I talked to 49 Ops People. Here Are My 5 Biggest Takeaways

ariplaut
by: HubSpot Employee
HubSpot Employee

As the product marketer for HubSpot’s new Operations Hub, a big part of my job is understanding the challenges and motivations of ops people. With that in mind, I talk to ops people as often as I can. Here are my five biggest takeaways from the last 49 ops conversations I’ve had:

 

1. Operations people are dragged down by tech debt 

Often, when ops people join a company, they inherit legacy systems — CRM implementations, workflows, and more — from previous setups. They spend more time than they’d like unraveling past mistakes. Said Connor Jeffers, current HubSpot partner and former ops leader: “Operational tech debt is extraordinarily painful and time-consuming.” Added HubSpot’s own Stuart Horgan: “Complexity compounds itself. The more custom you get, the harder it gets to wrangle. The majority of my job was untangling systems and untracing steps.” 

 

“How do I prioritize things? I wait until someone asks the third time.”

 

 

2. Operations people are too often forced to be reactive 

Ops is constantly losing the battle with their to-do list. They receive asks from all levels of the company and don’t have enough hands to keep up. They’re doing busywork, not building strategy; focusing on “run-the-business” not “change-the-business.” They feel like a bottleneck, and sometimes want to share the load, but aren’t sure how to do so in a safe and scalable way. Said one ops person: “How do I prioritize things? I wait until someone asks the third time.” 

 

 

3. Operations teams often end up siloed — from the rest of the business, and from each other

Ops teams work separately. Their tools, systems, and processes are often disconnected, so they spend too much time reinventing the wheel. Often, working on siloed teams leads to siloed influence. Ops teams that report through a single go-to-market (GTM) function are usually beholden to that leader’s guidance (e.g. VP of sales), which lessens ops’ leverage to impact change and often bogs them down with cross-team politics. Silos don’t just lead to inefficiency; they can impact the customer experience, too. Said another ops leader:  “Silos not only make our lives harder, but they’re a true roadblock to our understanding of the customer journey. When my systems are centered around sales data and don’t include CS data, even if I have the latitude to be strategic I do so with the blinders on” 

 

“People think we’re just reactive data people with dashboards. But we can define long-term strategy, identify business opportunities, and identify risks. Analytics is just a small part of that.”

 

 

4. Operations people trust each other more than any marketer or vendor

They lean on communities, on forums, on industry connections, and on mentors from previous roles. They trust people who’ve done ops before, who’ve been “in the trenches” solving the same technical and operational challenges. Said one ops leader: “Both marketing ops and sales ops feel completely exasperated trying to get to the exact same data.” 

 

 

5. Operations people are underappreciated, and they have uncapped strategic potential

Since too much of their work is reactive, ops’ routine ends up being transactional (think: a dozen reactive, one-off reports for stakeholders). With so many small fires to put out, their impact on any given project is small and “invisible.” When things go right, nobody notices. But when things go wrong, ops is too often blamed. Said one ops person (their words, not ours :D): “There’s no magic way to say that my automation saved 1000 clicks a day. I have to do that math manually every time and it’s extremely time-consuming, to the point where I barely do it. When you’re in ops, you learn to eat sh*t with a smile on your face. You’ll never get the credit or the praise.” Another ops person I talked to framed it more positively: “People think we’re just reactive data people with dashboards. But we can define long-term strategy, identify business opportunities, and identify risks. Analytics is just a small part of that.”

 

If you’re an ops person — what did I get wrong? What did I miss? And — wanna chat? I’m ari@hubspot.com. I’d love to hear from you.