Digital operations aren’t sexy. It’s a lot like the plumbing in your house. If not done right from the start, it gets messy.
What are digital operations? They are the processes, procedures, structure and teams along with the day to day execution needed to efficiently and successfully build and service your products and customers.
It’s amazing how much money is spent on sales and marketing before companies are ready to deliver their products or services to market. How often have you seen a great company exit the market because its products were buggy, missing key functionality, poorly supported, or worst of all, failing to deliver on their customers’ expectations?
Having spent thirty years running the operating side of complex media businesses, I’ve become ever more certain that superior execution is a critical component to a company’s success, regardless of their stage of growth. As Marcel Telles, former Chairman and CEO of Ambev, says, “A company can seize extraordinary opportunities only if it is very good at the ordinary operations”.
It’s difficult to put a dollar value on great execution. As a result, it is often an area of under-investment both in people and processes. In most cases, brute force will get you to market, but it’s exceptional execution which achieves growth. A crucial and often overlooked component, is building the foundation required to deliver on the promise of a company’s vision.
I believe the secret sauce to growth is how you build your products and structure your business. As an Operational Strategist, I often address the below five operational keys to success:
1. Structural Collaboration: Build teams that drive efficiency, create a shared knowledge base, and eliminate bottlenecks.
Your sales operation, product office and technology teams need to be organized with careful consideration so they provide you the capacity to handle your success. There is not one right way to structure the organization, so consider how you can best unleash the collective wisdom of your staff to enable the velocity that you expect and hope to achieve. Build organizational structures that encourage collaboration. Start small but architect it so you can add the people elegantly and quickly, without impeding your supply chain of products to market. And, don’t be afraid to eliminate people who may have all the knowledge or contacts, but are poisonous to the culture or vibrancy of the company. Frame the house for growth with teams that celebrate success together.
2. Measure and benchmark: Have product owners that are accountable for the success of your products.
Invest in data and hold everyone accountable to KPIs that validate the business. Use the data to inform a pivot as needed. How often have you seen stale and aging products that are eating resources and have not been killed because no one knows how to measure their success? If you have true KPIs, and are measuring results, then you have the knowledge to adjust, kill, accelerate or pivot. Whatever course of action the data dictates, take action quickly.
3. Support: Build in the capacity to support your customers – churn is expensive.
Your customers don’t want friction points when engaging with your products or services. Build in the capacity to help your customers be faster and more agile. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you can service them later. A poor support structure will become a friction-point to your growth. Retaining customers is much easier and less costly than finding new ones. I recommend starting very small with someone who understands the products inside and out, and is capable of answering questions. Plan for the future by determining revenue benchmarks that prepare your company to hire as you grow.
4. Create Rewards – have comprehensive financial plans that reward excellence across the organization.
Sales commissions correctly architected are essential, but build in rewards for the entire organization based on success benchmarks. Consider metrics like retention, customer satisfaction, audience engagement, return visits, and team goals. If you correctly reward and incentivize your staff, the productivity you achieve exceed the sum of the individual parts.
5. Build for Agility – speed beats perfection – iterate, but find the tools and the processes that allow you to adjust.
Obviously, an agile development environment is critical, but do you have an agile operational environment? Where sales, marketing and product teams can morph as the market demands change? Architect your technology and your operating structure assuming it will need to change. Every great company iterated into success didn’t achieve it right at the start, but they did have the operational fortitude and structural flexibility to swing the products or services to move with the market. This may require you to hire people with broad skills, flexible attitudes and willingness to take on multiple roles. A culture of agility enables you to adjust without ripping out the guts of your technology or teams.
Collaborate, measure, support, reward and be agile in how you build and operationalize your business. Put your house in order and invest in the processes that lay the foundation for a company that can achieve growth through motivated employees and satisfied customers.
If you are looking to strengthen your digital operations, please share your feedback or questions with the author via email at firstname.lastname@example.org