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When to Involve Operations (Spoiler: Often & Early!)

Posted December 21, 2022
When to Involve Operations (Spoiler: Often & Early!)

David Donnelly, Director of Marketing at ORBCOMM, a pioneer in IoT technology, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. David shares his thoughts on the main things a company as a whole should consider before they purchase martech, the key considerations operations must take before adding another tool, and how to navigate leaders getting emotionally sold  before involving operations.

David has accumulated 12 years experience in the marketing field, split between digital and operations, mostly operations. He has worked for B2B software companies, these are established organizations now pivoting to SaaS models. He has also worked for companies that have typically achieved growth through acquisitions.

 

What are the main things a company as a whole should consider before they purchase a martech tool?

David’s professional background lends him a unique perspective on the topic of whether you should pause before buying more tools. At the start of this chat, David mentioned what he feels are the main factors a company needs to consider before purchasing a tool.

“It’s an important thing to consider because despite how we think we have progressed, it’s really common for these decisions to be made in silos by different departments. Sometimes, you step into companies and see that the same thing has been bought multiple times. So for a company as a whole, I would say an individual’s responsibility is to focus on opening up those channels of communication between departments and you can make collective decisions that are best for the company.”

People in operations are pretty often the last to know when a company is making a technology purchase. However, the first thing that we should do is ask ourselves what problem are we trying to solve? As much as we’d like to think that we are all very rational human beings, we are all really susceptible to marketing. David agrees that many people skip this initial question when they’re looking at technology.

“When it comes to anything like this, we have to be aware of our own biases and to be more objective. I think it requires putting things on paper and involving more than one person in the decision-making.”

 

I have a feeling that companies buy tools without operations because they see us as slowing down the process. What are the key considerations operations must take before agreeing to add another tool to their tech stack?

David offered his insights on the top considerations when evaluating another tool.

“I think the skills of evaluating solutions and purchasing something aren’t well defined and people assume anyone can do it. As soon as someone comes back to you and asks questions: what is it for? What does it solve? Who are the stakeholders involved in something like this? What’s going to be the measure of success once we have it done? And what’s the status quo? If you don’t have a tool today, how are you getting by without it? 

“Write those down on a one-pager. I also like one-pager summaries of projects because, frequently, projects don’t get completed, but you can always return to them later on when the opportunity arises. So always having it on a one page document to summarize a project. The objective. The pain point. Why you are doing it.

“If someone hasn’t done that, I’d like to think that that opens up the conversation, which you can then turn around and say, let’s plan this trip. I find this is the planning portion and a mistake in planning is fixed in execution. That’s really painful from an operations perspective. That’s when you think, if you had involved me for a day, then maybe I would have saved myself a month’s work at the end of the project. When people are going out and buying a solution or they’re picking one, they are not aware of that pain which happens at the end. I don’t think anybody can ever appreciate the pain behind not planning unless they’re the person who ends up fixing things.”

There are two points of importance here: The first one is a lack of understanding around what’s necessary technically for a martech tool to work properly. The second is not understanding the burden it puts on the person who is going to support it, which is indeed unfortunate. Maybe if we define why we are involved and what the technical needs are, maybe it would be helpful. David concurs.

“I think it does help if people are really responsive if you frame things as a minimal viable product. When people come in with the solution that they want to execute on, they can be a little bit impatient and won’t understand. So they will say, I just want it done quickly. If you can come in and say, okay, this is a little bit compromised, but we can get it done quickly. It achieves their goal and puts you in a position when you can say, we went into this knowing that it’s an MVP. So you’re sort of lining up the conversation to say, we are going to have to continue investing time with this. What’s the next version of this? How do we continue? I think that’s a helpful way to start and contribute to the planning portion too.”

A lot of customers struggle with their data being siloed in a bunch of different places, not having operations people early on to ask questions like does it integrate with our CRM or marketing automation system. There are companies who can waste $25,000 at a time by not asking such questions and then they decide to go with a different tool and purchase duplicate software. 

