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The Digital Utopia Podcast Episode #34

What is the difference between RevOps and Ops?

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About the podcast

The Digital Utopia Podcast is for SMB Marketers and Business Leaders looking to align their Marketing, Sales, and Service departments so they’re part of one powerhouse growth team.

Each episode will dive into the strategies, philosophies, and tools that will change your approach to organizational growth, give you renewed focus and clarity, and allow you to build a brand that not only helps you stand out—but win.

The Digital Utopia Podcast is produced by Digitopia and hosted by Frank Cowell and Joseph Freeman.

Episode transcription

Frank  
The mission of the RevOps leader is to work closely with the COO Head of Marketing head of sales and head of operations to analyze, discover, and oversee revenue maximization opportunities across the entire customer lifecycle.
 
DJ  
You are listening to the digital utopia podcast, a resource dedicated to helping b2b leadership and executives gain clarity and focus in a chaotic marketplace.
 
Frank  
Hey, gang, welcome to the digital utopia podcast episode 34. I'm your host, Frank Cowell. And I'm joined by my co host, 
 
Joe  
Joseph Freeman. 
 
Frank  
Today, we're diving into the nuances of rev ops. 
 
Joe  
Whoa. So a question came up, right? We were on an AMA the other day question comes up. I'm an ops leader. So therefore, maybe I should be doing rev ops. What is the difference between operations and revenue operations? How do they differ? How do they not differ? What should I be doing differently than what I'm currently doing? So this actually raised a whole bunch of other questions. So one of them being should it be the operations person who's running RevOps? And so that's where this all starts. Let's dive in. 
 
Frank  
Okay, so just to answer that question plainly and bluntly, no, I don't think that the operations leader is the natural fit to be the rev ops leader per se. Okay. If we look at the rev ops role in mission, that role is really a right hand to the COO, if we're doing this, right, right. And we're doing this perfectly. Because at the end of the day, the CEO is ultimately responsible for what their RevOps, you know, everything we talked about DevOps and maximization of revenue opportunities, and creating a culture of revenue in your organization. Right. That's what the CEO is supposed to be doing. They're, they're supposed to make sure that the major functions in the business marketing, sales, operations, admin, and finance, and you might have r&d and whatnot in there. But those major functions, making sure that they're operating like a machine, so that way, the output at the end meets the revenue and profit targets. That's the CEOs job. They're executing on the CEOs, vision, and strategy and direction for the year.
 
Joe  
Right. So is that visionary and integrator type of practice you've talked about before 
 
Frank  
CEO, COO, visionary integrator. So it's really the CEO. And often you'll hear me refer to that role as the GM role. That's I use that word generically. Because I realized titles in organizations are different that CEO might be called President might be called GM. I just use GM generically for that role, but it is the CEO. And that's their job is just to make sure that that machine is optimized. Now, what I think people are realizing today with the advent of digital and how everything's become digital, and how we understand now that buying life cycles are holistic, and we need to be looking at our buyers holistically through those buyer life cycles. It's a big job. And there's a lot of information and a lot of data to deal with. So I think this advent of rev ops is really important because they become a right hand to the CEO, and to do that analysis work, right. So there, when those two people can get together, and and optimize for those revenue and profit goals, that to me is a much better pairing, I don't see this as a completely separate function that reports to the CEO. To me, the rev ops leader is working side by side with the major functions of the business reporting to the COO. 
 
Joe  
So kind of what you're saying in that relationship. The COO, who is the CEO's integrator kind of becomes the visionary in that relationship. And the rev ops person is their integrator, in a way. 
 
