Why Greater Technology Adoption Can Actually Create More Manual Work

By Ed King, CEO, Openprise

A recent AirTable Marketing Trend Report , a survey of 300 marketing leaders, showed a clear and disturbing trend that the more technologies RevOps people use, the more time they spend on manual tasks. Your first reaction may be that this is completely counterintuitive, but it’s very consistent with what our  team has observed among the companies we talk to.

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Let’s drill down on why we think this is and how you can buck this trend in your organization.

Filling in technology gaps

If the tools you use don’t have the flexibility you need to meet your exact requirements, in an attempt to pound a square peg into a round hole, you often resort to manually filling the gaps to make the tool work.

Here are a few examples:

  • One of our customers implemented a leading attribution tool. The attribution tool doesn’t handle custom objects from Salesforce, but the customer has some custom objects that capture channel activities that are central to its business model. So to complete the attribution analysis, the ops team manually analyzes the attribution of the channel activities and shoehorns the results into the analysis produced by the attribution tool.
  • A leading software company tracks service order data in Salesforce. Since data entry is manual, there are errors and inconsistencies between the order and the order line items. To implement a governance process to ensure order data accuracy, this team chose a data preparation tool, which enabled them to write SQL-like queries against Salesforce data pulled into a data warehouse. Data preparation tools require custom APEX code to perform complex remediations tasks against Salesforce, so once the team identifies the data issues, they manually fix the order data in Salesforce.

Acting as gatekeeper to critical data

Many RevOps technologies are very powerful and are optimized for the tool administrators and a handful of power users. Due to security, governance, and usability concerns, tool owners cannot open up access to a broader population of users. This need to maintain control and integrity of the process and the data results in the RevOps team acting as a gatekeeper to the system and its data.

Here are a few common examples:

  • Marketo or Eloqua access is generally restricted to a few admins. When a demand gen person wants to run a campaign, a common process is for the demand gen person to file a ticket for the Marketing Ops team to manually create a list in say, Marketo, have some back-and-forth over email to ensure the list meets the requirements, then build out the campaign in Salesforce and Marketo to run. This is a tedious manual process that slows down the team’s ability to execute and frustrates everyone involved  the inefficiency.
  • In any sizable enterprise, there are multiple stakeholders in the sales and marketing organization that are responsible for adding leads to the top of the funnel, which involves loading lists of people and accounts into the CRM and marketing automation platforms. If left unmanaged, there’s no faster way to destroy the integrity of a company’s marketing and CRM database. So the ops team again plays the gatekeeper and often receives lists via email or file sharing and has to manually validate, clean, and load the lists into said systems.

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Being MacGyver

You may be familiar with the TV character MacGyver—the secret agent with the scientific knowledge and creativity to probably create a time machine with just his Swiss Army knife and household chemicals. With an increasingly complex RevOps technology stack and resulting growing technical debt, including more-than-you-care-to-think-about amounts of custom code, many RevOps professionals feel like MacGyver when they go to work each morning.

Administering a complex tech stack creates manual work in three areas:

  1. With a whole slew of tools and point-to-point integrations, it can take substantial manual effort just to keep the lights on and the machine running. We know many RevOps professionals that maintain a daily checklist of things to monitor just to make sure nothing breaks. This can easily involve logging into multiple systems looking for alerts and errors. Having a centralized RevOps dashboard with the running status for all the key processes is exceedingly rare.
  2. In many cases, there’s no automation to monitor, because the integration is manual. RevOps teams are way too familiar with downloading data from one system, working on the data in a spreadsheet, then uploading it into another system.
  3. When automations go wrong or integrations break, that’s when MacGyver goes into debugging mode—turning over every technology rock looking for what broke where and figuring out how to recover. Even with the most amazing debugging skills, locating the root cause in a complex tech stack can take hours if not days, while every hour the stakeholders want to know when you can bring everything back online. Not only is this manual work, but very stressful manual work.

Bucking The trend

Now that you’ve seen where manual work comes from when you increase technology adoption, what can you do to avoid becoming trapped by the technologies that are supposed to improve your quality of life and job performance? Here are some things to consider.

Understand what it takes for the technology to be successful

There are lots of interesting RevOps technologies out there, making all kinds of promises about how they can increase your revenue and efficiency with little to no work—the ultimate “Easy Button™.” You need to come to terms with this: There’s no Easy Button. For every piece of technology to deliver ROI, it requires:

  • The right data and the ability to get that data in a timely and reliable manner.
  • That the data is in a usable form, with gaps and any missing connections filled.
  • People and process to implement and administer it.

For all things RevOps, it’s useful to follow the People > Process > Data > Technology framework. Make sure you consider what it will take in terms of people, process, and data to make the technology work the way it’s intended. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself doing a ton of manual work just to fill in the gaps you didn’t anticipate.

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Simplify, simplify, simplify

It’s easy to fall for “shiny object syndrome,” to see whether some new sexy tool can solve your problems. Adding any tool is a double-edged sword. On one hand it should deliver more capabilities and enable you to gain additional insights; on the other hand it always introduces additional data silos, administrative workflow, and stack complexity. Before you acquire a new tool, ask yourself:

  • Can one or more tools in your current stack give you at least 70% of the results? If there’s a gap, is that gap worth the additional cost and complexity?
  • Instead of adding another point solution to your stack, can you switch to a flexible platform that can replace multiple tools within your stack?
  • If the new technology is indeed superior or fills a critical functional gap, can you find a solution that can provide that, and at the same time replace another existing tool within your stack?

Depending on which survey you read, your average RevOps team has 30+ pieces of tools within their tech stack, and that’s very likely a gross underestimate. You have to ask the question, can you really manage a stack that complex? If not, simplify.

Treat your people resources like scarce resources

However large your RevOps team, it’s likely still shorthanded. People resources are probably the most precious resource there is in RevOps, and often the most difficult to add. So you need to treat your people like the scarce resources they are.

Here are a few tips on how to do that.

  • Treat your people resources like your checking account: you need to balance the books. Before you commit to another technology that will consume more resources, make the hard decision to first free up at least as much, if not more resources.
  • There’s an interesting saying that “the more you automate, the more you have time to automate.” That holds true for RevOps. Inventory where your team is spending their time in terms of manual work. If you can automate away the work or make it self-service, then you free up the time and resources to create even more automation, and the bandwidth to tackle other interesting, and more strategic projects.
  • Build a realistic ROI model for every tool you’re looking to acquire and be realistic about the true cost, including any additional people required for administration. If you’re honest about the cost model, it can be very insightful in helping you determine whether the tool is really worth adding.
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