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Finance is Revenue Operations’ Best Friend

Building the Revenue Operations Function

Briana: I’ve got quite a diverse background. I started out in oil and gas, being based out of Houston, Texas. After some time, I figured out it was not the place for me and ended up in tech, and never looked back. But in those experiences, I did a little bit of procurement and supply chain and systems integrations, very high-scale Ariba and SAP S/4HANA implementations.

And so that gave me some critical skill sets that I took along with me as I moved forward in my career. Moving over to tech, I started to do more of a strategy and operational role. I was doing more people management and headcount planning, thinking about sales targets, and thinking about how many people we needed on the floor for a particular effort that was going on.

Then I went into financial planning and analysis (FP&A) and held three roles. I was a one-person show with some contractors and some peer support, meaning they worked in other departments, but they supported my initiatives for FP&A business intelligence. I built out the entire revenue operations function, which did not exist beforehand, but my role initially started out as BI and FP&A. Those things were two things that were so closely meshed together, that I had to collaborate with everyone in the entire organization to understand the state of the business.

And what really was not understood from a leadership level, was that we needed to be looking at this across our buyer’s journey, have KPIs categorized for each of these areas, and that’s how we’ve started to build up RevOps.

How Finance and RevOps Work Together

Barry: Let’s talk about finance and RevOps. Where do Finance and RevOps play? 

Briana: So Finance is your best friend in revenue operations. In my role currently, I’m responsible for sales forecasting. So I need to understand how we’ve performed in the past and how we’re going to perform in the future based on any trends that I’m seeing, and anticipated growth that we obviously want to communicate to the board and our stakeholders that have some monetary financial connection to ASAPP.

In addition to that, I have to build all of the processes that go around it, all of the tools that we’ve set into place. And then we have to be very intelligent about our data. And so the intelligence pieces; are we capturing the right information to support being able to put together these board decks that finance has to present to our board of directors? And that for example, is one of the things that is often a disconnect.

Sometimes in organizations that I’ve come into, everyone’s siloed, they’re working with their head downs. They’re not collaborating very much. At a previous company, that was exactly the way that it looked.

And because of that, finance had different numbers from what sales had, and we don’t have a single source of truth, and we need to build that single source of truth. And the only way we’re going to do that is one, communicating. And two, this is the BI part of it, building integrated systems that automate the work that we are currently doing manually, and are officially just making a more efficient process for us all.

And we don’t have to crunch the numbers over in Google Sheets or Excel, we can start to do our forecasting within our systems, but that is a journey and a path in itself. So I would certainly recommend, the focus of the relationship with finance is building trust in each other and knowing that you’re not working against each other.

Being in the sales department and being in a finance department, finance can market you a little bit and say, “Well, why didn’t you meet the number you said that you were going to meet, because now I have to go and tell so and so that this is where we are.”

And then sales feels like an order taker. And so you have to build a dynamic of, this is a collaborative effort. We’re all on the same team and let’s work together to figure this out. And that’s been where I’ve seen the most success.

And I do that, I would say finance, even though they’re not a part of what we always see as the revenue operations’ framework or organizational structure or anything like that, the FinOps function is definitely a part of the equation.

We should think about including them more, right next to enablement insights, sales ops, CX ops, marketing ops, all of the ops, and doing more of a collective target planning or OKR session, or alignment session in deciding and moving in the same direction so that the company sees more growth faster.

Why FinOps and RevOps are Misaligned

Barry: Why do you think FinOps hasn’t been in the RevOps discussion much? 

Briana: Having sat in finance for a while, unfortunately, the FinOps role is something… Well, first of all, finance is not a revenue-generating part of the organization. So they are the last to get headcount and they have to make do.

And so that’s why I was a one-person team with contractors because I reported to the CFO. And so that’s one thing. And the other part of it is, with the types of companies that I’ve been working for, we’re often in the middle of building outboard decks or going through audits or going into fundraising efforts, and guess who has to do that? We do. We have to build all of those things.

And so I think that prioritizing a financial operations’ role, would be significantly helpful to organizations as we think about organizational design and structure going forward, and not having it be overloaded onto a singular person because sure, we all wear many hats, but sometimes we’ve got to hold on a little bit because you’ll break at that point.