Frank  
Yeah. And so I mentioned this a moment ago, but I think I would, I would really scale back on the word visionary, because I think a lot of companies have too much time in vision and not enough time in execution. I think the visionary time needs to be reserved for the CEO. And that person is going to gauge how much time they're supposed to spend there, and how forward thinking they need to be and the time they're gonna spend executing projects with maybe special people that are assigned to them to move visionary projects forward. But make no mistake, COO down is about executing this year's plan, right? This year's plan, the CEO needs to worry about the vision. So the CEO is prepping for the next three years. And so they may tap into some of those people for special projects. But the main focus of their jobs day to day needs to be this year's plan. And so I'm a little hesitant to use the word visionary, that better yet I like to use the word, you know, strategy and tactics. And I think every role can has an element of both. So for example, in that relationship, the CEOs, the strategist and the COO is the tactical implementer. But through the lens of the COO, they now have to be strategic in how they think about how they're going to execute that plan. If the CEO is doing it, right, the CEO paints a picture for the vision points the direction And talks about what the outcomes need to be and the accomplishments that need to happen, and then leaves the CEO to work with the team to figure out how that's going to happen. Well, then figuring out the how there's going to be time where you need to be strategic
 
Joe  
to come up with their own strategy come up with it, right. So it's now they're playing the strategy is roll for that initial 
 
Frank  
Correct. So I've often said, you know, one person strategy is the person's above tactics, right? So it kind of depends on the lens that you're looking at. So yes, every one of these function heads needs to be strategic. And then there's the part of their job that's purely tactical. And so they're going to you're going to morph back and forth between both. And again, in the spirit of what I said a moment ago, businesses are usually light on execution. So oftentimes, tactics get a bad rap. But to me, you should be spending the bulk of your time in tactics. As long as you spend the proper time in strategy, and define the right strategy and get everyone on the same page, then everyone should just like get to work.
 
Joe  
Yeah. So when it comes to the operations leader, whether that's the COO or the GM, or whatever the title is in your business, so
 
Frank  
that that would be the operating leader 
 
Joe  
operating? 
 
Frank  
That's that's the thing that I think is, was an eye opener for me a few years ago, my mentor explained this difference to me, which is the difference between operations and operating. So operating refers to the entire business, that's your COO, that's your GM operations, is a function that has to do with the product, 
 
Joe  
Meaning more like a production manager or something that could be on the operations side of that conversation. Correct? Correct. Gotcha. So difference between somebody who is operating or even someone who is doing operations and rev Ops, because those terms are similar. And I think there's a lot of confusion that comes up since I'm in operations or because I'm operating in my the rev ops person. 
 
Frank  
No, it's like, I think what you're gonna find today, and this is a, this is where I sometimes get visceral reactions to what the business world does with some of these, you know, flavor of the day words like right now everything is Ops, right? Have you noticed this, where there's rev Ops, there's sales ops, now sales is sales ops, it's no longer just, Hey, your sales people are selling shit, right? Know, your sales ops, right. And I get like the need for that function, and you're helping operationalize everything in the sales process. And if you're big enough, then you might need those functions. But everything's ops today, there's DevOps, you know, I know of a company where, you know, they're in like, the tech space, but you know, they have cloud Ops, everything is up to date. So to me, it's a little bit of like a word, do your, you know, it's a little bit of like, flavor of the month right now. So I wouldn't get caught up in this like ops thing. You know, because I do think it's confusing. 
 
Joe  
Well, but it's out there. And everybody's using it. And everybody's talking. So there is confusion between the difference. So let's, if we could just break down what in general, would the operating officer or even the operations person, I know they're a little different here? What would they be doing? And then what is the rev ops person in charge of doing that's different? 
 
Frank  
Yeah. So if we look at just the word operations, okay, it's, it's the operationalizing, that function. So if we talk about, you know, the just the traditional operations function, they're trying to operationalize the development of the product, the delivery of the product, the producing of the product, okay, if you're a professional service business, that that means you have Client Services in there, that means you have project management in there, that means you have client communication, you have these all these things. And so to operationalize it means you're you're creating the systems, you're documenting, there's process, you're measuring it, you're making sure that you have the right cost structures, you're making sure the clients are getting the right value. You're, you're operationalizing that so that it happens consistently every time. So in a way, in a way, the head of operations has a very similar job to the COO that the chief operating officer in that what that person tried to do is doing the same thing, but across all the major functions, what you want is to operationalize the process, so that at the end, there's the revenue and profit goals that are met, the upper head of operations is doing something very similar with the product flow. 
 
Joe  
Okay, yeah. 
 
