Leveraging BizOps Helps RapidMiner’s CMO Shine
We recently sat down with Tom Wentworth, CMO at RapidMiner about leveraging BizOps to strengthen the marketing team. Tom was one of three wonderful panelists at our recent meetup, "From Hair on Fire to Highly Strategic: BizOps in Transition."
Stephanie Fox: You’ve worked closely with and managed BizOps teams throughout your career, and I know BizOps is near and dear to your heart. Has your understanding of BizOps supported your career?
Tom Wentworth: I’ve managed marketing operations in my role as CMO and I believe the marketing ops role has been and is now absolutely essential to my ability to be successful. If fact, when I’m asked what’s the first role that I would hire if I was starting a marketing organization I tell people that operations must be the first hire. When I have gone into new roles at various organizations, I’ve tried to either bring in marketing operations with me or find someone I can rely on to be in that role. I have never done the job myself, but in my role as Head of Marketing, it’s pretty clear that marketing ops is important for me to do my job effectively.
SF: Have you seen execs outside of marketing perpetuate that tactical dynamic for BizOps professionals by constantly making requests for data and asking difficult to answer questions?
TW: Yes, what generally happens is somebody whose title is much bigger than ops says, “I need this,” and they don’t recognize how difficult it is to put the information together. So, the BizOps role cannot be strategic when one spends their entire day working on a single request. Typically the data is not complete and it may not even exist. The exec doesn’t understand why they can’t get what they want all the time. It’s really a hard situation to be in.
SF. So what is the root cause of this disconnect, in your opinion, and what steps can BizOps folks take to move their company’s BizOps function from tactical to strategic?
TW: Product, Sales, and Marketing are the “holy trinity” for SaaS businesses not only because they’re each individually important, but also because they have to work together for the business to succeed. And yet, there’s massive conflict between these groups: Product wonders why Sales isn’t selling more. Marketing wonders why no one is closing the leads they’ve generated. Sales wonders why they keep getting lousy leads for an inadequate product. For an ops person to be a real partner to these teams, they need to understand all three functions in depth, because the truth of what’s working and what’s not is somewhere in the middle of these perspectives. To develop this understanding they need to spend time learning everything they can about these functions in their company. They need to learn about the struggles and what metrics and KPIs matter to these groups. Then they can help drive efforts around a single strategy. I tell ops folks to work with their boss and tell them they want to shadow colleagues in Product, Sales, and Marketing in order to learn more about the business. If someone in BizOps does that, they’re going to have a seat in the front row pretty quickly.
SF: What are the common traits among the absolute best BizOps people that you’ve worked with?
TW: Curiosity is one key trait. If something doesn’t feel right great BizOps people have the instinct to ask the right questions and use data to prove or disprove something in order to get to the bottom of something. Most problems don't come perfectly framed for one to figure out. Another very important trait is empathy. You want someone who understands that behind the numbers there are people. The key requirement of the ops role is exposing things that are broken, which means they have to have empathy for those who contributed to that problem or who somehow didn’t see the impact before they did. They’re doing forensic accounting on different things, and the net is often that something’s not working. The best people in BizOps are those who are able to communicate without anger or judgement when they find something broken. They just point it out, propose a solution, and move ahead.
SF: In your opinion should BizOps be centralized or decentralized in an organization?
TW: I think that keeping it separate and subordinate to the business lines creates accidental bias. I am 100% certain it should be centralized, especially as the company gets bigger. You need someone who ties the whole picture together.
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Steph served as Rekener’s Community Manager and CMO. A Rekener co-founder, she was previously Senior Director of Marketing at CCC, a $300M+ recurring revenue business, and served in marketing leadership roles at Vertical, @stake, Informio, DotContent and Meridian. Her first recurring revenue role was as an inside sales rep selling real-time stock pricing subscriptions.
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