what you want to specialize in, or what you want to learn more about. There are many opportunities for learning and for seeing the big picture, compared to working in a siloed department. It's also a new enough word or topic that an “expert” might have been doing it for a few years, not 20 years, so expertise is not as unattainable or as long of a journey. Come on over and join us in RevOps!
If you're not sick of listening to me talk about RevOps by now, see me and even more amazing HubSpot experts talk about many of these RevOps panels on George B. Thomas' INBOUND After Hours Show!
Let's end it on this: