Five Signs It’s Time to Add Bizops

John Cowgill
Costanoa Ventures
Published in
4 min readJun 1, 2017

Investors and CEOs tend to place a lot of emphasis on a company’s strategy. This isn’t too surprising. Strategy is fun. It’s easy for boards to debate the right strategy. And a good strategy is undeniably important.

But we all know good strategy isn’t sufficient — we must complement it with good execution.

Good execution means different things at different stages. At the early stage, it may mean experimentation, product development, and customer discovery. But as companies find product market fit and begin to scale, good execution changes. Processes, systems, and communication become paramount.

In this scaling stage, we often encourage our portfolio to begin building a business operations function. Bizops is an internal-facing function that puts processes, systems, and data analytics in place to enable a business to scale. In a nutshell, bizops helps your business operate better.

Bizops team members are versatile, cross-functional utility players. They leverage strong analytical and communication skills to identify areas for operational improvement and bring together the right resources to drive change. They often lead the charge on internal analytics projects and implement system and process enhancements.

Unfortunately, we find companies often wait too long to make their first bizops hire. Rather than proactively build systems and processes, they wait for operational breakdowns and other lagging indicators that show their operations have failed to scale.

Our perspective is “hire bizops before you need it.” Don’t wait for operations to become a hair on fire problem. Look for leading indicators that show it’s time to dedicate resources to helping your business operate better.

Here are five signs it’s time to add bizops to your team:

1. A backlog of needed systems and processes emerges. Early stage companies generally lack well-defined and repeatable core processes and systems. At an early stage, this can work — and even be desirable — as companies experiment with what works best. As companies scale, however, it is key to establish consistent practices and systems of record for anything repeatable. Examples include defining reporting practices and communication cadence and putting systems of record in place (HRIS, ERP, CRM, marketing automation, etc.). Early stage functional leaders may put some of these systems and processes in place, but a backlog of process and system improvements often emerges. Bizops employees are well-suited to upgrade these processes and systems.

2. Cross-functional coordination begins to break down. Communication and coordination across functions becomes particularly challenging as companies scale. Customer success may over-promise on new features. Marketing may deliver unqualified leads to sales. Engineering may fail to communicate hiring needs to HR. When these coordination failures occur, it can signal the need for a dedicated bizops resource. Bizops can prevent these breakdowns by tracking timelines, resources, and deliverables across functions. When they detect functions aren’t on the same page, they can raise the flag.

3. The challenge (and opportunity) of data arises. Growth also brings about the challenge — and opportunity — of data management and analysis. User behavior data now exists. Various pricing strategies, product features, and promotional channels can be tested. A company goes from limited data to an abundance of data. Unfortunately, many startups in this phase are so focused on growing they fail to collect and analyze all the relevant data until it is too late. A bizops hire can identify the right metrics to track and put processes in place to track them. They also bring the analytical horsepower to help analyze the data and surface insights. Bizops often leads the charge on internal analytics projects, including marketing funnel analysis, segmenting customers, and testing new pricing models.

4. New, nascent functions develop. Companies who have found product market fit usually have strong engineering, product, and sales teams. By comparison, functions like HR, customer success, and finance are often underdeveloped (or nonexistent). Bizops employees can help proactively identify when it is time to develop or scale these functions. Bizops will even occasionally incubate components of these functions before the company is mature enough to support a standalone role.

5. Executive teams are completely swamped. Scale also increases the demands on the executive team. As a result, tasks that do not clearly fall under an existing function can be left by the wayside. Important but not urgent tasks are neglected. A strong early stage bizops hire is comfortable as a generalist “utility player”, and can assist as necessary where needs arise.

Some examples include:

  • Compiling board decks (a frequent time-suck we covered in a recent post)
  • Managing external contractors and tools
  • Preparing all-hands meetings or quarterly reviews
  • Reviewing financial plans / KPI’s

Bizops have a broad mandate to look across the organization for processes, systems, and business model enhancements. If your company shows these indicators, it might be time to add bizops.

For more additional reading, see our recent series on metrics and analyses to put in place for sales teams (a great first project for an early stage bizops hire).