Guest blog by Eileen Chow Director, Demand Generation Ops at Evergage

Since the line between traditional sales and marketing has blurred, why hasn’t the same happened to sales and marketing operations?

On the surface it seems pretty straightforward – sales ops supports sales and marketing ops supports marketing. As long as the two functions don’t report to the same C-level person (while rare, does happen), then they co-exist with the same core function – scaling revenue maximization through processes and efficient resource management – but with different focuses.

Both ops functions are responsible and have overlap on key activities such as setting strategy, optimizing processes, managing technology, and getting business insights from data and analytics. The difference is in application.

Marketing ops tends to focus on areas that are of highest priority to marketing, such as campaign reporting, planning and budgeting, tracking lead attribution and influence, and ensuring proper marketing to sales hand-offs. Sales ops focuses on sales productivity and effectiveness, forecasting, territory alignment, compensation and order management, and CRM administration.

With the blurring of the lines on the go-to-market front and competitive pressure to be customer-centric and have a single view of the customer, it would seem like a no-brainer to combine forces.

You’ve probably heard about the growing movement to do just that. Whether it’s creating a centralized business, revenue, or customer ops team, the idea of SMOPS (sales marketing operations) seems more appealing than ever from an organizational point of view. In a recent Martech Today article, “The business case to merge sales & marketing ops”, Scott Vaughan articulates several benefits of this approach, including a single view of the truth and customer journey, an integrated sales and marketing tech stack, and common goals. The ebook “Rise of Revenue Ops: Why Marketing & Sales Operations Make Growth Possible” (co-produced by Radius and others) not only lays out a comprehensive revenue ops framework, but also makes this point:

“Tasked with increasing efficiencies across marketing and sales, ops teams increasingly have to navigate a combination of cross-functional processes, technology investments, and advanced analytics. In fact, with the increasing amount of overlap between marketing and sales processes, ops leaders have to also possess broader management and go-to-market skills overseeing strategic functions including planning, campaign execution, and GTM performance management.”

Why is there such resistance to taking the ops functions out of their respective departments? One fear is that by separating ops they will become more removed from the needs of their day-to-day sales and marketing counterparts, a problem which has traditionally plagued IT departments.

Another concern is while a centralized ops team can be more objective, it can just as easily form its own biases and objectives. Without a strong management team and the proper incentives, it’s hard to let go of the need to claim your fair share of the credit, especially when bonus time rolls around. Lastly, practically speaking operational roles are often not clearly defined even within departments. Many times multiple individuals will fulfill the ops role. Even when there is a designated ops person, there may be pieces they are handing off to IT or relying on other team members to help with. Deciding where that line is for each group can be a challenge in and of itself!

Where We’re Heading

How do you want to slice your cake, vertically or horizontally? The ongoing debates on how to structure teams from hiring specialists to generalists, strategists vs. executors, ops or non-ops will never provide a definite answer for every business.

InsightSquared recently partnered with LinkedIn to release an in-depth report on the ops persona, “Sales Ops vs. Business Ops vs. Marketing Ops: A Visual Analysis.” Ops skills are in high demand, and the good news is that it doesn’t necessarily take a college degree or certification to get them. The bad news is that it’s really hard to identify good ops people.

We’ve seen larger organizations take steps to centralize data and analytics as intelligence becomes increasingly critical to business success. In the next few years, we’ll likely see similar patterns as businesses start to recognize how operations has evolved from providing backend support to building growth engines, particularly through their ownership of key systems such as the CRM, marketing automation, and audience management platforms.

As ops professionals, it’s equally important for us to prepare for this future of even greater accountability. If you’re not partnering outside of your department for projects, it’s likely that you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to deepen your understanding of the business.

Don’t know what your marketing ops counterpart is up to? Go grab lunch together and I guarantee both of you will find plenty in common. Are you connecting with peers in your industry to see what challenges they’re facing? If not, then you’re probably re-inventing the wheel on a regular basis!