Frank  
And then, and then the same with all of the other functions. There's some even though they may not have ops in their name, and today, a lot of them do, but they're supposed to just operationalize the process of that function sets. You'll see that like in sales, for example, you might have a vice president of sales, and then under them, you might have like a sales ops director. So what that what that is telling me is that sales up director is is a right hand to the head of sales, working with that person to make sure that the process of sales is operationalized. So that person is digging into the tech, the workflows, this the snippets, the templates, making sure there is a system that happens consistently for the process of sales. So you can kind of take that approach with, with every one of those function marketing ops and admin ops and finance Ops, right? What is how do you operationalize the process of those functions so that way the people working within their produce consistently.
 
Joe  
So where I think rev ops is different specifically, I think the job of the RevOps person leader, whoever is in charge of that is to operationalize the client's journey and their journey through, you know, what we consider like a delightful journey, making sure that as they move from visitor to lead to qualified, whether that's marketing qualified or sales, qualified to opportunity to customer and eventually to a fan, that that is operationalized, that that is put together in such a way that you can actually monitor the metrics and monitor the trends. And you can identify the bottlenecks. So you can say, we're getting stuck here, we're getting them all the way to a salesperson. And for some reason, we're not kicking them across the finish line, what do we do? So then you monitor that you can go in and you can optimize what's happening there, whether that's through process, whether that's through technology, whatever is needed to help push them across the finish line? To me, that's the job of the RevOps leader moreso than the product, or maybe not at all the product, not the GP, not the revenue, they're all about optimizing the client's journey. 
 
Frank  
So no, I think revenue is part of that. That's why the title is revenue operations. So to me the way I look at it, in fact, I wrote down a effective way, I'm sharing this out here soon on my socials, I think it goes out today. But if I look at what I define as the mission of the rev ops leader, the mission is to work closely with the COO, Head of Marketing, head of sales and head of operations to analyze, discover, and oversee revenue maximization opportunities across the entire customer lifecycle. So this is part analyst. It's part strategist, and part driver. And the reason I say driver, is because this person has to coordinate those heads, and get them on the same page and have the meetings have the conversation. So everyone's like, I agree, I disagree. And at the end of it, we're marching in the same direction, on the same page. 
 
Joe  
So that I agree with but I actually feel like we need to talk about whether or not they're in charge of actual revenue, I know that that is the function they play to help operationalize revenue. But I don't think I'd ever put that is their KPI. They are not really responsible for a revenue number at the end of the day, that really is more of the operating officer, right? 
 
Frank  
Well, that's why I said that. Ultimately, this, when I hear people talk about rev Ops, to me, this has been the CEOs job forever and ever. So to me, the interesting thing about rev ops is, it sounds redundant, in my opinion. But due to the nature of the world we live in today, it's too big of a job. So that's why I see or the rev ops function as being a partner to the CEO, more than a partner to anyone else in the organization. So yes, they In my opinion, they are responsible, they're co responsible for revenue with the CEO having you know, that person's head on the chopping block, ultimately, for executing towards those targets. To me, the key thing there is they're uncovering revenue maximization opportunities. And if they're not doing that, we don't need a rev ops function. We are wasting money. 
 
Joe  
That's interesting. So what would you hold a rev ops leader accountable to what types of KPI's now we talked about the KPIs that they're looking at, right, they're looking at, for each of the different departments are looking at leads, and they're looking at qualified opportunities, customers, making sure that those numbers are hitting appropriately. What would you as COO hold, the rev ops leader will do
 
Frank  
so it'd be one of two things if I felt like we were going to hit our revenue targets. Regardless, you know, that we had a history and a trend and a buying pipeline, and we had a customer base to where we were going to achieve our growth objectives for the year in the next three years. If I felt like that was just a natural organic path to happening, I would hold the rev ops person accountable to revenue in excess of target. Because otherwise, why have them around? Honestly, 
 
Joe  
if it's already working? 
 
