This article was taken from an episode of the CMO Convo podcast.

In my role as Senior Vice President of Operations at Cyware, I’ve been instrumental in building and scaling various teams within the company, focusing on operationalizing the internal functions. My approach centers around the people aspect and collaboration within the organization.

I find the interplay between the roles of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and operations leaders, including revenue operations leaders, to be particularly fascinating. This relationship is pivotal, as it largely revolves around effective teamwork and cooperation. 

In this article, I’ll delve deeper into this topic, emphasizing why fostering a strong relationship between CMOs and operations teams is crucial in the current business environment.

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Defining operations in the context of CMO collaboration

Operations, in my view, is akin to the kitchen sink of a company. It's a universal component, yet its form and function can vary greatly from one organization to another. Operations encompass whatever a company needs at any given moment. 

Sometimes it's about maintaining order and preventing issues; other times, it's about building and scaling. Often, it involves owning any problem that doesn't have a designated home. Our role as operations is to be a flexible unit that collaborates effectively with all other teams within the organization.

Efficiency is a major focus. It's about removing communication roadblocks, streamlining processes, and uncovering hidden inefficiencies. The aim is to simplify team handoffs so that everything operates more quickly and cleanly, especially from the perspective of our clients.

The role of technology and processes in operations

While technology forms the foundation - with tools like CRMs, marketing instruments, and lead generation tools being crucial - it's not just about the technology itself. It's about how we integrate these tools, how we define and use data, and how we communicate. 

The real question is, do all teams speak the same language regarding metrics and objectives? It’s about putting in place processes and communication frameworks that enhance the effectiveness of our technology. This alignment and clarity across all teams, from sales to customer experience to finance and even to the board, is what really drives the success of an organization's operations.

Operations: The cross-functional glue in business

Operations is the glue that binds various departments together. Our role is to be everyone's ally, engaging in conversations across the board. We pick up pieces from different dialogues – for instance, marketing might be discussing one aspect while finance focuses on another. 

Our job is to interpret these varied conversations and align them towards a unified goal. It's about translating diverse departmental needs and fostering a cooperative environment to achieve the collective mission.

The challenge of inter-departmental communication

The biggest challenge, especially for CMOs and marketing departments, lies in this cross-departmental communication. 

Each department, be it marketing, sales, or customer service, has its unique objectives and perspectives. Marketing might be focused on lead generation, sales on closing deals, and customer service on client satisfaction. 

The key is to move beyond these individual goals and find a harmonious way to make all departments work more effectively together. It’s about creating a synergy where the collective outcome is greater than the sum of its parts.

Scaling and expanding departments hinge on understanding the intricacies of these interactions. It's not just about having meetings for the sake of meetings; it's about alignment and pursuing common goals. When departments are aligned and work towards a shared mission, it reduces the workload for each team as they support and lean on each other. 

This collective effort not only makes the work easier but also leads to better end results. The focus should be on fostering a collaborative environment where everyone is moving in the same direction, chipping away at the overarching objectives together.

Addressing the challenges operations faces in collaboration with marketing

In the operations field, we're sometimes viewed as a 'blocker department,' akin to legal and contracts teams. We tend to enter conversations and seemingly pause them, creating a perception of inaction. However, this pause is often necessary for ensuring the business's smooth internal functioning. 

We handle compliance checks, customer knowledge assessments, security checks, and documentation, among other things. These checks and balances, although time-consuming, are crucial for the business's overall health and continuity.

Our involvement might affect projects in unexpected ways, such as a product engineering decision impacting a marketing project. The key is to communicate effectively with other departments about what we're doing and why. By doing so, we can facilitate earlier engagement and more collaborative discussions, ultimately leading to smoother project progress with fewer hiccups.

Beyond project management

Operations is more than just project management. It requires a holistic view of the business and an understanding of where to allocate resources optimally. Every team has its mandate and activities, but operations act as a unifying wrapper, orchestrating these diverse functions. 

