Revenue Operations has emerged as the fastest growing job in the US right now according to jobs analysis by Linked In. But a quick Google search will tell you nobody really agrees on what Revenue Operations is. Few can define it.
Our analysis of hundreds of RevOps job descriptions, and discussions with over seventy executives who carry the Revenue Operations moniker in their title – it’s pretty clear that no one job description is the same. Rather, Revenue Operations describes a conflation of a dozen or more historically fragmented functions and roles – Sales Operations, Sales Enablement, Marketing Operations, Customer Analytics, as well as Training and Development.
That may sound random. But that’s the fundamental point of Revenue Operations.
At the highest level, the primary goal of a Revenue Operations leader is to unify and align the operations, systems, and data that support revenue teams along the entire revenue cycle to generate more consistent and scalable growth. That’s important because growing a business in 2023 is a digital, data-driven, and technology enabled team sport. B2B growth leaders are driving a machine that uses customer data as gasoline, selling content as oxygen, and digital technology to get traction with customers. The assets that support this growth machine – customer data, digital selling infrastructure, and brands – are the largest financial assets on the company balance sheet.
On a practical level, running this growth machine using traditional marketing, sales, customer service, product, IT and finance functions is like driving an expensive racing car that is only firing on two cylinders, gets terrible gas mileage, and needs a wheel alignment. Customers won’t suffer the bumps and bruises of being passed from disconnected marketing, sales, and customer success teams as they move along the revenue cycle. And investors won’t stand for high selling costs, leaky revenue forecasts, and untapped customer expansion potential for long.
That’s the primary reason why 90% of organizations are actively changing the way they lead and align revenue teams and the operations that support them according to research in the book Revenue Operations. The lines between these functional teams have blurred. And the systems and data that support them are becoming increasingly connected. The difference between the marketing and sales technology stack are disappearing. First party customer data from web sites needs to be merged with account data in CRM and customer inquiries from Customer Success. And the entire notion of a sales transaction has changed as businesses go from selling individual widgets to streams of consumable services and subscriptions.
This has spawned the Revenue Operations job function – a next generation operations leader with a mandate to orchestrate sales, marketing, and service teams – and align the operations, systems, data and processes that support revenue teams to get better control over the end-to-end revenue cycle. To achieve that level of alignment, leading companies are redesigned the role of operations that support the revenue cycle to create Revenue Operations roles that have an expanded scope and mandate to accelerate revenues. Large enterprises like Juniper Networks, Pure Storage, Conga, Affirm, and Schneider Electric are introducing expanded Revenue Operations roles that have a broader scope and a remit to better manage commercial assets, the operations and enablement infrastructure, and the customer journey across the enterprise. Some organizations are folding all of the operations and systems that support the revenue cycle under one operations leader. For example, Affirm has put in place a Revenue Operations VP reporting to the Chief Commercial Officer, who has analytics, sales enablement, program management, field operations, selling systems and tools, and incentive compensation as direct reports. Others have expanded the remit of an existing operations function, as in the case of Conga, which added Sales Operations, Field Operations, Deal Desk, and Order Operations under the purview of Marketing Operations leader, as part of a RevOps Transformation initiative.
Our analysis of RevOps job descriptions found the Revenue Operations job function is a moving target. The role is constantly evolving as organizations consolidate the operations and systems that support the revenue cycle. “Revenue operations is the future evolution of sales operations,” says Mary Lee, Senior Director of Business Operations at Lionbridge, who manages CRM, analytics, financial reporting and advanced analytics in her role. “The industry is moving on a journey along a continuum from sales operations to revenue operations. Sales operations wasn’t even a function 15 years ago. It started as reporting. It expanded into technology with the administration of CRM. Then we had to connect selling measurements to financial measurements. Then we had to integrate marketing technology with sales technology. Then we had to change the behavior of the sales team. And we have to motivate them with incentives and quotas. The role keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
But while job titles and the specifics of the role will vary over time with the maturity of organizations, the destination is clear. All of the roles we evaluated draw from 5 core disciplines. These five disciplines reflect the convergence and evolution of the traditional functions that support the revenue cycle. They combine in ways that can grow customer lifetime value, maximize the return on growth assets, and accelerate revenues.
- Commercial Operations: This involves aligning the operations that support growth programs and enable human sellers along the entire revenue cycle and providing coherent management of all of the systems, assets, content, and digital selling infrastructure that support revenue teams. For example, the imperative to align data and processes along the revenue cycle is leading to the inevitable consolidation of the marketing and sales operations functions, according to Chris Thompson, VP of Global Marketing Operations at Conga. “What is the difference between Marketing Operations and Sales Operations? – in two years there will not be one,” says Thompson. In the last year, Thompson’s job remit has expanded to include Sales Operations, Field Operations, Deal Desk, Order Operations, and Marketing Operations as part of a unified Go-to-Market Operations team reporting into the CRO.
- Commercial Architecture: This includes redesigning and optimizing elements of the commercial architecture to maximize coverage, control, and the return on selling assets by improving the speed, visibility, productivity, and engagement of front line selling teams and reducing cost to sell. This is important because using advanced analytics to challenge and optimize the long standing assumptions about sales force emphasis, roles, workloads, selling costs, and the mix, nature, and cadence of engagement needed to convert prospects to customers offers the potential to double the performance of front line sellers..
