21 Tips From 2021’s Data Superheroes

I’ve had no shortage of phenomenal conversations with Ops people from all walks of life. We’re proud to call them our 2021 class of Data Superheroes. So in the spirit of the new year, I’ve compiled their greatest nuggets of wisdom.
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Nick Bonfiglio
January 4, 2022 . 9 min read

Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, and set aside some time to read each section slowly and digest their knowledge. Those who want to get the full experience should read (or re-read) each hero’s full interview. Most importantly, give yourself a pat on the back for surviving another year and use these insights to propel you into 2022.

Onwards!

1. Gain buy-in with clear goals, candid talks, and appreciation

People and processes need to be at the core of everything we do or it’s not worth doing. My approach requires three steps:

  1. Start with the end in mind. Your sales, marketing, success, and finance partners must know what you’re trying to accomplish. If you share the desired outcome, people are more likely to help you move towards it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to get in the weeds with folks. Conduct interviews and allow them to tell you areas of inefficiencies or things that bother them. Take their suggestions seriously.
  3. Let people know that their feedback matters. Sharing results makes people feel heard and valued, which makes them more likely to share honest feedback in the future.

Do this repeatedly and that’s how you earn buy-in from the beginning.

—Leorre Fishman, VP of RevOps at Uberflip

Read more: How to Build a Resilient Ops Team

2. Solve problems with process

People want to get straight to the reporting, dashboards, and analytics. They want their operations people to tell them what’s going on in the business. But you can’t do that until you have your sales, marketing, and success processes defined.

—Asia Corbett, Director of Revenue and Community Operations at Revgenius

Read more: The Hidden Cost Of Not Trusting The Process

3. Questions to ask when you get a ‘seat at the table’

I ask 4 questions to unpack a problem from multiple perspectives and to broaden our potential solutions:

  1. What’s working and having an impact?
  2. What’s not working, that if it were, would have an impact?
  3. What’s missing which, if provided, would have an impact?
  4. What’s working and having no impact? (Something could be working, but the ROI isn’t as impactful as we expect.)

If you don’t ask, you may get stuck climbing up the wrong mountain. You can’t jump from mountain top to mountain top. You have to unpack, go down, and then start the journey over. Ask the right questions early on and save yourself the trouble of a tiresome journey.

—Susan Whittemore, Head of Revenue Operations at Teampay

Read more: Slowing Down to Speed Up: Insights from Legendary Ops Leader

4. Data stories are unforgettable

Most companies stop at presenting data visually. They stack their data in a bar chart and place that chart in a PowerPoint and call those “insights.” If RevOps can’t tell you the story of your data and what you need to do with it — if they’re somehow blocked from cleaning, analyzing, or presenting it clearly — you aren’t data-driven.

Telling a story with LegosBased on a graphic by B. Rossen & K. Lurie

—Cailin Radcliffe, Senior Director of Revenue Operations at Berkshire Grey

Read more: Telling The Data Story

5. People and process above all

One of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes is: “You have to start with the customer experience and work back toward technology.” If the people and process components are not defined before investing in and implementing a new technology solution, you shouldn’t make that investment.

—Mollie Bodensteiner, Director of Revenue Operations at Granular

Read more: Data-Driven Farm Management: A Conversation About Agri-data and RevOps

6. Jump off the click trail

Sometimes deep investigations aren’t necessary. Earlier in my career, I would’ve dug really deep into the data and stressed over finding the perfect answer. My response today would be something more like, “The recent spike in demo requests is probably due to the website messaging updates that we did last month.” That data is always going to be better than spending too much time trying to follow a click trail.

—Laura Kendall, VP of Marketing at MadKudu

Read more: From Parenting to MOps

7. Ditch your cookies and embrace the unknown

I’m convinced that those who ditch cookies altogether and lean into marketing without a million tracking pixels will ultimately shine in the long run. They won’t be dependent on the old guards of the past.