There are too many hats. We’ve got to actually be thoughtful about our budgeting cap, capacity planning, and knowing where the value and return on investment will be seen instead of throwing it all into the product or throwing it all into the sellers, which is what we normally see in startup environments.

The FinTech Stack and RevOps Data

Barry: So then FinOps is important. We’ve definitely established that. I think it sounds like you’re currently automating some of the forecasting. What’s the FinTech stack for forecasting? Maybe that also concerns sales ops forecasting. 

Briana: Yeah, unfortunately, it is different. I have not seen, at least today, a system that is truly built to sustain sales and financial reporting needs, or forecasting from that perspective, and for performance management.

But what the tech stack typically looks like in my world is finance has an ERP, their ERP is their source of truth. It is integrated with our Salesforce instance, for example, and there’s a database associated and we can nestle on top of that, a BI tool that connects all of the information.

Other systems are included, our company currently uses Monday.com for example. If you’re using a Monday.com or a Gainsight, or any CX monitoring, or on the other side of things, you want to import your product analytics so that you can see things that attribute to variable revenue, then you can see all of that pipe up into this business intelligence tool.

It’s Sisense, Tableau, Domo, things of that nature that would effectively build the dashboards that you need to see. And you can have one specifically for the board. You can have one specifically to understand how we’re performing from a sales point of view.

Our current customers coming up for renewables, time to start re-engaging them. You have the information that you need without having to go into the CRM and dig around for it, or have an unnecessary meeting that you would typically get the conversation going to understand what we call business reviews.

I mean, you could just go and look at this information and ask questions, or I love it when you can collaborate in a system. You can ask the questions right there, and that’s it.

And then obviously Slack is a huge part of our business. And so we do a lot of collaboration there. And so obviously that’s an important piece of the tech stack. We are working on trying to get a better way of sharing information between Salesforce, for example, in Slack because we do so much communicating over in that arena.

And so they apparently are working on a new integration. I’m excited to see what that is all about and hope that it’ll fit our needs. But there’s a couple of other companies that do the same work. And so I won’t name-drop those. But yeah, in the perfect world, it’s integrated systems; BI on top, everything is talking to your data warehouse, they’ve got unique identifiers associated with them.

We know which contractor belongs to which contract, we know which interactions belong from a product analytics space to which contract. We can do billing on time, we can do so many things faster. We don’t have to wait for a report or we don’t have a lag time. It’s real-time data right there in front of you.

Barry: So really, the BI is gathering all the data from different places. So it’s not just grabbing from Salesforce, but also the ERP and also other places that the data is stored.

Briana: Yeah, absolutely. It would be wise to set it up on every system you have that’s within your RevOps stack. The Marketos, the Gainsights, the list goes on and on. I always forget what systems we use.

We’ve got a long tech stack and a big wonderful diagram of all of the things that we’re currently using. But yeah, I mean, connecting those to a data warehouse, having them stored and using that information to create the dashboards that you need, and not having to think twice about it.

Later on, it takes a lot of manual effort and you don’t have sustainable practices that create efficiency in the future.

You may also be interested in: How to Consolidate Your Sales Stack

Barry: Yep. And so I just looked, ASAPP has less than 400 people. Is that common to find ERPs at startups that aren’t more than 500, 600 people?

Briana: Yeah. We’ve got NetSuite. I had worked for a company that had more than 100 people and we were evaluating ERPs. And even if you don’t have an ERP, there is a way to do workarounds with QuickBooks, which is typically the go-to startup framework. At least you can capture money moving in and money moving out.

And in any other form of data that you would normally have, for example, the forecasting metrics via API data, you can effectively include that in your BI report and make sure that it’s up to date, the same way that you can import and connect Salesforce to Google sheets, for example.

You can do the same thing with a BI tool. You’ve just got to do it in the right way and make sure that your data is correct, and it’s not optimal. It’s better if it lives within a system so that we can leave out the margin of error from being humans.

How ERP Fits into RevOps

Barry: What are two or three examples of things that would go into your ERP that you couldn’t put into Salesforce, for example, or your CRM?

