RevOps, Book

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Documentation in RevOps: Book excerpt

Here is another excerpt from my in-progress 'What is RevOps?' book, the second half of the chapter about processes and documentation, which is most relevant to my usual blog topics. It's currently chapter 4 in the book, after chapters about the definition(s) of RevOps and the people category of work.

Read part one of the chapter here, including the chapter introduction.

The main research question in this chapter, asked to 35+ experts:

What role does process strategy and documentation play in RevOps?

Scroll down to read about:


Disclaimer for book draft excerpts:

  • This is a draft, which is not exceptionally clean, clear, and concise writing yet.
  • Everything may change between now and publishing. 
  • The job titles are from the time the experts were interviewed 
  • If you were interviewed and your quote feels out of context, please contact me so I can correct it.
  • To have any hope of finishing editing and publishing, I am not adding new research or new quotes to the book. 


Documenting Processes 

 

Documentation is rarely anyone’s favorite activity nor is it a popular discussion topic. Yet without it, your process strategy work will not be easily adopted, trained, implemented, changed…it will just be an idea or discussion topic in a meeting or in your head. Only you and/or the people in that meeting will know what was discussed about the process. Perhaps a few people who watched the meeting recording will have access to the information, if they know it exists, but the broader revenue teams will likely not have access or understand how to put that strategy to use in their role.

Documentation’s importance in the process ownership responsibilities of RevOps cannot be understated. As Hilary Headlee, Head of Global Sales Ops + Enablement at Zoom, said, “If there's one piece of the [ops] pie that matters the most, it is process, and process is really the ability to execute a plan. And I'm just a giant believer that your plan has to be documented to succeed.”

Sylvain Giuliani, Head of Growth at Census, called documentation “the hidden part of the iceberg” in revenue operations work. 

“Documentation is huge. There are so many best practices that RevOps needs to steal from engineering teams like documentation, change log / change communication, customer request triage/backlog, CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery/deployment), multi-environment (test, staging, production), alerting & monitoring...Internal best practices [like these], which show you all the communication, explaining what and how the thing works, and why it works like this. But also, communicating change is very important…[Using all these best practices] sounds cumbersome, but like in a well-oiled machine, that makes things a lot easier. And, again, you trust the system and the data a lot more, if you know that [these practices are taking place],” he said.

Lorena Morales, VP of Marketing at Go Nimbly, has another great analogy for documentation. “It's kind of like the blood vessels of the entire system,” Lorena said. Documentation spreads the processes throughout the organization like blood vessels carrying blood throughout the body.

Another helpful analogy came from Melissa McCready, GrowthOps Advisor, Founder, and CEO at Navigate Consulting and President of the Growth Ops Community. Melissa said, “[Documentation] is a pillar. Without it, you fail. Or one leg of a three-legged stool.” Don’t create an unusable or unstable building or chair by foregoing documentation!

Referring back to the section in this chapter about RevOps as a business partner, Melissa also said, “Documentation shows that you did the work, you thought through it, you mapped it out…and you put that into the implementation. Because if you don't do those things, this is where that business requirements piece comes back into play. You end up going, ‘We did this because we didn't do that.’” Documentation can show your strategic work, which helps you get a seat at the strategy and leadership table, using the lessons in the common phrase, ‘show, don’t tell.’

Documentation enables process changes and improvements

Processes can be measured and improved if they are run the same way each time by each person involved in the process. Documentation not only helps people consistently perform the processes (and therefore become measurable processes), but it also helps people understand the changes and improvements that could be made to the process, and make sure those changes are actually adopted.

“For every organization that I go into, my first measure, usually I'll go in and do audits, even just starting at a new company. You come in and you audit. And if you don't see documentation there, it's kind of like, ‘Oh, great, I have a labyrinth in front of me. I'm going to have to spend months figuring this out.’ So it absolutely stifles growth [when you don’t have documentation],” said Melissa McCready. 

On a similar note, Julia Herman, VP Head of Global Sales Operations at ABBYY, said if you have documentation, “When you want to go change something in the future, you understand and know where the bodies are buried, [where you’ve] been to begin with, rather than doing a million interviews to find out if we still actually need this.”