The Dark Funnel Future: Gut-Based Marketing

—Kaylee Edmondson, Senior Director of Demand Gen at Chili Piper

Read more: The Dark Funnel Future

8. Take the reins on your data narrative

Our board used to tell me, “When you’re presenting metrics or reporting on success, we don’t know if your results are good or bad.” You should always give people a reference point or an industry benchmark when presenting results. Otherwise, someone might make that determination for you and you might not like their interpretation (laughs).

Dan-Frohnen-CMO-Upkeep-Quote-Card

—Dan Frohnen, CMO of UpKeep

Read more: From Music to Marketing: The Many Lives of Dan Frohnen

9. Ops therapy = Talking about alignment, ROI, and data

When I’m checking in with my team, I like to call it “Ops therapy.” We always touch on 3 themes:

  1. Organizational alignment. Between marketing, sales, and customer success, how do you keep everybody marching to the same drumbeat?
  2. Proving ROI. Operators know their work is invaluable for revenue efficiency. How do you get others to see it clearly?
  3. Data accuracy. How can we make sure we’re not building beautiful processes that just move around inaccurate data?

The conversation can really lead down a lot of different places. But I think the takeaway of Ops therapy is always, whatever you’re facing, “Hey, I’m not alone in this!”

—Rosalyn Santa Elena, VP, Global Revenue Operations at Neo4j

Read more: Overworked Operations Leader? You May Benefit From “Ops Therapy”

10. Treat your problems like a puzzle

In operations, you’re always being pulled in several directions. It can be overwhelming if you can’t see the vision. When I think of our problems like a puzzle, it allows me to solve for the bigger picture and see opportunities, even in small tasks.

troy-perry-marketing-operations-mulesoft-quote

—Troy Perry, Director of Marketing Operations & Lifecycle Engagement at MuleSoft

Read more: Solving The Leadership Puzzle

11. Make your data dreams come true

When I dream of a data utopia, there are a few key features:

  • We would have data that is readily available, and accessible to the right people.
  • It’s real-time so it’s constantly being updated and refreshed with accurate data.
  • We’d have everybody looking at the same data the same way.
  • We’d have a data dictionary; unambiguous definitions around what each piece of data within your organization.
  • Most importantly, the data would provide clear insights to drive the business.

—Rosalyn Santa Elena, VP, Global Revenue Operations at Neo4j

Read more: Overworked Operations Leader? You May Benefit From “Ops Therapy”

12. Build your free playbook, share, and repeat

Learn to become crafty by assuming there’s no money to spend. I used to scour the Salesforce AppExchange for free apps to test for specific problems we had. Through that process, I’ve built my own RevOps playbook from different roles.

I was taught that if you make a mistake, you don’t make the same mistake twice. So, why not share ideas and solutions?

—Jason Westerberg, Head of Revenue Operations at Mixmax

Read more: Seeing The Future: Mixmax’s Head of RevOps Shares His Playbook

13. Asia’s software crush? LeanData and Syncari

We’re using LeanData for lead routing and lead-to-account matching. I’m able to build notifications for auto-sequencing right in Slack, and it’s really nice to have everything in one interface.

My other software crush is Syncari, actually. I really, really, really, really, really want to get it. We’re semi-technical people, but any tool that can alleviate some of that is just amazing.

—Asia Corbett, Director of Revenue and Community Operations at Revgenius

Read more: The Hidden Cost Of Not Trusting The Process

14. Balance change and patience

Not all the things you try have to be based on data. As long as you have the data to set an objective, you can be creative with how you achieve your objective and then measure if it worked.

Many of us in RevOps struggle with patience; we try something and 2 months later, we don’t think it’s working. Is your sales cycle longer than 2 months? If it is, you should probably wait to make another change until you’ve seen a full sales cycle.

