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Why Your Ops Team Shouldn't Live On an Island

Why having a lone specialist in ops is a bad idea.
Benji Walvoord
One of my favorite movie lines is from the film Ocean’s 13 where Basher says to Linus, “You know when they were digging the tunnel they had teams of guys monitoring this.” Linus responds “Yeah? How many?” to which an exhausted Basher cries “Teams!”
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We at the Yield Group frequently run into similar situations where someone in the Marketing or Analytics department shares the same feeling of being the only person in the organization holding all of the data related shoe strings and duct tape together that allow marketing and inside sales to function. Some companies formalize this role into “marketing ops,” “sales ops” or “data ops,” but more often than not, it’s an individual that was hired into a different role, but has a knack for keeping the data engine running. 

This “invaluable resource” strategy is a bad one for two fundamental reasons

For starters, the organization creates an unnecessary dependency on any single individual who may or may not have the skills to do the job in the first place, especially as the organization grows and changes. Second, this person is heads down digging away without ever assessing whether the direction they are headed is the correct one (this is often due to both a lack of experience, lack of leadership/management for the role or actual lack of a formal role).   

As strange as it sounds, when it comes to data, and the operations required to keep it clean and usable, most organizations are still digging tunnels the old-fashioned way, rarely surfacing to see if they are still on target or more importantly, if the target has moved.  One of the principal reasons for this is that often a singular resource, or a handful of resources, actually know how to keep the integrations, systems, reports, etc. running, but they aren’t doing their work in the context of a clear strategy and goals. Because fast-moving organizations always have more to do than they have resources for, especially in Product and Marketing departments, the natural tendency is towards execution, which creates a lack of focus on documentation and alignment with strategy. 

This short-sighted approach often leaves team members isolated with roles and responsibilities they have inherited or which they don’t particularly excel and are not skilled—they’re just doing what’s required to keep the machine running. That can feel normal, but the the oft-ignored downstream effect of this situation is a bloated technology stack that does not deliver the information needed to support the organization.

The solution, much like in Oceans 13, is not just about assembling a squad of specialists to pull of the perfect heist, but rather to implement a well-documented, strategy-focused system and deep bench that you can call on based on the particular needs of the project. In other words, we don’t want just Ocean’s 11, we need to build the entire franchise!  

So who do you need on your ops team?  Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. What are the KPIs grounded in growing business revenue?
  2. Do you have buy-in from all of the stakeholders?
  3. Do you have more than one product? 
  4. Do you need help with content? 
  5. Are you running advanced paid digital campaigns involving retargeting, offline conversions, etc?
  6. Is GDPR a factor and do you need someone from legal?
  7. What does your technology stack look like and do you need a data warehouse?
  8. Who is driving the strategy for the team?

Each organization and each project will require different mixes of skills and technologies, but no matter what those are, it’s critical for every company to have an ops team to keep the engine running. The best companies don’t allow isolation of people who are doing the work simply because it needs to be done, they proactively formalize roles and integrate ops into key parts of the organization.  

How does ops run at your company? Do you have someone “who just makes everything work,” or are you treating the people and teams managing data as who they really are—those managing THE foundational layer of knowledge against which all projects and activities of the business can be measured?

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