Frank  
If it's right, why have them around? You're wasting money. Right? Now, if the organization is in a situation where, man we're like struggling, we haven't hit our revenue targets, then I would say just hitting the revenue targets would be what I would hold the rev ops person accountable to, because if it's not that, why have them around? Honestly, why have them run? Because if it's all about if it's solely about like buying journey and buying experience, that that goes back to the CEO, right, it comes full circle back to the CEO. The CEO is ultimately responsible for the vision and direction established when we come full circle and say what actually happened. Do buyers feel about the brand the way you wanted them to feel about the brand. Do they have preference? You know, are they delivering? are you delivering the value that you said you wanted to deliver in the marketplace with your mission statement and where you're going to take the company, to me that comes full circle back to the CEO. So if it's just about like, do buyers have the experience that's ideal in the marketplace and sets that brand up for preference. That's, that's ultimately on the CEO shoulders at the end of the day, 
 
Joe  
it might be from a visionary standpoint, but they're not getting their hands dirty making that happen. They're mandating that it happens, they might be able to identify, hey, it's not happening here, go fix that. But it is really the rev ops leader to get in there, roll up their sleeves and say, here's how we're gonna fix it at this specific level, we're going to put a process in place, we're going to add in a little technology and a report to make sure it's happening. And this is how we're fixing it. And that's where I think it's different than the full circle thing you just said, 
 
Frank  
Well, again, I don't think the rev ops person is necessarily responsible for the actual experience, right? They can point out where there are deficits, deficits, they can point out, where there are gaps and opportunities, they can point those things out. And that's why I think that the first job of rev ops and why I set them in that order, the first job is actually analysis, that person has to be an analyst, probably more so than anything else. 
 
Joe  
100%. 
 
Frank  
And then the second job is strategist. And what I mean by strategist is, they should, they should be able to then say, hey, based on this particular gap, here's the opportunity that I think is worth looking into. But they're not the ones responsible for coming up with the content that goes into that opportunity. Right, they should be able to define context. But the head of marketing the head of sales, head of operations, they've got to put their heads together that whole team and figure out what what goes into that. What is the idea that goes into that? That's not the rev Ops, it's not the job of the rev ops person to say, this is the gap. And the opportunity is this And oh, by the way, we need a campaign or we need a positioning or we need this is how we're going to feel that their job is not to come up with how we're going to fill that. 
 
Joe  
So I would agree with that. I think that's a really good point. I do think though, when you put the responsibility back on the leader in the marketing department or sales department, what I've seen often come back are pretty shotgun, sort of scatterbrained, that's not to be offensive, these are smart people doing this, but you know, they bring back to the table, here are the nine things, we're going to try to fix this, right. And, and that is where I've seen as is a rev ops voice and leader, somebody kind of needs to be outside that say, hold on, don't do all those nine things, do these two things, those are probably going to have the biggest impact. And if they don't work, then go fall back on your nine things. But focus hyper focused, hyper specific about what you're doing and go deep on it, don't just try a little bit of everything and hope something sticks. 
 
Frank  
To me, that's indicative of a cultural problem within the company, though. So I do think that this, the rev ops leader, and the COO can provide guidance to marketing sales and Ops, okay, they can provide guidance, and they can give recommendations that, you know, focus is better than going broad, they can give this guidance and give opinions. But ultimately, if those two people are saying out of these nine, do these two, well, then who do you have working for you? If you always have to tell that leader? Which two things they should be doing out of the nine, then you have the wrong person in that seat?
 
Joe  
That well, that's a really good point. So it happens all the time, though.
 
