Who Should Revenue Operations Report To?
We had a question in the RevOps Co-Op Slack channel that we just couldn’t ignore:
“Does anyone have any strong thoughts/feelings about where RevOps should report up to?”
It turns out the answer is YES. We all have strong opinions about this topic.
I would wager many of us came from more siloed operations functions and all of the complications that come with them. If you report to a marketing, sales, or customer success leader, you will inevitably be asked to design, report, and think for them first. It’s a natural ask but not ideal for positions that demand neutrality.
Revenue operations works best when the leader is on equal footing with the vice presidents of sales, marketing, and customer success.
Who Should Rev Ops Report To?
Ideally, the Vice President of Revenue Operations should report to the Chief Revenue Officer. The Chief Revenue Officer also oversees marketing, sales, and customer success leadership teams. The VP of Revenue Operations should be on equal footing with the marketing, sales, and customer success leadership teams.
“From my point of view, the main focus of Ops, in general, is not what's best for a specific department but what's best for the whole company, in all its dimensions.” -- Cédric Venard, VP Operations, Praxedo
Each siloed department has very specific objectives. Sell more, make our number, and make everyone as happy as possible while selling more for marketing, sales, and customer success, respectively. When it comes to goal development, budgets, headcount priority, and just about anything else, each department will believe they get priority over the other.
There’s also the issue of personal interests outweighing the best interests of the company.
Throughout my time in operations, I was asked to ignore questionable contract language, a lack of contracts, change numbers, creatively "filter" numbers, and worse. I used to say, “You may be mad now, but you won’t be in jail tomorrow,” when I told people no.
It was a joke. For the most part.
When revenue operations puts policies in place to make marketing data practices compliant with GDPR or CPRA, it restricts marketing’s ability to market to people. It also keeps the marketing administrator and marketing leadership team from being held personally liable should the company be sued.
When revenue operations works with legal to determine the contract structure for an evergreen SaaS contract, legality should take priority over an inconvenience to sales.
When Revenue Operations develops KPIs, budgets, or plans, they should have an executive backing their numbers on an equal or greater footing than the department heads receiving these numbers. This doesn't mean that Revenue Operations leaders shouldn't consider objections and value input. But suppose the business agrees that a particular approach is necessary. In that case, the VP of Revenue Operations shouldn't have to back down because the person they report to doesn't like what the rest of the leadership team thinks.
“The Chief of Revenue Operations is the gold standard for where the SVP of Revenue Operations should report. That being said, marketing, sales, and customer success should also be under the CRO. They should be partners in developing the roadmap driven by corporate strategy initiatives to drive revenue and increase retention.” -- Sarah Sheehan Senior Manager and Principal Revenue Operations Business Architect
An Acceptable Alternative
Let's face it. Many younger organizations are still going through the phase of discovering that, yes, operations is actually a critical business function. Revenue operations is still a cutting edge concept for many, even though it always made sense to those of us in operations. But I digress.
Younger organizations often don't have the budget to create a multi-tiered executive structure. Many leadership team members are considered "player-coaches" and may even serve as their own operations "expert." In these cases, it makes sense for revenue operations to report to the Chief Operations Officer or the Chief Finance Officer.
“I feel strongly that RevOps should have a seat at the leadership table. How this looks depends on the organization or company. For example, some larger companies have the VP of RevOps reports up directly to the CRO. When there's not a CRO, I've seen this position report up to a COO. I don't like the models where RevOps reports up to a function head like sales, marketing, or customer success because I believe this enforces silos that we in RevOps are trying to eliminate. I like the model where RevOps reports to the CRO or COO because it ultimately drives accountability and the focus remains on what is going to be best for the company” -- Matthew Volm, CEO and Co-Founder of Funl
Because the Chief Operations Officer often also oversees information technology, it isn’t a big stretch to keep the four pillars of revenue operations (insights, enablement, tools, process) where they should be. It can be more difficult to retain the tools expertise in revenue operations and not in IT if the department reports up to the CFO, who is generally more focused on insights than the technology needed to generate the data. On the other hand, it can be beneficial to have functions like a sales deal desk report into the CFO as it fast tracks the development of opportunity approval policies.
Whether you report up to the CFO or COO, they must be willing to help maintain neutrality and enforce policies on revenue operations’ behalf.
What Doesn’t Work?
I’m afraid to be absolutely honest. Here goes…
Too many companies create a "revenue operations" role that is the equivalent of a one-man-band. You'll be responsible for all the instruments, and because no one can do everything at once, it's going to sound like a hot mess.
If a business is going to create a revenue operations department, they should understand the following:
- It’s not reasonable to ask one person to manage both your CRM and marketing automation platform
- A person who is in charge of managing systems will not have the time to write your reports
- A person who is writing reports will not have the time to write content and manage digital marketing platforms
There are some unicorns out there who can do it all. The question is:
Should you expect them too?
Hiring one person to do both marketing operations and sales operations is not revenue operations. It’s a recipe for burnout. Don’t get me wrong. Marketing and sales operations professionals are amazing. Whether you’re in a siloed operations role or a single revenue operations department, it’s important to divide responsibilities in a way that doesn’t overburden any one individual.
“Prior to having a CRO, I reported to our VP Sales. We also had a CMO that was his peer. In that model, I was really in sales operations with a bit of marketing ops support. But I ultimately worked on sales priorities because I was in that department. To serve in a true rev ops function, you need to report to a CRO or CEO.” -- Brian Vass, Vice President Revenue Operations, Paycor
Revenue operations is a thoughtful approach to unifying all revenue-generating teams in achieving strategic goals. You'll need people who can implement and manage systems, people who can derive insights and form action plans, and people who can enable revenue-generating departments to be more efficient by sharing knowledge and establishing processes.
“For what it’s worth, my company doesn't have a CRO so I report to our CFO/COO (we're a growth stage company). I just joined in August, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have taken the role if it reported into a function. This isn't because I don't like the functional areas, or the leaders - they're all really great - but because of the silos and resulting challenges.” -- Lisa Travnik, Director of Revenue Operations at RevenueWell
In order do a good job at any operations role, you need headcount and executive support. If you see a role that combines sales and marketing ops, the job responsibilities are all encompassing, and you’ll be reporting to a functional executive, run away. It’s a sure sign operations isn’t valued