Check out our interview to hear why operational analytics are so important to modern businesses and how to get started at your company.
Matt Mesher: With me today is Anne Pao, VP of Growth Operations and Enablement at Maven Clinic. Anne, I’d love to know more about your work and what led you here?
Anne Pao: The underlying thread in my career has been around data. It started in financial planning and then led to data analytics and operations.
Early in my career, I found that I liked solving problems. It turns out that many of the hard problems – the problems people haven’t solved yet – are actually at the intersection between different teams. A boss once told me, “I hired you because you understand the business and you understand data.” That's always been a theme for me. I like understanding problems from different perspectives, which is essential for operations because you need a 360-degree view of your business.
Matt: Given your extensive background with data and operations, can you tell us what data-driven operations mean to you?
Anne: As a data-driven operations leader, your #1 job is to help teams focus and make the most informed decisions possible.
As a Revenue Operations leader, I talk a lot about leverage and linkage points. Metrics, like KPIs, should be tied back to the relevant activities – or levers – that influence them. These levers are also often cross-team, creating linkage points. Without understanding leverage and linkage points, business metrics can't tell you what you need to know.
So data-driven operations is understanding business architecture and then uniting it with data architecture to drive decision-making and power workflows.
Matt: That sounds like something most businesses would benefit from. So why have data-driven operations been so hard to deliver?
Anne: I’ll share two quick stories. There was one point in my career where our CEO said, “Anne, your team is the secret weapon that will help us win customers.” That's because businesses need someone responsible for the “how.”
Another colleague told me, “No one can do what your team does because they don’t understand the business end-to-end.”
Ultimately they both are pointing to the same thing. We have to dedicate space and value onboarding everyone to the “how.”
For example, every business has sales targets, but we shouldn’t just focus narrowly on the outcome. That's because in modern companies, sales aren't only affected by the sales team. Success requires collaboration across the entire go-to-market, and the biggest challenge is getting everybody on the same page. Understanding what happens behind the scenes, having time and space to dig deeper, creating a forum for leaders to collaborate – those are all hard things that are critical for creating scalable, repeatable impact.
Leaders must understand that cross-team understanding and coordination is the secret weapon of successful organizations. It has to be on purpose, using the right collaboration and integration of processes and tools. Without it, data-driven operations will remain hard for companies.
Matt: That does sound challenging! I want to explore your point about processes and tools a bit more. Traditionally, companies focus on BI dashboards and data warehouses, but those don’t solve business teams' data collaboration, integration, and automation needs. What tools are necessary to deliver the promise of operational analytics?
Anne: I’ve used anything from Google Sheets and Excel in my financial planning days to later being a part of BI and GTM operations teams. Unfortunately, people spend so much time storing and transforming data that answering "how data will improve the business outcomes" becomes a bit of an afterthought.
You have to have a place or "home" to bring people together and collaborate around the data – and it must include data, operations and business teams.
Matt: I love that collaborative vision. What do you see as the future for data-driven operations?
Anne: When I was consulting, my job was to track the latest tech trends. In my early days in ops and analytics teams, I was responsible for selecting tools that helped drive the business. At that time everyone was talking about BI, data warehousing and systems integration. Back then, cloud software like Snowflake was just getting onto the scene. Now it's everywhere.
So data and analytics teams have new, powerful tools, but they often aren't any better integrated into their business teams.
The future is about collaboration and distribution of analytics across teams. Data, operations and business teams must meld together to succeed. The tools and processes that power are the new secret weapon.