Our Thinking

What is Revenue Operations?


  |  Published: November 11, 2021

Q&A with Inflectiv’s Sensemaker Jessica McAulay

“Revenue Operations.”

According to Google Trends, there were virtually no searches with this term before 2016. But in the past five years, there has been a steady increase in the number of revenue operations articles, job descriptions, and conferences.

Don’t know what revenue operations is? Ok, how about its cooler moniker, RevOps?

If you’re still shaking your head, it’s time you change that. The fact is: Revenue Operations is a big deal. Organizations are increasingly using revenue operations to achieve growth across marketing, sales, and customer service.

So let’s break it down for you. I spoke to Inflectiv’s Sensemaker (and RevOps pro) Jessica McAulay to get the lowdown.

So, Jess, let’s start at the beginning. How would you define revenue operations?

RevOps is the function of a business that exists to streamline and maximize its revenue potential. RevOps professionals bring together and align different departments with the goal of increase earnings and reducing costs. It relies on the three p’s – platforms, process and people – to succeed.

What types of companies need to have a Revenue Operations capability?

Everybody. Revenue Operations is most commonly associated with tech companies, start-ups and scale-ups. As they’ve grown, they have different departments running in silos, often with lots of different technologies and platforms. That’s most common in huge enterprise companies that run projects and systems in tandem. What they all share is a breakdown in communications and a feeling of misalignment and mistrust across departments.

Got it. So, what prevents companies from taking a Revenue Operations approach?

Well, it’s not new. There are quite a few businesses that have Sales Operations departments, Customer Service operations, and some with Marketing Operations teams. These are helpful to align processes and platforms within their department, but silos can still exist between departments. That usually occurs when different department heads have different objectives that don’t align to the same goals. A lot of it comes down to data. For example, Sales might not understand why Customer Experience is going to need its information to be successful.

I’m shocked that we got four questions in before you brought up data. What is the role of data and technology to enable cross-team alignment and RevOps?

It’s essential. Without clear data available from across the customer journey, companies just can’t provide a good experience. It starts with an end-to-end process alignment that allows you to share the information. Then you need to look at platforms; many companies have a CRM for one purpose, their product data stored in another silo, and customer tickets in another disconnected system. If you can’t connect information and find that source of truth, you’re never going to be aligned. Better data means better decision making.

The way you describe Revenue Operations, it’s almost like a competitive advantage. How does it impact a company’s competitiveness?

Building a Revenue Operations strategy is a huge advantage. Marketing might base all its efforts on certain personas, while sales is spamming a different group of people.

The lack of alignment usually comes out as an opportunity cost. But it can often impact the bottom line. For example, I once identified how removing a 2% discount would lead to millions more in revenue per year. That came from actionable insights, optimization, and a unified vision for the company.

Here at Inflectiv we provide outsourced revenue operations support for our clients. Having done RevOps both in house and at as an external provider, what’s the benefit of bringing in a revenue operations partner?

External RevOps teams can be 100% objective. We have no skin in the game, other than to make things better. We tell our clients what the problems are without any judgement – these things are not anyone’s fault – and then develop an uncluttered or unbiased view to solve the problems. You won’t hear us say “We’ve always done it this way” or “But that didn’t work before.” We look for smoke to find the fire.

Having said that, there are a lot of consultants out there. When I was in-house, I saw consultants try to solve what they thought was the problem, and not the actual problem. Or the work they did just made things more complicated. That’s not our style at Inflectiv. As we say, we’re with you until it works.

Do you think Revenue Operations is a good way to describe what you do?

Yes and No. I like RevOps since it’s more holistic that just SalesOps, and re-positions marketing from a department that spends money to one that makes money. But it also silos you in a different way. Some people think it’s a Finance function or has more to do with accounting than growth.

At the end of the day, it’s all about looking at the bigger picture to grow. Are marketing or sales activities actually meeting the company’s objectives? Most importantly, can we prove it? It’s like trying to put together a puzzle with missing pieces; you can still see the picture, but you don’t know what’s missing.

What’s the #1 thing people get wrong about Revenue Operations?
That’s easy. They don’t take the people into account. If you focus just on the two P’s of platforms and process, you forget about who is actually doing the work. Technology should enable people to do their magic, not occupy their workdays maintaining systems. It may not sound like it, but RevOps can bring many employees and teams together to do something great.

For budding RevOps professionals, what advice might you offer them to grow their careers?
If you are in-house, try to connect yourself to as many other departments as you can. Meet the people, learn what their pain points are, look for efficiencies. Be curious, ask questions, and be helpful. Work on aligning your objectives, defining your working, and then building something that works.

Jessica McAulay sees the forest and the trees. As Inflectiv’s Sensemaker, Jess provides leadership in revenue operations, business intelligence, data analytics & reporting, funnel attribution and much more to our clients.  She has a strong track record working with companies and agencies to transform operations with data. Jess’ favourite word is ‘holistic.’