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Challenges in Establishing RevOps.

By Jay Famico

Okay, you’ve seen the benefits of RevOps and understand that it’s in your organization’s best interest because it improves the dynamics between your departments and keeps everyone focused on the same goals and KPIs. That all sounds great, but what’s the catch and what are the challenges?

Broadly speaking, common challenges with RevOps fall into three categories; politics, uncertainty and partnership.

  • Politics. There is often a hesitancy from executives that may not wish to relinquish control of their operational resources. This reservation may be driven from a perspective that equates the number of staff one has as proof of their power and clout within the organization. In addition, it is also driven by a concern that the operations team members which support them will be less responsive to THEM under RevOps. There is also where the issue of getting executives to buy-in and support RevOps comes into play. This can be challenging because there are always many more projects and initiatives vying for their attention. This becomes especially challenging for high growth organizations with multiple strategic initiatives.
  • Uncertainty. People are often afraid of the unknown, and not having a clear path on how to move forward can be scary. Obstacles in this category include how to articulate and measure the value a RevOps function, how to phase the rollout of RevOps (it should be a graduate rollout and not a cut and switch), and unfortunately, the view of some executives that operations are simply a cost center and not a growth generating flywheel. The fact is, RevOps is still new, and with anything new there comes a lot of uncertainty until results have been thoroughly proven. Back in 2005, when I built out my first marketing operations function, it was still new and was difficult to set up the parameters of marketing ops with my SVP of marketing. The same is true with Revenue Operations now. Yes, there’s a lot of companies that have RevOps, but in the scheme of all businesses, those that truly have revenue operations enshrined in their organizations are relatively few.
  • Partnership. Lastly, the partnership gets into departmental alignment. There’s a frequent concern that when operations teams come together, there will be a lack of shared goals or that there’s a lack of partnership between operations teams as-is. In addition, things such as personality mismatches, disagreements on who should take lead, and all of the struggles with the basic forming, storming, and transforming phases that occur when new teams are assembled are all concerns. The fear is that you can force people to work together, but you can’t force them to like it, and if they don’t like it, how can you trust it’s going to be successful?

Perceived obstacles in establishing centralized RevOps

The two largest perceived obstacles in establishing a centralized RevOps function that are referenced by individuals that don’t have a centralized RevOps function in place, but are considering one are goals and authority.

  • Goals. Setting up a centralized RevOps function means putting forth joint goals instead of siloed tactics from each department. In turn, a lack of shared operational goals and a lack of current collaboration levels are the most cited concerns. In addition, if there currently isn’t a strong relationship with other operational teams, often there’s a sensitivity on aligning on shared goals, and in doing so, actually removing goals and objectives that an operations team currently focus on.
  • Authority. Functional leaders not wanting to lose authority is often brought up as an obstacle when discussing RevOps. This response is primarily driven by functional leaders that equate the number of direct reports they have to status and prestige, and as such, RevOps risks reducing their stature. There is also a concern that RevOps may limit ones their career trajectory because if there’s only one head of sales, marketing, and customer success operations, there’s only one senior position for “operations” when there would have been three (head of sales ops, head of marketing ops, head of customer success ops) previously.

Actual obstacles in establishing centralized RevOps.

The challenges that you perceive, however, are not necessarily the actual challenges–or to the severity, you might suspect. It’s one thing to watch someone run in a marathon, but it’s quite another to train and do it yourself. So, what are the actual biggest obstacles in Setting up RevOps. To draw then out these are the two most significant issues flagged by companies that have actually established a centralized revenue operations team function.

  • Value definition. Difficulty articulating the value of RevOps is more of an issue than anything else. Despite the fanfare, the newness of this function is like owning a cell phone in 2002 vs 2020. Selling RevOps to senior executives is difficult because more often than not, they’re less knowledgeable on the organization’s operational backbone than you are. To help them understand, try using presentations and reports that help support your business case. Also, look to peer leaders in other organizations, which have rolled out revenue operations, speaking to the business benefits along with what their transition looked like.
  • Collaboration. Fear of the unknown is a common obstacle. How will team members like working with the other operations staff members? While the fear of not collaborating with new people is present, it’s not a deal-breaker. Simply start by introducing the teams to each other more and more beforehand. Have people sit in on meetings with another team to observe and learn from them. Sit the teams closer to each other so they can naturally run into each other more often and organically start a dialogue. Furthermore, a change in the culture is, fortunately, less of an issue. And as for getting executives on board, it goes back to the issue I flagged above — articulating the value impact of a centralized RevOps function, and that comes down to your ability to make a business case and a defensible transition plan.

Also, the perceived issue of functional leaders not wanting to lose control is still a challenge listed by the companies that have established a centralized RevOps function, but the frequency that it’s referenced as a top obstacle is actually quite low. So, if this is your primary concern, it’s an issue, but it’s actually less of an issue than you think. A way to address this concern is to have senior executives talk to their counterparts at other companies that have enacted a centralized RevOps function. It often makes a huge difference to hear from two or three people that have already made that move forward.

Iron Horse Insight

Just because something may be challenging doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Yes, RevOps is new, and yes, there are challenges, but there are also significant benefits. The key is understanding where the challenges and pitfalls are in advance — so as to learn from their struggles and hardships and avoid making the same mistakes so that you can enjoy the benefits of RevOps.

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