Sales and Marketing and Dev Ops, Oh My!
Scale and efficiency should be valued in every part of the organization.
Operational teams are the backbone of any organization. The work that happens behind the scenes isn’t talked about enough. Without operations, each team that it supports wouldn’t be as efficient.
Who wouldn’t strive for efficiency? It’s doing the same task, with the same quality and scale, just faster. Operations teams support other departments in doing exactly that by using the best tools, automations, and processes out there. Efficiency is an operations team’s goal.
Yet, they are still largely misunderstood. They are not the teams that just get pawned the manual work or simply do the mundane tasks. If that’s the case, their potential is being wasted.
So how can we set up operational teams for success?
The evolution of support functions
Consider the profession of a phone operator.
Today, phone support means one of two things. First, you could be calling a vendor for support because you need help. Maybe you need to initiate a return of clothing, close your account, you name it. Someone might answer the phone, walk you through some instructions, and tell you you’re all set. Second, you could be having an issue with your physical phone and need tech support. Maybe you spilled coffee on it, maybe it stopped charging.
In any case, that’s not what phone support always meant. For most of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of people were employed as telephone operators to route calls from source to destination. With the evolution of switchboards, this functionality became automated and their skills were needed on either more personalized support calls or in technical jobs.
While some may see the history of the telephone operator to be a rise and fall, I see it as an evolution. With technical progress, people are employed to do less repetitive work.
Operational functions evolve as tools evolve.
A deep dive: types of operational teams
I’m likely only hitting a small portion of the types of operational teams out there. Frankly, until recently I didn’t realize formalized functions like this existed across most departments. And when I started digging deeper, my eyes widened. There is so much opportunity here for automation, and these are the folks itching to jump on that opportunity.
Sales Operations (SalesOps)
Example title: Salesforce Developer
Sales teams use CRMs to manage relationships with potential and existing customers. Efficiency here looks like contact prioritization, engaging first with potential customers that are more likely to convert or existing ones that are most likely to churn to prevent them from doing so. The most basic CRM is an Excel sheet listing all historical contacts. With the evolution of tooling like Salesforce and Hubspot, this type of prioritization can be automated and analyzed.
Marketing Operations (MOps)
Example title: Marketing Analyst
In larger organizations, marketing teams are split up by channel such as paid search or organic outreach—within each of those teams, marketing operations looks slightly different. Overall, the job of marketing analysts is to provide information on how to make a particular channel more efficient and driving more conversions. For organic outreach, tools like Hubspot, Mailchimp, and Iterable provide a wide range of functionality from drip campaigns to scheduled one-time sends that behave differently. The efficiency of paid marketing can range greatly by channel from Google to Facebook—before even analyzing, someone has to ensure the tracking is set up properly.
Example title: DevOps Engineer
Generally requiring a software engineering background, DevOps Engineers are responsible for builds, deployments, and sometimes infrastructure. And yes, I do consider them operational roles (I mean, it’s literally in the title). They ensure that a product build doesn’t require a few dozen manually steps and if a bug is deployed it can easily be rolled back within a few minutes instead of hours. The important metric here is largely how much time is saved on deployment that can instead be spent building product features.
Other examples of operational teams includes support for customer success, accounting, and human resources.
The one thing all these examples have in common: they are saving time or increasing output, both directly tied to the efficiency of the organization as a whole.
Current tools are still not enough
While we’ve created entire functional teams to optimize efficiency, their work can still be a string of manual tasks. From renaming email campaigns to follow a particular naming convention to sharing information like UTM campaign names across sales teams, these small tasks add up.
Out of the three operational areas discussed, the one with the least amount of manual work is DevOps. Why? Because they have engineering support and aren’t criticized as heavily if they take longer to complete one particular task if it means never having to do the manual task again. Best practices are taught and tools are optimized for scale instead of one-off tasks that are done over and over again.
Sales, Marketing, and other Operations teams should be given the same amount of education, organizational support, and value for scale to truly drive efficiency. Why? To not accumulate process debt.
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