The Ops Multiverse: 7 Questions Answered By Data Superheroes

Every one of our Data Superheroes has slayed their share of data dragons and saved their colleagues from the dangers of misalignment. But what makes an Ops pro a true hero? I think it’s their ability to assemble a league of champions, solve data disasters, and excel in the ever-changing Ops multiverse.
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Nick Bonfiglio
October 21, 2021 . 5 min read

With great power comes great responsibility to share it. We turn to our heroes to answer seven of your most burning questions — so you can achieve even greater feats.

Operations, Assemble 

1. Nick Bonfiglio: Do data leaders make good ‘people leaders’? 

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

I find data leaders to be the best team leaders because they already have the experience of impact measurement and prioritization — they just require the soft skills of people management and relationship building. 

When you combine the best characteristics of data leaders with the best of people leaders, you have managers who run highly effective, efficient, and creative teams. They go on to solve complex problems with great team culture. 

That’s the team I’m building and one I’d challenge every Ops leader to emulate. It’s a match made in Ops heaven. 

2. What does a data-driven company look like to you?

Cailin Radcliffe, Senior Director of Revenue Operations at Berkshire Grey

There’s a fun visual going around that expresses exactly how I feel about this. At the top of the image, there’s a pile of mixed LEGO bricks and it’s titled “Data.” As you move down, the bricks are increasingly built up to represent how data is then sorted, arranged, and presented visually. All while the bricks are looking more and more organized. The final panel is a beautifully constructed LEGO house, complete with a LEGO lawnmower. Its label? ‘Explained with a story.’

Most companies stop at presenting data visually. They stack their LEGO bricks 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.

3. How do you build or expand the RevOps function effectively?

Cailin Radcliffe, Senior Director of Revenue Operations at Berkshire Grey

Founders and leaders have been reaching out to me to discuss building their RevOps function. These leaders ask me, “Who do I hire first? Sales Ops, Marketing Ops, or CX Ops?” My answer surprises them: It’s none of the above.

There are two core competencies you need to build your RevOps team: the systems-process-tech side and a strategy-forecasting-people side. I’ve been fortunate to have a colleague who excels at the systems-process-tech side of RevOps. My strengths lean towards the strategy-forecasting-people side. Together, we make RevOps magic.

If you set out to hire Sales Ops, you’re going to look for people with Sales Ops backgrounds. That narrows your pool of candidates instantly. If instead, you look for candidates who are great with the process and the tech, your pool of candidates and the diversity of their backgrounds broadens. Every successful company needs a balance of those two skill sets — whether that’s six people or 20.

Fighting Data Disasters

4. One of your pieces of advice is to benchmark yourself to an industry standard or “someone will do it for you.” Has that happened to you? 

Dan Frohnen, CMO of UpKeep

Yes! At Skedulo, I was presenting at a lot of board meetings. They essentially told me, “When you’re presenting metrics or reporting on success, we don’t know if your results are good or bad.” I learned you should always give people a reference point or an industry benchmark when presenting results. Explain exactly where you stand so they don’t harbor any doubts. Otherwise, someone might make that determination for you and you might not like their interpretation (laughs). 

The narrative is power. It’s your team and your performance — so be articulate and give context. Take the reins on the narrative.

Dan-Frohnen-CMO-Upkeep-Quote-Card

5. Good processes rely on people. How do you earn buy-in from every function?

Leorre Fishman, VP of RevOps at Uberflip

You’re right. People and processes need to be at the core of everything we do or it’s not worth doing. My approach requires three steps: sharing the vision, getting the details, and closing the loop.

  1. Start with the end in mind. Your sales, marketing, success, and finance partners must know what you’re trying to accomplish. Period. They have to see how it helps them. Tell them your goal is to make their lives easier, eliminate a few hours of weekly admin work, or just give them more joy in their job. 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. Study them like you’re a sociologist and don’t make assumptions about what people need. Assume you don’t know. Conduct interviews and allow them to tell you areas of inefficiencies, or things that bother them. Take their suggestions seriously and validate your changes. Ask yourself, “Did I actually help?”
  3. Let people know that their feedback mattered. Oftentimes, we gather feedback but we don’t close the loop — we don’t share how our colleagues’ feedback influenced a new process or helped us solve a recurring problem. Sharing results makes people feel heard and valued, which makes them more likely to share honest feedback in the future.

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

Multiverse of (Ops) Madness

6. How do you balance data management and change management?

Lauren Morton, Senior Director of RevOps at Science Exchange

You have to start with a good foundation. Nailing your data governance and adherence to data capture is key. You can’t draw insights out of messy or inaccurate inputs.

But there’s always an opportunity for experimentation. I think if you want to try something that is not supported by the data yet, that’s good. 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. Not all of the things you try have to be based on data, but you have to measure what’s working and what isn’t.

You also need patience. Many of us in RevOps struggle with this; we try something and two months later, we don’t think it’s working. But think about it, is your sales cycle longer than two months? If not, you should probably wait to make another change until you’ve seen a full sales cycle. You have to be intentional about change — informed by data — and give it time to come to bear. That’s the balancing act of RevOps.

7. What’s your advice to MarOps leaders facing a cookie-less future?

Kaylee Edmondson, Senior Director of Demand Gen at Chili Piper

I know it’s intimidating — gut-based marketing is scary. But I’m convinced 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.

There’s a company I’ve been following that adopted a ‘no tracking’ approach already. They know their customer’s journey is complex, so they’re devoting their time to dark funnel activities like podcasting, offline channels, organic social media reach, and influencer marketing.

A word of advice, that I need to follow myself: The faster you lean in and move towards that model, the better off you’ll be. It will require an assessment of the risks involved and a great deal of trust in your demand gen and marketing leaders. But in the end, you’ll be light-years ahead of your competitors.

The Dark Funnel Future: Gut-Based Marketing

There are many unknowns in the Ops multiverse, but we hope our heroes have equipped you to put on your own superhero suit and fight against the powers of bad data. The fate of Ops is in your hands. Will you accept the challenge? 

Want to learn more about Ops’ mightiest heroes? Check out more Data Superheroes.

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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