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Don’t Start With Tools: Start With People And Processes with Cassandra Anderson


Have you ever found a tool to solve your problem, only to find it adds complexity, is ill-adopted, and reporting becomes a nightmare?

In this session with Cassandra Anderson, VP, Global Revenue Operations & Enablement at Optimove, learn how to automate your greatness and maybe even control your costs!

[Transcript] Don’t Start With Tools: Start With People And Processes with Cassandra Anderson

Although transcriptions are generally very accurate, just a friendly reminder that they could sometimes be incomplete or contain errors due to unclear audio or transcription inaccuracies.

Armando Biondi

Session three of the second half of the Ops track. That is a lot, so we like to remind people because we have many tracks going on four tracks. Forty-eight speakers and so always good or like oriented yourself. Next up, Cass, very excited to have you.

Cassandra Anderson

Thank you.

Armando Biondi

The title of your session is “Don’t start with tools; start with people and processes.” The stage is yours.

Cassandra Anderson

Thank you so much; you know, for someone who’s been in technology, sales nearly my entire career, it’s probably shocking to hear me say don’t start with tools. 

Yet, it must be said, because people see tools as a magic bullet. I used this analogy, just as I was joining today, it was people think tools are going to get the work done, and that logic is like thinking you can get a gym membership and be bulked up the next day and I loved that analogy because they really do think that. 

They think the tool is going to solve a problem, but really a tool automates a process, even a bad one. What can you do to make sure your tools are a good investment with a solid ROI and not more of an impediment than a help? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

For me, the origin of RevOps or the goal of RevOps is to get what’s in the way of sales, out over the way of sales which ultimately leads to more revenue.

Don't Start With Tools: Start With People And Processes With Cassandra Anderson

Leading front-office technology transformation teams at Optimove and Nextiva and a long list of other larger technology companies, I have reliably seen the same challenges.

Tools are seen as a silver bullet, poor processes get automated and people suffer because the push is from adoption metrics to make sure the tool is seen as a value-add. 

Let’s talk about this a little bit; let’s unpack that. When tools are seen as a silver bullet, then the result, what happens, is adoption metrics are seen as what is valuable about this tool. Is everyone using it? So, then we kind of push and force the tool to be adopted, even if it’s not actually solving a problem. Even if it’s automating something that wasn’t working. 

What I’ve seen in past organizations is there’ll be some system that a tool was put in place to interface with, but the system was homegrown. That’s common, lots of startups start with a homegrown tool, and it kind of becomes the central hub.

But that homegrown tool doesn’t have microservices, it doesn’t have an API, so what happens is there’s this hard code. That engineer that’s the hard code becomes completely invaluable. You can’t lose them, she has all the tribal knowledge, or he has all the tribal knowledge, and we have to keep them around.

Then they’re working on something that they don’t love it’s not new and exciting technology; it’s like keeping the business afloat, something needed to get done fast. I think maybe the motivation is a lot of times, it needed to get done fast, so let’s go to the in short section.

In short, tools are awesome.

Don't Start With Tools: Start With People And Processes With Cassandra Anderson

I mean, think about life before CRM or even spreadsheets. Right? Or some of you have, I was five at the time, but they automate existing processes. People have to think about what’s the fallout. What process are you automating? Are you automating your problems? Are you creating bigger problems?

When you are thinking about that, you have to really think about the tool as a solution to an automation. So, we start with people, who’s involved, who touches this, what are they doing, and if we look at that in practice, there’s some work to do. An old saying–measure twice, cut once. You’ll get what you need for the future. 

Don't Start With Tools: Start With People And Processes With Cassandra Anderson

How does what you’re implementing scale long term? These are things that you need to think about. So what I recommend is bringing everybody together that impacts the system, touches the system, and diagram all your current processes.

Talk to people about why they do what they’re doing, what’s important. Think about having a capabilities mindset, so you might say, “I need to send an email to all of my sales reps,” and that’s like a feature that you’re looking for. Still, the capability you’re looking for is real-time communication about intent data. Let’s just say we’re making something up as we go.

And there are what I think I’ve seen three thousand applications now in the Martech Space. Three thousand applications in this space and growing every year. So how do you know which? I mean, they’re all pretty similar if you pick a media and pick sales enablement, for example. 

You need content to be presented at the right time, for the right purpose, that’s usable by the rep as close to real-time as possible. Or you need a training tool that coaches reps about what they’re saying and how they’re saying it to get that one percent or two percent improvement, that’s really going to drive revenue for the whole organization.

So when you’re brainstorming with your team, and not just your team but the stakeholders, the people doing the work, like we’ve sometimes in operations forget to sit in and see how the work is done and see what customers are saying. You know there’s homework to do.

So when we sit with them, and we look at their capabilities, what is from a capabilities perspective, what’s important, so high level do that.

As you diagram your current process, that will help you think about, “Oh yeah, I didn’t even think we needed this capability,” not only do we need to send real-time email communications, but we want AI to go look at historical and real-time data and segments, are current customers into micro-segments so we can target our customer message better.

I mean, that’s an example of a tool. But where’s your current process? Does it support that? Do you have the content to tailor the message? Do you have to design content on the fly? Do you have a content team? Is there a designer that’s a bottleneck? 

These are the kinds of things that, as you diagram your current process, you’ll see where there are maybe potential areas of weakness. Maybe because a lot of organizations, especially small to growing organizations, we’ll call it startups, like Round B funding.

They might not have a dedicated person to run a tool. They don’t have a tool admin, so it’s a hobby, and then we’re going to implement it like set it and forget it. So can the tool operate in that mindset? Can it take the process that you have and automate it in a way that it can be set it and forget it? Because it is somebody’s hobby. They’re doing it after hours and on weekends.

