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Unpopular Opinions: RevOps Edition
Revenue Growth Guide - March '23
Hello, and Happy March!
Starting off with a brief disclaimer: I said in the last letter that we’d be talking roadmapping this month, but then the whole unpopular opinion thing took on a mind of its own and I wanted to give it the space it demanded. So, don’t worry, we’ll get to roadmapping, but in the meantime, please enjoy these spicy hot takes.
I asked ChatGPT to give me an unpopular opinion about Revenue Operations and here’s what it had to say:
One unpopular opinion about Revenue Operations (RevOps) is that it can sometimes be overhyped and overcomplicated. Additionally, RevOps may not be the best fit for all organizations. Some smaller companies with simpler sales processes may not need the level of coordination and integration that RevOps provides.
First of all, that’s 2 opinions. Second, if you ask me, both are hedgey at best. Anyway, I tapped our CEO, Jen, for her most unpopular RevOps opinions and, thankfully for all of us, they’re much more original and interesting:
Most companies spend too much time worrying about org charts.
GTM teams should have more authority–stop gatekeeping.
Guess what? RevOps IS a support function.
Not every function needs to be centralized.
Let’s get into it.
The Obsession with Org Charts
When is the last time you looked at your company’s org chart? I’m pretty sure ours lives in our HR/benefits platform (hi Rippling!), but personally, I’ve never even had to look for it.
The reality is that we, as operators, don’t make important strategic decisions based on our org charts. Still, plenty of leaders agonize over how best to organize their teams. Why? The reasons vary from org to org; however, in general, there is a common misconception that the “perfect” org chart can somehow fix a slew of other problems with things like workflow, authority, change management, and the way things get prioritized.
On its own, the structure of your company or team won’t fundamentally change the way you work. Ultimately, you need to look deeper at what’s broken and tackle those challenges individually. For example, is there clarity around everyone’s roles and responsibilities? Do you have a well-defined waterline that allows decisions to be made quickly rather than having to run everything up the chain of command? If so, it’s probably not your org chart that needs to change, but rather the culture around how work gets done.
Speaking of the Waterline
The waterline principle is a way of measuring risk tolerance and defining where authority exists within a business. First coined by businessman and engineer Bill Gore, this model is based on the idea that if your organization is a ship, the waterline is what separates actions that won’t have an irreversible impact on the company from those that likely will. A hole in the hull above the waterline is survivable; the boat can keep sailing. A hole below the waterline, however, will probably sink the boat.
It can be scary for leaders to give out too much authority to their go-to-market teams. Some think that if people are allowed to make changes without consensus from other stakeholders or going through some kind of robust approval process, silos will form and things will break. Alternatively, sometimes there’s a fear that enabling Marketing, Sales, and CS to be too autonomous will detract from the perceived value of RevOps to the organization.
Real talk, though: if your teams are properly aligned on strategy, giving them autonomy is going to make for less internal friction, increased agility, and more innovation across the board. By gatekeeping data or withholding enablement, you’re effectively slowing down your entire revenue engine, which is obviously not what you want.
RevOps is the Best of Both Worlds
As someone who has been writing and learning about RevOps for over 4 years now, I can fully appreciate how this take may sound, but here goes: Yes, Revenue Operations is a strategic function, but it is ALSO a support function.
[insert exploding head emoji]
A lot of the discourse around RevOps not being a support function stemmed from the early days (2017 to 2021-ish) when there was significant hesitation on the part of companies to recognize RevOps as a strategic partner to the go-to-market teams.
It was called a lot of things, most notably a rebrand of sales ops, and was often implemented to do the bidding of the go-to-market teams. Somewhere along the line, that lack of autonomy led to an over-correction: a blanket declaration that RevOps was never meant to be a support function.
But what is a strategic partner if not also a support system?
At the end of the day, every function is a support function and we’re all meant to be working together toward the same ultimate goal, which is to drive more revenue by meeting the needs of our customers and delivering a seamless buying experience.
Lions & Tigers & Bears & Intentional Silos (Oh my?)
For RevOps professionals, silos are the ultimate boogeyman. This is because when we talk about silos, we’re usually referring to those that form on their own as the result of fast growth and processes /workflows that don’t scale.
Those silos, the unintentional kind, are bad because they wreak havoc on cross-functional dynamics and the effects of that dysfunction never fail to have a negative impact on your customers.
However, like cholesterol, not all silos are inherently bad.
When it comes to implementing RevOps, it’s common to want to centralize everything because it feels like the best way to achieve alignment. It’s important to remember, though, that just consolidating functions doesn’t guarantee true strategic alignment, and it’s not going to be a fit for every organization.
If it makes more sense for your operations to be decentralized under Marketing, Sales, and CS, there’s no need to resist just for the sake of it. Just be mindful of the fact that some functions (think reporting/insights) are better off remaining centralized to avoid data inconsistencies.
Next month, quantum physics! (Just kidding.)
And if, in the meantime, you’re disappointed about the lack of roadmapping content this month, might I recommend this episode of our podcast, How We RevOps, featuring our resident roadmapping expert, TJ Chotalia:
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