Briana: Yeah. Let’s see, two or three things that will go into the ERP. Let me think about this because there is some duplication. I think that the ERP is mostly about holding the one; contract values, and then any estimated variable aspects.

An inclusion of the billing cycle, if there’s a contract that’s been decided, does that contract have an out clause? And at what point does that clause, what date is that, so that we can pay attention to those sorts of details?

While we could create fields for this information in Salesforce, it truly lives in the ERP system. And when I say rolling it up into BI, having it at the company level and seeing, “Okay, so they are in a contract,” and it is the sharing of information, obviously across departments, because you won’t, as a salesperson, get access to the ERP or as a customer experience person, you don’t have expectations to get access to the ERP.

But I think the most important details that fall in there are the nuanced contract information that is respected to that particular engagement. And so outside of that, the second would’ve been, what I mentioned, the billing aspect. Has the invoice gone out, has it been paid?

And then also just forecasting into the future, depending on if you’ve purchased that product in which you should, the ability to forecast your financials based on the frequency of which you have incoming clients and any trending that the system is finding in that aspect, and then being able to spit out certain things like, this is our cache, for example.

We’re using ERP to not only bring in client details but operational details about the way that the company is spending money. And so we want it to be able to tell us how we’re performing. So it should be able to calculate specific details around, how much did it cost to actually land this customer? How much time did we spend here?

If you are more advanced and don’t have a product team that’ll fight you on it, it’s wise to do some timekeeping so that you really understand the cost of sale and your profit margin. And so those are the sorts of things that you would anticipate seeing from an ERP.

Barry: Love that. I think you could work for an ERP company and do the sales for them.

Briana: I know. I’m telling you, you made me pull it out because I haven’t been in an ERP in a little while, but my focus right now is completely around just forecasting, headcount planning, enablement, and doing all of that fun stuff. RevOps role, performance management process, systems and tools, stakeholder engagement, data intelligence.

And so we’re working on building out our roadmap and our plan for how we get to this golden state that I’ve shared with you today. But at the same time, that ER piece is important. It has to be set up well, and it has to know how are we spending our money and where is it going, in and out, and how are we tracking on the contracts that we’re currently engaged in.

How to Hire for Diversity and Inclusion in Revenue Operations

Barry: Hiring diverse talent is something you’re passionate about. Is there something that you can share with the audience about hiring for diversity and inclusion in revenue operations? 

Briana: It’s a cop-out to say that we can’t find the people of color to fit the mold in these roles, or they don’t have the experience. There are many resources; PowerToFly, Jopwell, Trabajo, that are specifically designed as recruiting boards so that diversity recruiters or companies or recruiters that care about having a diverse workforce utilized, there are also communities like HireBlack, that specifically have a program where recruiters can provide support on resume building and how to be an ally or how to provide mentorship to people of color. And that is the sort of thing that we need.

And then outside of mentorship, there’s a whole new concept; sponsorship. There’s none of that happening. We don’t have a buddy of ours that we went to college with, that wants to pull me into his company or a buddy’s kid that he wants to point to a manager position. We don’t get that.

And so think about how you could possibly advocate for people of color in new ways, in different ways, and create more empathy around the impact of the way that you move in your organization. It’s not just the bottom line, which is revenue, revenue, revenue.

It’s also about people. And we need to understand that people first, drive better results and it’s higher motivation, higher productivity, but you’ve got to start with the people first. And so I implore people to check out the three companies that I mentioned if you’re looking for diversity hires.

And, look at your metrics. What are your percentages? How many people fit into certain categories, gender-wise, race-wise, et cetera, and see where you need to focus your time and energy. Create ERDs, people like safe spaces where they can talk amongst each other and really connect and bond over their experiences or lived experiences at work and how they can make it a better place. And so I’ll leave it with that. I can say a lot more though.

Barry: It was really unfair for me to have you wrap that up into three minutes, but you did. And so thank you for that. It was so awesome meeting you. I think we’ll have to do this again.

Briana: I’ve had a wonderful time with you today and I will really anticipate hopefully being able to do it again on another topic. And so thanks for having me. And it’s been a pleasure. This was fun.