Frank  
So then that's why I'm saying I think, organizations and look, we've just come through a pretty devastating economic pandemic, okay. companies can't afford to be fat. Today, they can't. So we have to examine these roles and say, do we really need a Rev ops leader, because if we're going to say we need this, then by God, we better exceed our revenue target that we think we are naturally going to hit, or we better hit it because we felt like we were going to miss it. If that's not the case, you don't need a rev ops function. Sorry, you don't need it. If that person is going to be truly valuable, they're a right hand to help. It's a lot like the game of golf. Right? Take a great golfer, like I'm not a golf person. So the only person this is gonna be a good the only person I know is like Tiger Woods, right? So let's take Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods just doesn't go out there by himself. You know, flex, crank the ball, do the pots, do the chips, do all that, like he just doesn't do that alone. He has a person next to him. That points things out. To me, that's the CEO and the rev Ops, that rev ops person should be helping the CEO and pointing things out. So when they they realize that there's an opportunity in operations, to increase retention, increase referrals, increase upsells. And that's the biggest economic opportunity at the time. They should help point that out with the CEO and say, You know what, here's here are some Potential directions to go with that. But this is where we need to be focusing right now, this is the biggest economic opportunity we have. Plain and simple. So then you work with that operations lead, you bring in sales, and you bring in marketing because they all dynamically work together in one can influence the other. But ultimately, the head of operations then has to execute, and figure that out. Now that team's there to support. But if that operations person can't figure it out, you've got the wrong person. And so I think there's, there are too many functions in business today, there are too many roles in job titles that aren't being held accountable to what they're hired for. And so I would just encourage everyone today, if you're diving into the world of RevOps, if you truly need it, hold it accountable. It's not there to just have yet another function in the business to just add more layers of decisions and more meetings. That's not the reason I find I fear that that's where a lot of the business world's going. And the reason I fear that is because the question that started the call today, think if we don't as organizations, you're hiring this role. And you don't even have this question, figure it out, you're just jumping on the bandwagon, right? Don't do that. Don't do that this role exists purely to drive market share revenue opportunities, plain and simple, by the title. And by the way, you could also assign a gross profit metric to that as well or KPI. Right, because ultimately, if you look at marketing, sales, and Ops, the at the end of that little mini funnel and process, you get gross profit. So in my opinion, you know, I would call it, I would call it the gross profit up operations. In my opinion, that's more important. The reason I find that to be more important because it forces you to look at the money through a different lens. Do you look at it from the acquisition of service and product and client? Or do you look at it as the function of delivering that profitably? Those are two different lenses. And I will tell you, the healthiest businesses look at the second. Are we profitably delivering what we're selling? That's the lens? Because then it changes everything it makes you question, should we sell to this group? Should we sell this offering? Who should we hire? It changes it changes your questions,
 
Joe  
when you simply switch from looking at revenue to profit is what you're saying 
 
Frank  
gross profit.
 
Joe  
Yeah.
 
Frank  
Because if you look at bottom line profit, now you got to bring in like SG and a costs like things in admin things and finance, which, again, that's that's the COOs job as well. In fact, I can even see, you know, the COO having to but if the company is big enough, I can even see that person having to two analysts, one analyst that looks at Rev. GP, and then one analyst who looks at you know, you know, the other side of it, then you kind of get into the finance, like the finance team is doing that. And I would let finance worry about expenses, because they're always looking to reduce expenses. But if we're having a right hand to the, to the COO, I mean, ultimately, GP matters more than revenue, 
 
Joe  
GP matters more than revenue. So let's say that somebody's listening today. And they you didn't scare him away, right? You said a lot of stuff. Like maybe you shouldn't be doing RevOps, and maybe you shouldn't, but if you should be if you're convinced you should be what would you say to that person? How do you get started? What's the very first step you got to take? 
 
Frank  
Well, shameless self promotion, come get my book called Building your digital utopia. Because we talk about a process that is a lifecycle driven process, you first have to think about what you sell, and what you deliver as a complete process, not just as siloed functions. And the next thing I would look at is just look at your targets. You know, where what do you have to achieve this year? What do you have to achieve in the next two to three years? Are you on track with the plans that you have in place now, if the plans you have in place are going to get you there, don't do this, you're good, right? hold accountable the functions you already have. But if you feel like things have gotten so complex that either you might not hit them, or you find that things are complex enough to where you just need help. As a COO, that's totally fine. Like companies reach sizes where, you know, executives need help they need a right hand. That's totally fine. If you're there. It's worth exploring, but but please be focused on the fact that this is to maximize the revenue potential of your firm. 
 
Joe  
That's great, plain and simple. Where do you get the book?
 
Frank  
Go to buildingyourdigitalutopia.com There, we have links to the book also links to more of these podcast episodes. We have some other additional stuff for you there as well. So go there, check it out. Let me know what you think. I think we've about time on today's episode. Thanks for joining us today. Looking forward to furthering this conversation in future episodes. As always, take care. Have an awesome day.
 
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