Throughout Canada, finance leaders and executives are preparing for economic uncertainty. The good news is that Bank of Canada Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins expects Canadians to be in a strong position to weather the economic storm.
Keeping this context in mind, one of the smartest moves that Canadian finance leaders can make is to strengthen the alignment between RevOps and FinOps. With this perspective, businesses can operate with a higher degree of focus and resilience.
Where FinOps is about the orchestration of accounting systems, enterprise resource planning solutions, procurement, and other relevant processes, RevOps introduces a more holistic approach to measuring a business’s health — connecting sales, marketing, and customer success into an integrated picture that breaks down silos.
To understand how these pieces fit together, we’ve interviewed three people who have experience aligning FinOps and RevOps at their companies. Here are their perspectives for how to build the right system.
The experts we interviewed
Leo Leung is COO at CrowdRiff, which is a visual content marketing platform for travel and hospitality brands. He joined the company as Director of Customer Success in 2016 and over the past 6 years has been building up a cross-functional RevOps function that improves communication throughout the company. He is skilled in systems-building, with the finance function reporting into him at CrowdRiff.
Alan Gryn is Director of Finance at MiQ, which is a media technology company that specializes in connected marketing solutions for advertisers. Before joining MiQ in 2019, Alan worked in finance departments for industries ranging from healthcare to retail. At MiQ, one of his goals is to increase transparency between leadership teams and employees.
Claire Jones is Senior Vice President of Operations at MiQ where she has spent the last 3 years helping to ensure that business goals and people goals are working together rather than at odds. She is a speaker on the topic of mental wellness at work.
The discussion that unfolded
Editor’s note: Each person was interviewed individually; we have grouped their responses together.
In your opinion, what are the core goals at the intersection of FinOps and RevOps at your company?
Gryn: At MiQ, we think of RevOps as a people-driven function. Specifically, for our client-facing teams who are leading key relationships. To its core, the advertising industry is partnership-driven, so RevOps depends on how well we work with our existing and prospective customers. This is done by meeting our customers’ campaign needs externally, and internally by delivering great value in a sustainable way for our employees.
As a finance leader, my role is to support strategic initiatives that people like Claire on our leadership team have prioritized by ensuring the right information, plans and resourcing are in place to achieve them sustainably. That means looking beyond metrics in the short term, to determine what will establish future success.
Jones: People are at the forefront of a lot of what we do at MiQ. Media is a fast-paced growth industry. As we build towards the future, our executive team’s core goal is to ensure that we never lose sight of the people-side of our operations. That means over-delivering when it comes to issues like burnout and mental health. We think of RevOps as a pathway for building out our business strategy in a way where the needs of our people internally and our clients externally are synced. For us, you can’t have one without the other because there’s going to be strain somewhere.
Leung: From my perspective, it’s about the movement of information — not too much and not too little…just enough to reach the right person at the right frequency. It’s also about making sure that each person at the company has the intelligence they need to do their jobs well. As one example, we provide a monthly written report that communicates details including sales, renewals, and other information that leaders within our company need to make situational decisions.
The biggest need, at the intersection of RevOps and FinOps, is to make tradeoffs in building high-integrity processes for capturing data. The information that finance needs, for instance, is different from what a sales or customer success rep would want to see. One of my focus areas has been creating these tailored experiences for working with data.
With people being the connective tissue between RevOps and FinOps, how do you build processes that best support the organization on a human level?
Leung: For me, it’s a lot like writing code. I implement a lot of design thinking protocols when developing data models to meet specific decision-making scenarios. Every situation is a little bit different, with trade offs constantly taking place.
As an operations leader with CFO duties, I’m always thinking about the frontline user experience in connection with the needs of finance. Where finance teams tend to need more controls with their data, people in RevOps functions tend to prefer more freedom. It’s a balancing act in creating the best of both worlds with finance having the structure they need while the data collection process being as easy as possible for frontline teams. That means asking the right questions.
Do I really need 36 inputs to make a business decision? No, I probably only need 12. So I think about the bare minimum number of data points needed at this part of the business process. With this approach, we are also able to find opportunities for automation.
Gryn: At times there are different goals front-and center for finance and client facing teams, but good communication and processes that share the right information and balance priorities help us stay aligned. This alignment goes all the way up to shared understanding of our company objectives, and how they ladder across department goals. In this respect Finance plays a role to ensure clarity, and a focus on key results in our BI processes to tee-up the best outputs from our RevOps teams.
Jones: Something that we’re looking at more closely as an organization is the overall employee experience. We started deepening our efforts in this area in 2022. We’ve been taking a systems thinking approach to being very intentional about each individual experience at the company. Tactically, that means gathering feedback, listening to peoples’ suggestions for solutions, and hosting workshops.
Next year, employee feedback will be something we incorporate more closely into our RevOps strategy. On-the-ground perspectives ultimately shape the narratives that our finance team is tracking.
How are you thinking about agility in FinOps and RevOps heading into 2023?
Gryn: In my past experiences, agility is not something typically associated with finance teams. But, in my opinion, it’s one of the most important goals to strive for in a fast moving space. We work in a dynamic industry and finance must also adapt to support the needs of the business.
Organizing the right data to build plans, and evaluating different scenarios and levers of opportunities and risks can arm the RevOps teams through uncertainty expected in 2023.
We’re examining everything at face value right now. There are no crystal balls. Some people suspect that the United States, for instance, is already in a recession. So we’re thinking about the relationships and partnerships that we have today against the greater context of our industry growing through 2023. For sure, we are thinking about the potential headwinds, but with an approach of how the challenges could shape our industry, and ultimately we think companies like ours are positioned well to come out stronger.
Jones: Business intelligence is key here. We’re thinking a lot about the flow of information throughout the organization, to ensure informed decision-making. Our senior leadership is very involved in the day-to-day. In addition to agility being one of our company values, so is unity. Everyone has a seat at the table regarding RevOps decision-making because ultimately, everyone at the company is impacted by the judgment calls being made.
Gyn: Collaboration is a key priority for us, in addition to tightening down information. There’s a lot of trial and error that comes with developing reporting for different audiences — a c-level executive vs. an account manager, for instance. What it comes down to is that the finance team at MiQ really cares about the well-being of everyone at the company. Our goal is to help everyone at the company win.
Leung: Responsiveness of data is crucial. At CrowdRiff, as we head into 2023, we’re particularly focused on the speed at which data can get in and get back out. Moving at increasing speeds, the data also needs to be trustworthy. With this perspective, we can have conversations at all levels of the organization — including with our board — at a higher level of accuracy, at real-time precision.
In 2023, I’m also looking to meet with more finance and revenue operations leaders who are tackling similar challenges. I don’t think there is a systems thinking community out there. It would be great to find more people to jam on this stuff.