Session Spotlight: Aligning Ops through Self-service Automation
One of the most enlightening sessions at Mops-Apalooza and Open23 was with Alyssa Hewitt, Director of Customer Success at Openprise, Melia Vilain, Senior Manager of Sales Analytics at GitLab, Raquel Banderas, Director of Global MarTech Strategy and Operations, and Detrie Zacharias, Director of Global Operations – Data Management at Rimini Street discuss the benefits of self-service automation. Check out the highlights of their discussion below, and watch the full session here.
Topic: What does self-service automation mean in the context of marketing operations?
- Detrie emphasizes the synergy between automation and self-service. Whenever we empower anyone within the organization to handle tasks independently and remove SLAs from the equation, end users appreciate the autonomy it provides. This autonomy, in turn, allows other teams to focus on their tasks without external disruptions.
- Raquel suggests the elimination of human involvement in significant processes. This involves streamlining and eliminating broken processes and redundancies. Given that everyone is already busy, the aim is to optimize and extract maximum value from these overarching processes.
- Melia clarifies that automation primarily revolves around data quality, ensuring that we possess the correct data and addressing any gaps or deficiencies. This entails working on opportunities and establishing automation for reporting purposes.
Topic: How has self-service automation impacted your respective organizations’ operational efficiency?
- Melia points out that there were certain challenges on the account side, specifically regarding verifying data quality and ensuring correct formatting. Additionally, they have implemented automation for account deduplication. Regarding opportunities, they are automating them to guarantee that all fields are appropriately filled in for reporting purposes. The challenges were particularly evident in the account deduplication process, which required trial and error to get it right. They have also put in place metrics to track improvements in data quality over time and to ensure opportunities are routed correctly.
- Raquel emphasizes merging data from various accounts, deduplication, and account mapping. In other areas related to data input, they strive to maintain the cleanliness of the data to maximize its utility with minimal transformation. The challenges lie in juggling multiple tasks, carefully considering each step, constructing the process, defining the rules, and engaging in daily co-creation efforts.
- Detrie discusses their experience with the deduplication process, highlighting the initial concerns and apprehension associated with it. They specifically focused on deduping within leads and contacts. To address this, they implemented a tier system for managing the people data, introducing a scoring mechanism that aggregates data from the CRM. This scoring system prioritizes recent records while disregarding those who haven’t engaged with the company for an extended period. In addition, they developed a list-loading application designed to extract data from marketing events. This app streamlines cross-referencing whether a person exists in their database, and the entire process has been automated. Previously, there were two-week SLAs (Service Level Agreements) in marketing, but now, thanks to these improvements, SLAs are no longer necessary. Team members can manage the data themselves, with the added benefit of implementing guardrails to ensure the use of specific data and values. This approach, which involves normalization, standardization, and deduplication, has had a significant positive impact on their operations.
Topics: How do you strike a balance between self-service automation and the need for human intervention or oversight in certain tasks? / In your experience, what are the most common challenges that leaders face when attempting to consolidate automation efforts, and how can they be overcome?
- Melia discusses the challenge of account deduplication and emphasizes the importance of getting it right on the first attempt, as there is no way to reverse the process once it’s initiated. To address this issue, they implemented a solution involving automated deduplication jobs, particularly for the accounts considered safe and straightforward to dedupe. Additionally, they have another process that handles more complex cases, where human intervention is required to review and make decisions. They’ve also introduced a separate application designed specifically for identifying and flagging those tricky accounts that necessitate human assessment.
- Detrie emphasizes the importance of continuous iteration in developing an application that covers 80% of the use cases. He illustrates this with the example of list loading, explaining that it now includes features such as job title segmentation and real-time data enrichment from an external data vendor, resulting in more comprehensive and valuable data that enhances lead scoring. However, Detrie acknowledges that there is always a remaining 20% of cases that cannot be fully automated. To address this, they introduced Data Management Services in the previous quarter to handle these tasks. The key takeaway is that through constant reiteration and enhancement of the use cases, they have managed to increase the coverage from 80% to an impressive 97%.