Our role is not about hierarchy or control but about understanding what's missing and arranging the pieces so that teams can function more effectively together. By keeping our ear to the ground and multitasking across various company activities, we can save time and mitigate risks by being more informed about the current state of affairs. 

Our function is to ensure smooth collaboration and alignment across departments, thereby enhancing the overall efficiency and success of the business.

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Lessons for CMOs: Collaborating effectively with operations

The first lesson for CMOs is to understand that operations exist to enhance and enable the success of their teams. We're not here to obstruct or deny requests but to streamline processes and foster collaboration with all stakeholders. 

Think of us as a complimentary service, ready to assist in connecting with others, speeding up budget approvals, and maximizing data utilization. We are a resource to be leveraged, not an obstacle to be navigated around.

It's essential to perceive operations not as a blocker but as a positive and integral part of the business process. In some companies, teams are explicitly instructed to collaborate, while in others, it's more implicit. 

Regardless of the approach, it's the responsibility of each leader to proactively engage with their operational counterparts. You don't need permission or a formal request to partner with operations; it's about taking the initiative to work collaboratively and effectively.

The mindset of senior leaders, like CMOs, towards operations significantly impacts the rest of the team. Resistance or reluctance to engage with operations at the top level can hinder better working relationships throughout the department. Conversely, a positive shift in mindset at the leadership level should cascade down, promoting more effective collaboration across all teams.

While there are instances where certain information needs to be restricted, in general, operational transparency is beneficial. The more team members understand the reasons behind decisions and the goals of initiatives, the more emotionally invested they become. 

This emotional buy-in can be more valuable than just technical competence. When people are excited and understand the 'why' behind their tasks, they are not just competent but also more engaged and enthusiastic about their work.

Practical steps for mindset shift and the importance of data

A practical way to shift mindset involves a two-step approach. Firstly, an operations team, especially at a mature level, might have well-defined processes with clear points of interaction for the marketing team. Adhering to these processes helps in knowing when to involve operations and when to initiate conversations. 

Secondly, it's about recognizing when you need help and not hesitating to reach out. It's essential for marketing teams to feel comfortable initiating dialogue with operations.

Data management and quality control

Data remains king in decision-making. As someone deeply involved with Salesforce, I see firsthand the importance of data quality. It's a simple truth: garbage in, garbage out. If your system is filled with poor-quality data, your reports, dashboards, and analytics will reflect that. 

Establishing a 'religious' dedication to data quality and control is crucial. A uniform understanding of data across the organization – how it's reported, interpreted, and used by different stakeholders – is vital. This understanding enables a company to accurately assess its current state and make informed future decisions.

Integrating operations and marketing for a holistic data view

Working closely with operations personnel offers marketers a comprehensive view of the company's data, not just within the marketing department. This holistic perspective helps in understanding how marketing data intersects and integrates with other departments. 

Every action, whether it's a campaign, an event, or even promotional items like billboards or T-shirts, generates data. The key is to capture this data effectively, funnel it into the right systems, and analyze it to inform future decisions. This integrated approach helps determine what works, what doesn’t, and how to optimize marketing strategies moving forward.

Operations' role in data compliance and proactive planning

In operations, compliance is always a forefront consideration. Every decision is evaluated for its impact on compliance requirements. As privacy laws and international concerns evolve, there's a significant amount of work to analyze and adapt to these changes. 

Understanding the current state of data management, including what personal identifiable information we handle, is crucial. This knowledge forms the baseline from which we can adapt to new laws and maintain credibility, especially given the international scope of most businesses today.

It's vital to be proactive, especially in a global and compliance-heavy environment. For example, a company should establish its own policies regarding customer data handling. This approach, combined with clear agreements and expectations, can simplify compliance for the marketing team and other departments. By staying ahead of the curve, companies can save considerable time and effort in adapting to new regulations.

