Ready for the RevOps Revolution?

by Britton Manasco | Dec 13, 2013 | Winning Practices

DevOps, a term combining development and operations, is a now a hot topic in the softwaresphere.  If you spend your days focused on sales and/or marketing, you may never have heard of it. But you really should pay attention now. The concept offers valuable lessons for you.

It’s an approach that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and information technology professionals. Given the escalating demands of today’s customers, companies of all k inds must produce, test and deploy high quality software at an accelerating pace. To do so, the Dev team and the Ops team must act in an increasingly unified manner.

Otherwise, it takes forever to get a new software release to market – and if you put the pedal to the metal, you are likely to crash.

DevOps streamlines and strengthens code production. It’s the difference between Microsoft releasing a buggy new version of Windows every few years … and deploying new code to its site every 11.6 seconds.

In the past, it was common for the development and operations groups to simply point fingers at each other when deadlines were missed or something went wrong post-deployment. You would get slow work, or you would get sloppy work. Sometimes, you would get both. Not anymore. With companies like Amazon, Google, and setting the pace, the game of software development has changed forever. Dev and Ops must align to succeed. Sound familiar?

It should. Get ready for the RevOps revolution.

There's an interesting parallel to DevOps playing out in the realm of revenue development. Sales and marketing teams are under many of the same pressures experienced by their brethren in the world of code. They are under pressure to move at an accelerated rate (“faster sales cycles”). They’re under pressure to increase quality (“qualified leads,” “quality conversations”). And they’re under pressure to meet higher expectations (“ROMI,” “rising quotas”).

To succeed in this increasingly intense and demanding environment, sales and marketing will have to collaborate at entirely new levels. They must align and unify.

Hence, RevOps, a portmanteau for the front office. It combines revenue (your growth imperative) with operations (in this case, sales and marketing operations).

It’s the challenge of every sales and marketing leader to strategically drive growth. And it’s the challenge of operational managers to create a clear and stable system that supports buyers through each stage of a decision. They must bring visibility, process, automation, and accountability to the development of successful customers.  

But sales and marketing must communicate, collaborate, and integrate – at all levels – to make these things happen.  

As James Obermayer, CEO of the Sales Lead Management Association, puts it, alignment might well begin with a clear definition of a qualified lead. “How do you measure that? How and when should there be follow up, and on whose watch? At the end of the day there needs to be judicial accountability so that lead generation and follow-up can be tightened up,” he says. “There’s just such a leakage between marketing and sales on leads; companies are spending immense amounts generating leads that aren’t going anywhere.”

By creating a predictable system that runs from awareness to advocacy, operational managers enable their front office colleagues (such as creatives in marketing or conversationalists in sales) to marry their art to the emerging science of revenue production. They increase and accelerate sales, while driving out operational cost and risk.

Just consider author Gene Kim’s advice to development and operations professionals seeking best practices in the DevOps era. It’s advice that should be heeded by executive leaders and operational managers responsible for meeting revenue objectives. Indeed, it's RevOps era advice, too. His guidance:

1) Think in terms of systems. You have to span boundaries as opposed to operating in rigidly defined departments. Kim, co-author of The Visible Ops Handbook, wants people to understand the flow of work in order to increase the throughput and reduce defects. In fact, he wants you think from “left to right” (Dev to Ops) – which, in the RevOps case, might mean demand gen on the left and sales enablement on the right. Meanwhile, automation software can help you “define the work and make it visible.”

Whereas such efforts can increase cycle times and accelerate the cadence of software releases in the DevOps world, systems thinking can, in the RevOps world, help your company obtain unified messaging, a single definition of a lead, and defined processes that stretch all the way across a customer decision cycle. You act as one, predictable, revenue production operation – putting an end to finger-pointing and blame-shifting.  
2) Amplify feedback loops. Here, you want to understand and respond to the needs of all your stakeholders, internal and external. You want to maximize feedback loops, learning and improving at every opportunity.

While Kim encourages the embedding of Dev into Ops, the same could be argued for RevOps. You just want to ensure your marketing people spend time in the field with sales. (Your marketing team might even help your sales people personally brand themselves – enabling them to perform as thought leaders and trusted advisors.)

And now, you move “right to left” – ensuring stranded leads are retrieved from sales and put on a  nurturing track. You also ensure the voice of the buyer is actively captured, codified, and applied to new marketing endeavors.

Communication and coordination are deeply enhanced by all this attention to feedback. While DevOps leverages feedback loops to reduce defects, accelerate fixes and incorporate new use cases into software development processes, RevOps leaders can enhance the quality of leads, reduce lead leakage, and obtain customer success stories to drive new marketing initiatives.  

3) Build a culture of continual experimentation and learning. As Kim notes, you want to foster a culture that that rewards experimentation, risk taking, and rapid learning.

Kim approvingly cites Scott Cook, founder of the tax software giant Intuit: “By installing a rampant innovation culture, we now do 165 experiments in the three months of tax season. Our business result? Conversion rate of the website is up 50 percent. Employee result? Everyone loves it, because now their ideas can make it to market.”

What if your people were just as committed to innovation as it applies to sales and marketing? What if your front office operated like one, unified and unstoppable force for growth? What if… or… why not?  

The RevOps revolution is coming. Why not join the vanguard?