Topic: How do you ensure that self-service automation aligns with your overall business goals and strategies?
- Coming from a large company, Raquel emphasizes the need to navigate internal dynamics and competing interests, describing it as an art. She stresses the importance of aligning one’s work with overarching company goals. This involves translating corporate strategy and goals into actionable steps and maintaining clarity through metrics. Raquel recommends translating concepts into tangible deliverables, measuring progress, and sharing results with leadership to demonstrate alignment. She highlights the flexibility to adapt when assumptions are proven wrong and the importance of understanding company culture for agile decision-making.
Topic: How do you measure the success of self-service automation initiatives, and what metrics or KPIs do you find most valuable in this context?
- Melia who specializes in analytics looks at various data for account data quality and measures of completeness(how many fields are filled in, where are missing data) and for accuracy(where the sales team is requesting data changes). Her thought process was the more accurate the data is, the fewer requests she would get to change the data. She also evaluates time savings and reporting metrics for the deal desk.
- Raquel seeks process automation for cost reduction, considering metrics like completion rates and customer satisfaction, and balancing hard metrics (time and cost) with softer ones for internal alignment decisions.
- Dietire looks for gaps in the data and executes on that. He also looks at gap analysis (ex: who are we missing and who are missing from subsections/accounts).
Topics: What strategies have you used to encourage adoption of self-service automation tools and processes among your teams? / How do you balance the need for centralized control with the flexibility required by individual teams or business units to customize their automation solutions?
- Dietre stressed the importance of early leadership support and focusing on company needs rather than personal pain points. His first example was before automation there was a 2-week SLA and now everything happens quickly which is a huge benefit. Marketers are loading lists from the events and now SDRs can start planning. You need to talk to the business and understand what they need. Don’t assume what they want.
- Raquel breaks it out into three areas. The first is whenever you introduce something new, give them the time they need to explore the space. This allows better working with the end users. The second is to show the value right away and you can get the engagement you need to get people excited. Lastly is flexibility, so people realize you can work on something and iterate. She concluded that it’s essential to talk to the business, and talk to the people. Don’t stay in your head or your team. Learn how to do things, and always validate how you propose them.
- Melia recounts her experience with the Deal Desk team, expressing her surprise at their automation efforts. She explains once they witnessed the time-saving and automation achievements of the RevOps team, they too began to adopt automation practices. The transition was driven by recognizing the value it brought to various teams.
Topic: Can you describe any instances where self-service automation let to improved customer experiences?
- Melia believes her efforts have positively impacted her sales team, which she refers to as her direct customers. They are experiencing the advantages of automated tasks, resulting in a clean and organized workflow. This trickles down to the paying customers who see the value in a well-organized sales team.
Topics: How do you ensure that self-service automation remains scalable as your organization grows? / What do you envision as the future of self-service automation in the marketing operations landscape?
- Raquel thinks that when you’re trying to scale, it’s essential to be transparent and document everything to reduce risks. You should make it easy for others to understand what you’re doing. We’re used to dealing with fragmented situations, so a modular approach is key. To keep up with various progress speeds, we must address different challenges. We’re at a point where humans can work alongside machines instead of relying solely on technology. There won’t be strict rules anymore. It’s all about adapting and being flexible.
- Melia believes in transparency and iteration. When you’re automating, it’s important to keep iterating because things can change. She believes that when diving into automation, it’s crucial to be intellectually curious and ask why questions from the start. Sometimes, it might not be the right time to automate a process, so you need to evaluate whether it’s necessary or if there’s a better way to do it. It’s about figuring out if you need to make small adjustments or if a completely new approach is needed.
- Deitre adds that iteration is important because achieving your goals immediately is unlikely. Start by addressing what you can and be open to feedback from others. It’s essential not to take things personally. Instead, focus on understanding the reasons behind any issues, how improvements can be made, and why certain approaches may not work. Use this understanding to guide your progress and build toward your objectives.
Self-service automation goes beyond addressing metrics; it revolves around supporting individuals and the organization. Effective communication, transparency, and continuous refinement are essential for a successful implementation.
For other compelling sessions around learnings and best practices check out the full list here!