Beyond current regulations, there's also the need to consider how emerging technologies like AI will be governed. By developing internal guidelines and structures for these technologies now, companies can position themselves to more easily comply with future regulations. This preparation is not just about the regulations themselves but also about understanding the implications of the technologies we use.

Consider the example of a chatbot on a website. While it may be easy to implement, the security implications – what information it can access, what it might inadvertently reveal – require careful consideration. Collaborating across different teams, including marketing and operations, helps to minimize potential risks. 

It’s not just about reducing the time to implement a solution, but also about ensuring there are no surprises or security breaches in the process. This level of collaboration and foresight is essential in today's business landscape, where ensuring correct and responsible practices is paramount.

Facilitating holistic data management and navigating c-suite dynamics

Operations is not about pointing out shortcomings in other teams but understanding that certain aspects might not be part of their daily responsibilities. Our role is to handle those middle pieces, those unique concerns that may not be on everyone's radar. We ask the deeper questions and make sure every aspect of a project is thoroughly vetted. It's about collaboration, not criticism.

Operations often has insights from various departments, such as product and engineering, which can be crucial for marketing initiatives like deploying a new chatbot. By tapping into operations' knowledge, marketing can proceed with projects more smoothly and avoid potential hiccups. For example, a CMO might launch a new campaign or tool, only to find operational concerns arising later. Involving operations from the start can prevent these pauses and ensure smoother project completion.

An operations team that understands the nuances of different departments can help CMOs navigate C-suite dynamics more effectively. By modulating conversations to match the language and concerns of various departments, operations can facilitate better understanding and trust among C-suite members. This approach helps build stronger business relationships and fosters a more cohesive leadership team, where each member is attuned to the needs and challenges of others.

Operations' ability to tailor conversations to the specific needs and languages of different departments is a key differentiator. This adaptability helps bring everyone into the fold, fostering a sense of belonging and trust. 

Understanding what drives each team – whether it’s sales, marketing, or another function – and translating operations conversations to be relevant to them, strengthens collaboration and drives towards a unified goal. This approach is critical for building and maintaining strong, trust-based relationships across the organization.

Promoting recognition and managing change in operations

It's crucial to acknowledge and celebrate successes, especially in a team or interdepartmental context. In our fast-paced work environment, we often overlook the importance of pausing to appreciate significant achievements. 

Recognizing efforts, especially those that involve months of work and collaboration among many individuals, is vital. It's about expressing gratitude and acknowledging the hard work put into these accomplishments.

In the era of hybrid or remote work, the absence of physical proximity makes it even more essential to have open lines of communication. Operations can play a significant role in ensuring that accomplishments and positive developments are communicated throughout the company. 

Virtual acknowledgments like high fives or cheers are a start, but having someone actively sharing successes and keeping the company focused on positive developments is key in such environments.

Change is a constant in business, but change without proper reasoning or communication can lead to complications. For instance, altering how certain metrics are recorded might seem beneficial for one department but can have unforeseen effects on others, like sales commissions or financial projections. Operations must consider the ripple effect of these changes across the organization. It's not about making decisions in isolation but understanding how they impact the broader business ecosystem.

When implementing changes, it's crucial to consider how they might affect data and reporting. Any alteration that renders existing data non-comparable or reportable needs thorough evaluation and agreement. It's important to ensure that everyone understands and agrees to the implications of these changes. Transparency and consensus are key to avoiding confusion and ensuring that any shifts are positively contributing to the organization's goals.

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Effective change management and documentation in operations

When implementing significant changes that could disrupt services or processes, it's crucial to consider the timing. Changes should be made when they are least likely to negatively impact other departments. For instance, aligning marketing process changes with product development timelines ensures that data flow and development efforts are not adversely affected.

While having a playbook for everything would be ideal, it's often not practical. Certain aspects, like procurement or CRM modifications, may have a more scripted approach. However, many situations require a case-by-case analysis and open communication. 

