As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been interviewing a lot of operations professionals recently. Early on, there was a question I really cared about that I asked every ops person I talked to:
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I thought that there was probably a finite list of things ops people do on a regular basis, and if I could just figure out what was on the list, I could use that as a curriculum to teach people how to do ops.
It didn't work out that way. The most common answer I got was, "It depends." As it turns out, people in ops spend a lot of time fixing whatever's broken, and a different thing breaks every day. When I pressed for details and got a list of specific responsibilities from one ops person, it never overlapped very much with the list I got from the next person I spoke with.
Ops people do a lot of different stuff, and it varies a lot from place to place, person to person, and day-to-day. Because of that, operations can be a tricky discipline to define, let alone teach. But there are a few key things that I think are true for every ops professional everywhere.
This is especially true in RevOps, but it's true in all operations roles, I think. If you're going to be in ops, you have to be extremely adaptable, capable of doing wildly different things from day to day or even sometimes in the same day.
At the same time, though, you have to have a sense of what's best for the business so you can prioritize the most important things. When four different things are on fire, which flames do you extinguish first? Or do you let them all burn down while you build something entirely new? And how do you justify your decisions?
The right mindset enables ops professionals to ignore the noise and distractions that invariably come up and focus on the specific actions that will have the greatest impact. In RevOps specifically, this mindset includes an adamant belief that the best outcomes will be achieved when marketing, sales, customer success, finance, legal, and other departments all set aside their department-specific needs and instead focus on what's best for the customer. RevOps is so powerful because it enables operations teams to identify misalignment between departments. The sales team's close rates are decreasing because a particular marketing campaign is promising the wrong things. Customer success is struggling with renewals because the purchasing system they use is completely different from the one sales uses for the initial contract.
Operations professionals as a whole are very good at identifying non-intuitive relationships between cause and effect, and RevOps unshackles these professionals to broaden the scope of inputs they can examine.
It seems like every job posting for every position at every company these days asks for things like "attention to detail" and "business acumen." And why not? Everyone wants smart employees. But in operations, these aren't just buzzwords. These skills really matter. If an ops professional doesn't pay attention to details, core business processes might get completely derailed. If an ops professional doesn't have business acumen, they can't make crucial decisions about how to optimize the company's go-to-market motions.
There is, of course, a neverending list of vague business terms that could be used to describe the ops skill set, but I've found three in particular that are crucial to ops:
It seems to me those three buckets of skills sum up all of responsibilities of the typical ops person. Theoretically. There's one final thing that's important to remember:
It's fine to have a good mindset and to cultivate business acumen, data literacy, and complex problem-solving ability, but never underestimate the element of surprise. No matter how smart and prepared you are, if you're in ops, you'll always have to react to something unexpected. You'll always have times when your well-set priorities get completely jumbled by a plot twist that has to be addressed immediately. But that, too, is part of the job.
This final point is, I think, the one that's top of mind for most ops folks. That's why those I've talked to have struggled to explain what their day-to-day is like. They never know exactly what they're going to get when they show up for work each morning. That's just part of the job. But with the right mindset and skills, you can take it in stride like a true ops pro.