Documentation’s place in enabling smart changes, with the full context of the situation for all people involved, is something Alana Zimmer, Senior Manager of Customer Ops at GoSite, talked about in response to this question. “You can build something beautiful or optimize something, but if it's not well documented, it can't be iterated and improved upon. It's for nothing, or if individuals don't know that it's been developed, it doesn't serve its function. Likewise with process strategy, if there's no vision, if there isn't a clear alignment between stakeholders. If there isn't a proper assessment for the context or implications of what you're building for, it's not configured in a holistic manner,” Alana said.

1documentation revops alana

Making changes always requires some amount of change management, which Maggie Butler, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager for Operations at HubSpot, discussed related to documentation. “You cannot effectively make changes if you do not have a source of truth on what the changes are, because how are you going to know? What are you gonna explain to other people? You have to have a story of the change, this is how we did it, this is why we're changing it, and this is how it looks now. [That’s] the basis of every single conversation you're going to have around making changes,” Maggie said.

Another aspect of change, and often an objection to doing documentation, is the fast pace of changes at many companies. Rosalyn Santa Elena, Head of Revenue Operations at Clari, mentioned this topic in her response. “I think documentation, definitely that's part of that ops mindset. You're building process, you're trying to help things scale, you're trying to be able to support the team and make things repeatable. So the more you can document, the better. Which is difficult in a small company, things are changing so quickly that once you document it, a lot of times it's already changed.”

The solution to that issue is having a system and culture of documenting at the same time that you make the changes and complete testing and experiments, instead of documenting as a separate step later, which Melissa McCready discussed. “I have my clients constantly keeping documentation up to date. I'm documenting for them, ‘Here's this document with all the fields, here's what you're using, here's what you're not, here's what's integrated with what tool and what's not integrated, here are ones that you should probably sunset and being able to do that for optimization.’ And then also, if there's new things coming in, ‘Here are the ones that are going to be impacted, because they're hitting all these different systems.’ And making sure you have it laid out, and organized, which is a good thing in operations. People who are disorganized, don't do well [in ops], on average. You can be disorganized in thought. But on paper, you need to be organized. There's a lot of mad scientists and creativity that comes into play with processes and systems. But at the end of the day, if you don't nail that down, it's really hard to implement well, and do your checks and balances in your testing. That's another thing, is that you can't test without having documentation.”

5documentation revops melissa

One additional speed-related blocker to documentation can be related to neurodivergence and thinking or internal processing speed, though ultimately the documentation is also beneficial for communicating the changes in a clear way to different types of thinkers. Leore Spira, Head of Revenue Operations of Syte, said, “[With] ADHD, sometimes I think too fast … sometimes I prefer to speak instead of writing it down. But I know it's a mistake, because first, not everybody always understands what I'm saying, or understands the need, or what should be, and how it should be executed. And so we must document everything, not just for documentation purposes, because, mainly for startups that grow all the time, you always have to come back to an old process and modify it. If everything is written and documented, it will be easier, because then you won't forget, and you won’t create major data issues or bugs in the system that then you will have to clean and fix, because nothing makes sense in the dashboards and reports.” As Leore mentioned, documentation also removes the burden of remembering the process or remembering the changes, so you won’t have to worry about forgetting important aspects of your work.

Documentation is used for process training, adoption, and enablement of people

Documentation makes it faster and easier for you to train new team members, considering both your time as a trainer and the other person’s time as a learner. Not only will the work be clearer to perform for the trainee, resulting in a faster ramp-up to performing the role, but the manager or training person will not have to answer the same questions over and over, saving their time, too.

Lorena Morales talked about how documentation helps new hires. “It’s funny that you said that because nobody focuses on [documentation]. Everyone's [talking about] tech stack...one of the reasons I was put in this role is because an employee satisfaction survey from all of our marketing teams specifically came back saying we can't see and don't know where any of our projects are with the services, and there's no documentation so when new people come on board, we have no idea how to train them to do anything.”