- Commercial Insights: This involves using advanced analytics to turn customer engagement data into commercial insights that inform selling priorities, decisions, actions, and conversations and optimize the allocation and return on growth resources, assets and effort. “To better manage revenues in a single interconnected revenue process, we’re trying to bring data from multiple sources to the forefront and are working more cross-functionally across our different operations organizations that support the revenue cycle,” says Steve Gordon, the VP of Global Sales Operations at Pure Storage. “I can’t have the marketing view of the revenue pipeline and the sales view and a finance view – all based on different data sets. I need to have one view of pipeline. So we’re bringing that organization together to centralize those different data sets so that everybody is operating off a single source of truth.”
- Commercial Enablement: This includes building commercial capabilities that enable, develop and retain front line revenue teams and maximize their contribution to expanding customer lifetime value at every stage of the revenue cycle. A key aspect of the job is to coordinate, connect and align the sales and marketing systems that support the revenue cycle including marketing automation, CRM software, sales enablement, sales engagement, and customer success management platforms. 75% of organizations are tasking their sales enablement and operations team to re-configure their commercial enablement technology investments with an eye for simplifying the seller workflow, improving the quality of engagement and reducing administrative costs according to research in the book Revenue Operations.
- Commercial Asset Management: This is the strategic management and monetization of the commercial technology, data, and digital selling channel assets to maximize their utilization, financial returns and revenue impact. This is important because the average organization has over 25 tools and services that support the revenue team. Usually these are spread over a dozen different organizations. Capital and operating investment in this growing commercial tool portfolio is expected to exceed $10,000 per front line seller at high growth organizations. “We don’t really talk in sales and marketing at our company,” says Jenna Pipchuk, the EVP in Chief Sales Officer of Smart Technologies. “We really talk about the Unified Commercial Engine which is all the people, channels and the entire revenue stack that supports the revenue cycle. And we work together on that.”
To get more specific, the capabilities and remits underlying these five core Revenue Operations disciplines expand into twelve discrete job responsibilities. These capabilities and roles are detailed in greater depth in the 36-point Revenue Operations Maturity Model by the faculty of the Revenue Enablement Institute. Plotting these capabilities over time is important because it maps the evolution of the Revenue Operations function. This lets business leaders assess the state of their commercial transformation and identify the most financially viable way to “stairstep” their organizations towards greater alignment of sales, marketing and customer success teams, assets, systems, and processes.
Regardless of the title, establishing a leader with a mandate to unify and coordinate sales, marketing and service operations into a high-octane growth machine will be essential to growing a business in the next decade.
“Titles, remits, and job scopes will vary company to company, but the challenge of getting sales, marketing and customer success systems, operations, and processes working together will not disappear based on nomenclature,” forecasts Greg Munster of the Revenue Enablement Institute, who has led business transformation initiatives to drive revenue optimization and customer success at IBM, Lenovo, Red Hat, and Canonical. “There is a longstanding desire to create “new positions” with new titles to either attract talent, embellish a role with limited authority, or fundamentally realign different tasks and responsibilities,” adds Kim Whitler, Professor of Marketing at The Darden School of Business who has researched the recent emergence of Chief Customer Officer and Chief Growth Officer roles. “In the case of Revenue Operations, the moniker reflects the changing strategic priorities, business operation realignment, and new tasks and responsibilities that the company did not have before. For example, in many cases we are seeing marketers are being asked to take on a bigger role in supporting development, activation and expansion capabilities and take on a broader role in analytics and accountability as part of a Revenue Operations strategy.”
Revenue Operations is now essential to any growth discipline whether you are in marketing, sales, operations or customer service. “Revenue Operations is an essential career roadmap for those who have made growth their cornerstone objective,” says Bob Liodice, the CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. David Reibstein, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of Business points out that Revenue Operations addresses the real world problem that growing a business is fundamentally interdisciplinary in nature – by providing clear roles, structures, skills and systems leaders can use to manage, coordinate an align many disciplines coherently around the customer. In sales leadership, the Revenue Operations role has become a“farm system” for CROs because they have the data management, technical, and financial skills required to manage the modern commercial model, according to Warren Zenna, the founder of the CRO Collective. In operations, it has been a career path and a ticket to the C suite. “Revenue operations is a critical issue for me,” says Mary Lee of Lionbridge who has a front line operations role. “It’s my career path.”
To better define the Revenue Operations role in a 21st Century Commercial Model, the expert faculty of the Revenue Enablement Institute engaged hundreds of business leaders, as well as the leading academics and experts in the field. The Revenue Operations Job Specification Benchmark report analyses the five core disciplines that underlie the Revenue Operations role, the 12 capabilities that go into the job description, and a comprehensive 36 point Revenue Operations maturity model to help business leader quickly assess the state of their commercial transformation and identify the most financially viable way to “stairstep” your organization towards greater alignment of sales, marketing and CX teams, systems, and processes.