We want to compare all the tools to the needed capacity or capabilities; have you heard of this term called SaaS sprawl? SaaS sprawl is where, and this happens all the time, engineering uses Jira to manage projects, and that’s their project tool. Marketing uses Asana, and then customer delivery using SmartSheets, and then you know the product team is using or a spreadsheet. 

So we have five or six different project management tools that really are providing the same functionality, and each of those things has different cost models.

Each of those apps has different cost models they have and a tech debt from an overhead perspective of the systems that they integrate with; the API calls to integrate with those systems somebody has to manage it. So just a human resources of who’s managing. There’s a security risk that security has to look at on all of those systems, and hopefully, someone’s doing that before you implement the tools, have a security review.

You think about all of those things that have to happen to properly use a tool, and there are six of the same thing in the organization; so that’s kind of SaaS sprawl.

It ends up costing the organization so much more than just license costs, so when you’re thinking about being a good steward of your technology and being a good steward of corporate finances, then this is a place where you want to compare your needed capabilities or capacities with what you have existing in your organization.

Then when you decide there is a gap, a tool will fill this gap. It will automate a good process when you get to that, then you use a rubric.

What is a rubric?

Some people might go like, I don’t have fourth graders and don’t know what a rubric says; for this category of learning, we need to make sure to check off these boxes, and a one means not so great, and a five means great, it met all of these areas of sophistication, let’s say.

So use a rubric; it keeps you honest because you’re going to like one of the sales reps better, and you’re going to process. You’re not really like a sales rep, and that tool might not be the right tool. You want it to be your silver bullet; do the work, keep yourself honest, and keep subjection out of it as much as possible.

So I think what’s important here is to do the work, know your why, diagram the process, current and through the tool, what it will look like in the future.

Are there any gaps? Document your gaps and compare the tools to a rubric. Keep a rubric and make sure that it’s documenting your current capabilities; that’s what goes into the rubric, and then determine how to actually measure success ahead of time. Once you implement the tool, actually measure that. 

Don’t let adoption be the statistic you use. It’s win rate, it’s open rate, it’s click-through rate, whatever your measurement is of success, it’s additional revenue, it’s reduced churn.

All of those things are supercritical, and the tool needs to deliver the promise otherwise, you’re managing a lot and manipulating a process that isn’t really benefiting you.

You really can do more with less when you have a consistent process, and you start with the people, and you keep them in mind, and you remember that the tools are for them. I think I’ll leave you with this “Technology is a great servant, but it is one terrible master,” I was said by Stephen Covey.

Armando Biondi

I love that, Cassandra. Thank you so much. If there are questions from the audience, write them in the chat, and we take them from there.

There are a couple of reactions that I was thinking through; we were chatting about this a couple of days ago as well; I love the idea, you know, that tools are overgrowing at every company. 

Companies now have like a bazillion tools that they have to manage, constantly buy and rethink through, and one important point that you’re raising, I think, is, “Watch out, because tools might end up automating bad processes and then you’re not actually buying a solution, you are buying additional problems.” Those are going to cost you even more compared to what it was costing you before.

Cassandra Anderson

That’s right, I mean, ultimately, when you think about scale, you have to take the things that people do manually today; like maybe you are a small organization and you need an automated billing product. Finance is usually the one doing that billing, and they think through their capabilities. “We need something that knows the amount to bill and then sends a bill automatically and then follows up for a payment.” 

Hopefully, they’re thinking that through and can recognize revenue properly in the 606, right? But are they thinking, “Okay, where is the product master coming from?”. Otherwise, now we have this tool that’s going to automate billing, “but if we add a new product, does the billing system know about it? Can it/does it break? Can they bill something?”

So you have to think through the data flow. The capability is from lead or prospect all the way to cash, and then it’s actually all the way back to renewal.

So have you thought about the capabilities across the work streams, not just the things that impact your particular team or stakeholders? That’s where I think where you know, I heard the last speaker talk about working in silos, and some silos are good but some silos really impact the organization, have you thought through that?

So that was like really smart Insight because you can automate a problem and make it a ten times bigger problem.

Armando Biondi

Yeah, for sure. I love that, and the other thing that I was thinking about, and we were talking through regarding this topic, is the idea that most people would think about the tool assuming that the tool implies best practices, but that is not necessarily the case, right? So the solution to what you’re trying to address might not necessarily be a tool but a better process.

Cassandra Anderson

That’s absolutely right. You could be saving yourself a lot of time and money, and headaches and cutting over hours and the weekends If you don’t buy the tool because you don’t actually need the tool. If you identify you have a problem, the first thing you’re usually doing as a buyer is google, “Okay, how do I solve this problem?” and there’s a tool marketing team out there.

They have a blog with some decent tips, and you go there, and now you’re in there, you’re in their prospect list because you were back to their website.

Armando Biondi

Do the work, ask the why; make sure that you’re running a good enough process and that the answer to your question is we should have a better process instead of a better tool because that would be the case.

Cassandra Anderson

Exactly right, and there I mean I do think tools solve a lot of problems in the context of, I’ve done my work. So there’s something immediately actionable here. Probably everyone on the call is considering some tool for 2023.

Armando Biondi

Oh yes, everyone.

Cassandra Anderson

One hundred percent of us, right? Or maybe 10. Then so the question is to ask yourself ,the thing to do when you hang up today, is to say okay, “What is the real problem? Then who touches the problem? Where, what other systems implement could solve this inside the organization? What and how do we test the problem? Can we test the metric? Is there a way to, in our current process, test that if we automate this, we’ll get better results?” I mean that’s the immediate actionable item is diagram your process, find the gaps.

Armando Biondi

Cassandra, that was great. Thank you so much and thanks for watching everyone.