Lorena continued, “[Without documentation] The owners of your systems can easily implement things that a new person that comes to the organization might not be able to follow up with. There is a huge problem that I don't see people discussing enough… documentation is vital because if you don't have every single meeting and every single decision on paper or a recording somewhere, you are in trouble. Because again, your company's not going to be the same today in 2020, or in 2025, and there are things that are still going to be useful from five years ago.”

One executive, choosing to remain anonymous, had an interesting thought about the relationship between processes, documentation, and training. “So any process is super important. I think documentation only supports the training of the process. But if it's needed to run the process, and the process is too complicated,” they said.

“Documentation of process eases change management, increases the speed of onboarding, and leads to greater productivity when team members can ‘self-help’ using documentation,” said Jenna Hanington, VP of Revenue Operations at Experity. The benefits of empowering new hires to self-help instead of relying on someone else to answer their question, and waiting for answers, is a great way to help the new team member feel belonging and useful in their new role.

6documentation revops jenna

And it's not just new hires that need training. When new processes are introduced, documentation also helps train the current team. “Documentation is necessary, particularly focused around adoption materials for the users the new process affects,” said Matthew Volm, CEO and Co-Founder at Funnel IQ and Co-Founder of the RevOps Co-op community.

Documentation promotes effective remote communication and collaboration

Documentation takes practice to build the habit, especially in a workplace where it can seem faster and easier to just ‘jump on a call’ and explain something. But with the rise of remote work, many teams are not working at the same times of day, so that ‘jump on a call’ request to explain something becomes less convenient. And if you’re explaining the same thing over and over, to multiple people, you’re playing a game of telephone where everyone will remember it differently and not perform consistently. Writing or recording the information provides clarity across teams for collaboration and communication.

“Especially in today's remote environment, there are a lot of people talking. There are not as many people documenting and doing. You need to have your projects and ideas and actions you want to take shareable in formats like Zoom chat, Slack, or email to get the ball rolling,” Hilary Headlee said. Similar to the point in the process strategy section of this chapter, action is less likely to occur if nothing is written down to enable the action. You’ll end up with a calendar of back-to-back meetings but nothing that moves the company forward in terms of action. That is a recipe for burnout or losing jobs.

Hilary continued, “It's literally my job to share information, to influence, to move, to act. Because my whole job, if you actually go back to, ‘How do I define RevOps,’ for where I'm at in the leadership role, I'm really just trying to get people to do more or less of something, do it better, and do it faster. So it's just change management and communication on steroids at times, all wrapped around the sales ops pie piece. It only gets done through documentation so I can go and communicate it simply, easily, and help drive to that if that's needed.”

Sylvain Giuliani discussed collaboration in his response, and said, “That's a huge part, to be able to collaborate as a team. Because RevOps, for me, is the first real upstream. Before, it was set up as a one-person team. It's very rare that you have more. There are very large companies that use one or two people in sales ops, one person in marketing ops, and one person in CS ops. And then you don't have to do too much documentation, because everything is in your head, because you're the only person doing the job. So you don't have to communicate much. But as RevOps becomes more of a team, because of the state of being involved in all the other functions [instead of just] one … people have to understand what's going on in this larger, more complex system.”

7documentation revops sylvain

Mike Ewing, Senior Team Manager of Renewal Management EMEA at HubSpot, discussed some of the ways that documenting processes has aided in collaboration and its importance in achieving the goals of RevOps. He said, “We did have a big whiteboard exercise looking at our process. We kept validating it in Lucid Charts to identify all the pain points in our consolidated outputs. We found lots of pains and gaps and where they were in the process and in the system. And what this ultimately led me to think about is that you have people collaboration at the top bit, and at the bottom, it has system collaboration, and you need both to be able to function around customer experience, revenue impact, operations, and reporting.”

Mike continued, “We all create all these different workarounds, which ultimately create friction. You can remove that friction by having data sharing and process collaboration between those departments. And when you add people collaboration on top of that, you have those the people aligned and you have to data share and process collaboration, that's called revenue operations…If you skip that bit and you say, ‘Oh my systems are all messed up, just help me fix my systems,’ you're ultimately not going to be successful.”