David has seen other similar situations that could have been avoided.

“You talked briefly about the idea that you’ve to fix the data before you bring in the reporting. This is the source of a lot of pain in terms of buying a solution before you’re ready. And that’s especially true with the reporting. In some ways people are unintentionally trying to avoid the hard work of getting the right data. Well, first define the process. If you’re trying to measure something, you have to figure out what are the milestones in the process that you want to measure for success. Then, you want to ensure that you actually have the underlying data. That’s really difficult to explain to someone who isn’t technical because they will go and get a demo and they’ll see a funnel chart and think, yeah, that’s what I want and they will be promised that. Then, once you come in and point out, the chart is reporting nothing. There’s no data there. 

“So defining the process and ensuring that you gather the data, that is the real hard work. Buying the tool that goes on top of it to present it is relatively easier than that part. It’s the same when people are suggesting that they buy tools that enable some sort of new function like a sales enablement solution where they say I guess it’s that thing. It’s like asking what’s your inbound and your outbound sales process? And if sometimes there isn’t a definition of it and you’re saying, but we want to automate that somehow. It has to manually exist before you can automate it.

There are so many things that are just gold in David’s statement. There’s almost this degree of magical thinking involved sometimes that we’re going to solve an issue with technology when we haven’t put the framework and the process in place to really execute well. One of the things David talked about is sales outreach. It’s not only about the frequency, but really dialing in and taking the time to analyze the quality. Early on in many organizations, a lot of salespeople get sold on tools like Gong which are fabulous. However, one of the key considerations anyone should take before they buy technology is whether they’ve got the resources to utilize and get the most out of that tool and whether they’ve got the skill set internally to analyze that. David agrees.

“Yeah, I find that people sometimes come into an operations team with a solution and they say, I want to run this immediately! As soon as you ask those questions, people are more reasonable. That’s the only time it’s in a way a little bit difficult or uncomfortable. It’s when you’re asking people to sort of back up the train and say, okay, we’ve got to do due diligence at the start.”

 

A lot of leaders get emotionally sold on a tool before involving operations and it puts us in a tough position. What are some questions or facts we can point to, to get things on a more rational track?

David offered his thoughts on how operations can navigate around leaders who get emotionally sold on tools before involving them.

“If you can find that person who is senior enough that originally came up with the idea, my experience shows me that they’re sort of type A personalities. They’re a dominant personality and they don’t care about how you solve it. So if you come back and say, I can solve this quicker or I can solve it for maybe a little bit more money, but it’s faster and this is how I do it. They will say, fine, whatever. They don’t want to hear about the solution.

“The other challenge is when that message gets passed down to another level of management and they’ve made assumptions that you’re not fully sure of. They will say, this is what we want. And you’re pretty confident and say, I think if I spoke to this person, they don’t care that much on how to execute. That’s maybe the hardest part when you’re playing a game of broken telephone and you’re getting only part of the message. 

“So again, I would hope  these things will be clarified with some sort of planning document. I find the racing model quite useful. Additionally, if you can identify and get executive buy-in in those things early on will be really helpful. This is because you can also define your role in the decision if it’s not defined. Typically, what happens is let’s say it’s a project coming from a sales team. They want to be responsible, but you’re sort of accountable. At the same time, they only want to inform you and it’s this mishmash where it’s like they just want to tell you how to execute, but if it goes wrong, you’re on the hook for it. 

“It’s a strange relationship where if you did actually say, if you’re going to pick the solution and they’re only informing me, then does that really make sense? Or would you at least like to consult me on it first to see if that solution would complement our existing tech stack? Or would you like to consult with me to see if there’s an alternative way to solve this without buying anything? People will say, oh! Okay, that’s how I know it would work with you and I find that could be another thing as well. People just don’t know what the role is in the project and as soon as you talk about roles, then all of a sudden people give up on things and they say, okay I don’t mind if you want that instead of me.”

For more content on selecting the right tools, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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