Operations teams are adept at creating lists and documenting processes, especially if they are repeated, to ensure efficiency and consistency in the future.

Proper documentation is vital, especially in remote work environments, to facilitate smooth onboarding and knowledge transfer. When new team members join, they need access to current and accurate information to become productive quickly. Failing to provide this can delay their full functionality, impacting overall team performance and goal attainment.

Operations must ensure that role changes and departmental shifts are communicated effectively. In remote settings, lack of communication about such changes can lead to confusion and a sense of exclusion among team members. It's also crucial for maintaining up-to-date communication channels and ensuring that efforts, like marketing campaigns, are directed appropriately.

Keeping track of logins, passwords, and access rights is a significant part of operations. Any change in login details can have widespread implications across the tech stack. Efficiently managing these details ensures that resources are utilized correctly and that there's no disruption in workflows or data access.

Operations play a critical role in managing changes, ensuring optimal timing, maintaining thorough documentation, and keeping all team members informed and equipped to handle their roles effectively. This approach not only facilitates smoother transitions but also supports the overall health and productivity of the organization.

Tool integration and tech stack consideration

There’s also the critical aspect of tool selection and integration. When introducing a new tool into the organization, it's essential to understand how it will integrate with existing tools and affect the overall tech stack. 

A tool might be perfect for the marketing team's immediate needs, but its impact on other data systems, like Salesforce or lead generation tools, must be considered. The goal is to ensure that these tools not only address current needs but also remain viable and beneficial for at least the next few years.

While a tool might initially seem appealing for specific tasks like scheduling social media posts, it's crucial to involve operations early in the evaluation process. Operations can assess the tool's backend, integration potential, compliance with privacy laws, and overall fit within the existing tech stack. This comprehensive approach ensures that the tool can be sustainably used and doesn't create unforeseen issues.

Operations scrutinize various aspects of a tool before its adoption. This includes evaluating backups, data recovery processes, privacy considerations, data storage locations, encryption standards, and compliance with various certifications like SOC 2 or ISO. The aim is to ensure that the tool not only meets immediate functional needs but also aligns with broader organizational requirements, including compliance and security.

Operations' involvement in tool selection is not to act as a blocker but to ensure that the marketing team can use the tool effectively and for an extended period. The objective is to avoid situations where a tool is rolled out, only to be discarded soon after due to non-compliance or integration issues. 

By considering these factors in advance, operations help ensure that investments in tools are both effective and long-term, aligning with the company's broader goals and systems.

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The importance of collaboration in operations and marketing

The overarching thing I'd emphasize is the significance of collaboration and teamwork, not just within individual teams, but across the entire organization. While each department, including marketing, has its specific roles and titles, the ultimate goal is a unified mission. It's about moving beyond the confines of departmental boundaries and working together towards common objectives.

In modern organizations, the lines between departments like sales, marketing, and operations are increasingly blurring. This trend reflects a growing desire for more collaboration. It's about embracing this shift and recognizing that working closely with other departments can lead to better outcomes, risk mitigation, and a more unified approach to achieving company goals.

Operations can serve as an invaluable partner for marketing and other departments, aiding in navigating the complexities of cross-functional collaboration. Operations bring a unique perspective that complements marketing's goals, offering insights and support that enhance marketing initiatives and ensure alignment with the broader business strategy.

The focus should be less on the specific functions of each department and more on the personal and professional relationships that form as a result of collaboration. Each new team member or leader brings fresh ideas and perspectives, breathing new life into existing processes and fostering an environment of continuous improvement and innovation.

The primary takeaway is the power and necessity of collaboration. It's about seeing beyond departmental divisions and focusing on how combined efforts can lead to greater achievements, innovation, and progress towards shared company goals. This collaborative spirit not only enriches the work culture but also drives success in a dynamic, interconnected business environment.

Need advice on how ops can enhance your position as a marketer, or vice-versa?

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