You’ve probably heard what happens with a lack of communication and collaboration: silos. Which are one of the enemies that RevOps was invented to conquer. “One of the biggest reasons RevOps has continued to evolve is because of silos. RevOps is meant to be a collective team that helps to align the business. With that, processes should be consistently evaluated over time to evolve as the business grows and documentation is fundamental regarding any changes to the GTM engine as a whole,” said Nicole Smith, Revenue Operations Consultant at Winning By Design.

Documentation allows companies to scale 

No matter what your definition of scaling is, the experts agreed you need process strategy and documentation to efficiently grow a company. It is a make-or-break skill or responsibility for companies and individuals working in operations.

On the subject of scaling, Matthew Volm said, “Documentation is critical in every role, not just RevOps - the more you document, the more scalable your processes become...so if you want to scale your processes, which we all do, then documentation is very important.”

8documentation revops matthew

Part of the RevOps mindset related to scaling is thinking about helping team members who may arrive after you leave the company. This may be thought of as a selflessness and legacy aspect of documentation, helping people beyond your tenure at the company. Crissy Saunders, Co-Founder and Principal Consultant at CS2 Marketing, touched on that subject in her response. “I think even if you're a startup, even if you're one person in revenue operations, documenting what you're building will save you so much time and pain. Also, the people that come on to the company after you will really thank you for it. And it just helps you trace back. ‘Oh, what did I do, What is this?’ And if someone asks you a question you can send them that documentation. It just makes your job much easier,” Crissy said. 

Related to the alignment and complex work needed to scale companies successfully, Alison Elworthy, Head of RevOps at HubSpot, said, “Documentation, for example, is such a rich word: it can be a history of changes, or a detailed log of how something works. And when you have reliable documentation, alignment usually follows. And this helps teams to move quickly, make informed decisions, and remain in lockstep on complex projects and large-scale concepts.”

What happens when no one takes responsibility for documenting? 

A lot of the problems of not documenting appear when team members leave the company, no matter if it is voluntary or layoffs. The knowledge leaves with them, leaving the remaining team members to scramble, recreate the wheel, and make many mistakes along the way that hurth the company and frustrate the team.

On this topic, Mike Rizzo, Manager of Community and Loyalty Programs at Mavenlink and founder of MO Pros community, said, “Leadership needs to know how things work, or at least needs to know that there's somebody that knows how things work...there will be churn in your business. You're going to lose employees. If your entire process was in the brain of the person who built the system or the engine or built that connection, and then they leave, that's a problem...I'm a huge proponent of documentation, it must happen in every organization.”

Considerations when documenting processes

Many of the experts also added advice about creating documentation that is likely to be used and useful.

Jonathan Fianu, Head of Revenue Operations at ComplyAdvantage, talked about not overcomplicating documentation, and considering the method and audience, such as using gifs that show the steps. “I'm also a big fan of documentation, but I'm not a big fan of over documentation. You got to think about what the audience [needs] …There's loads of little applications where you can just do a little gif for [a short] tutorial and keep it in a gif library. People can use short snippets, they can get it. If you're going to do a write up, keep it concise, a one-pager,” he said.

Julia Herman agreed, and said, “It's not 1000 pages, but something that can be easily consumed.”

“Providing documentation that is both digestible and user friendly in terms of guidance, how to’s, one pagers, playbooks, and things like that. That piece can fall on one side of the fence or the other, depending on where dedicated enablement functions live,” said Keith Jones, RevOps Manager of Systems at MURAL, in regards to how the people responsible for documentation could depend on whether the company is large enough to decide to split enablement into a team outside of RevOps. 

Hilary Headlee also discusses different types of documents, formats, and purposes. “It's so important to define a document…you have to document to automate so you can actually do analysis. You have to document so you can educate, or train, so you can evangelize and get the word out for what that is. You have to document to have a plan to execute. And so for me in operations and even in enablement, all paths lead back to documentation. And when I say documentation, it can be one slide. And that's enough of who, what, where, when, why, how, or this is the problem. This is why we think the problem is happening and this is what we're going to do to solve it, it can be really simple documentation. But I think I do believe that the one who documents wins,” she said.

 

The one who documents, wins -- let’s end this chapter on that note!

91documentation revops Hilary

 

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Topics:   RevOps, Book