You have to be intentional about the change

—Lauren Morton, Senior Director of RevOps at Science Exchange

Read more: Juggling Science And Change: A Fresh Perspective

15. Burdens when expanding your stack

There are 4 burdens you should consider when adding anything to the tech stack:

  1. Operational burden. If we’re implementing new tech properly, we will need to create data communication habits. We have to put up guard rails.
  2. Legal ramifications. What sensitive data are we allowing to exist on this new tech? What are their security protocols and how are they ensuring our privacy — and our customers’ — is maintained?
  3. Integrations needed. Any connections between systems will inevitably require processes, training, and troubleshooting. Implementation is usually a domino effect that triggers action.
  4. Monitoring the tech stack. We have to question whether the data is flowing correctly, supporting the business, and helping our people work effectively.

Be sure that any new additions to your stack are worth these burdens.

—Kanako Tone, Senior Manager of RevOps at Alyce

Read more: Data Nightmares and Marketing Miracles

16. Traditional integration software vs. new data automation platforms

Past integration software had some successes, but they were narrow and use case-specific. In prior iterations, “data automation” was all about brute force. You’re trying to string together a series of functions from point A to point B.

Syncari flips that on its head and says, “Let’s imagine that all the data is fungible across all our applications. How would we orchestrate that?”

Data Superheroes Ben Bayat

—Ben Bayat, Managing Director at NextGen Venture Partners

Read more: Revenue Leaders Need To Soften The Hyperfocus

17. The dark funnel is the future of marketing

In the past, every single ad campaign was all about data. Now that we know cookies are on the way out, we’re seeing a shift towards dark funnel activities — those that can’t be tied directly to the bottom line or measured in Salesforce.

A perfect example is our podcast, Demand Gen Chat, where we’re building a strong community around the podcast that will reap returns. We’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, but it’s also opening up new possibilities.

—Kaylee Edmondson, Senior Director of Demand Gen at Chili Piper

Read more: The Dark Funnel Future

18. Marketing isn’t magic

More people should know rushing projects leads to trouble. If we have to take on urgent projects, it means we’re not making progress on everything else. Unfortunately, most people — even colleagues and peers — don’t know how much effort it takes to build marketing operations.

—Kanako Tone, Senior Manager of RevOps at Alyce

Read more: Data Nightmares and Marketing Miracles

19. Report on the rain and the umbrella

A forecast is a forecast; whether it’s weather or sales data. When you do it really well, how you process data can be a competitive advantage.

Others may tell you it’ll rain. We tell you whether you should have an umbrella. You can think of your RevOps the same. Are you presenting options, or just reports?

—Michael Canty, Head of Global Revenue Ops at Tomorrow.io

Read more: A Forecast Of Rain And Revenue: How Weather Prediction Platform Tomorrow Does RevOps Right

20. Long-term data solutions are always worth it

I’m always asking myself, “What am I putting a band-aid on that’s going to leave a scar?” In RevOps you have to continuously step back and re-confirm what you’re trying to accomplish, otherwise, you end up with short-term fixes that leave lasting damage.

Mollie-Bodensteiner-Revenue-Operations-BandAid-Solution

—Mollie Bodensteiner, Director of Revenue Operations at Granular

Read more: Data-Driven Farm Management: A Conversation About Agri-data and RevOps

21. Data can be fun!

Fixing data quality can be fun and empowering. It’s like when a six-year-old learns to ride a bike for the first time. At first, they’re struggling with it, and then all of a sudden they can ride. Now they’ve got the freedom to go places.

It’s the same thing with data. If you reorient towards finding root causes instead of cleaning up messes all the time, you’ll be amazed by how much fun you start having.

—Thomas C. Redman, “The Data Doc” 

Read more: “Fix Bad Data And You Can’t Count The Money Fast Enough”: Advice From Renowned Data Expert

 

Want to hear more from our Data Superheroes? Join the conversation.

Written by Nick Bonfiglio
Nick is a CEO, founder, and author with over 25 years of experience in tech who writes about data ecosystems, SaaS, and product development. He spent nearly seven years as EVP of Product at Marketo and is now CEO and Founder of Syncari.

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