MOPs has the ability to enable progress by using a strategic approach of untangling and improving processes. Carissa McCall covers how to translate technology mind mapping to stakeholders, communicating the value of ops, simplifying complex concepts for your audience, and how to manage the balance of maintenance and innovation.
Carissa McCall is the Marketing Operations Manager at Talon.One. She’s a firm believer in being the bridge between departments. She loves all things operations, no matter whether it’s Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, or Finance. You’ll hear how much Carissa believes in sequence, workflow and focusing on making things just one percent better than they were yesterday.
How do you translate process and technology mind mapping to cross-functional teams?
I love to have a lot of one-on-ones with different stakeholders throughout the company. I’ll ask what their biggest pain point is and what they are trying to solve. Make sure to avoid leading questions. You get a lot of really good information asking open-ended questions to find out what people are struggling to solve, what they've already solved, and what the company needs as a whole to move, progress and grow.
The value of Ops comes in whenever you find those pain points of trying to reach a destination point. The current process is manually putting all the pieces together and they don't know how to get to the point they want without the manual process. Ops is layered in to figure out the progress to get to the point of doing away with the manual process. Ops can help show how to scale and figure out exactly what pieces are needed to help fill the gaps between tech and people.
Everybody has a certain function on a marketing team. Not everybody has the ability to put all the pieces together. They're just trying to get their job done. That's where someone coming in with Ops to put all the pieces together is really helpful to reach that final destination point, like that magic report that's gonna help with figuring out where marketing spend needs to go. Or figuring out what content pieces are performing in top, middle, bottom of the funnel.
It's data analytics mixed with the processes and the systems put together that gives you that good solution.
How do you communicate the value of Ops to leadership?
Typically leadership already knows about the gaps that exist in the organization. Sometimes there are responsibilities that would fall on different marketing department members or sales department members. In reality, those responsibilities shouldn't be falling on those people. It should be falling on an Ops person to take control of some of those things.
Whenever an organization is growing quickly and Ops is new, sometimes you just need to ask the question of who actually should be working on different things. Ops takes advantage of the different strengths of team members in different parts of the organization, but partners with them where they need extra support. For example, maybe a performance marketing manager is excellent with data and has amazing data analysis skills. They're really good at lead attribution, but that can't be their entire job. My job as Ops is to step in and partner with them because they don't need to be like their responsibility and their focus split. When you split focus it is really difficult to get things done.
That’s one way you can sell the value of Ops to leadership. Let them know that the performance marketing manager really needs to focus on this project, but I can help on the lead attribution side of things to help figure out where we need to be. For instance with paid leads, some of them turn into close one opportunities. but some of them turned into close loss. I can help unpack that and reverse engineer it. Then I can give that information back to the performance marketing manager to realign their efforts. That’s another way you can sell the value of Ops because while that performance marketing manager is completely capable of doing that data analysis, they shouldn't be taking the time to be doing it. They should be partnering with an Ops team to get that information so they can move faster.
What’s the best way to simplify complex concepts for different audiences?
Whenever you create a presentation, it's always a million slides at first. You have to figure out how to condense it. I call them my mind maps. Whenever I map something out, I will put it in a project management tool first. I put it in a list format first, like, so I can see it and break things out by milestones. Then I put those milestones into the map.
Try to attach the timeline that you've approximated to your list of things. Then put that timeline up across the top of the presentation and ask yourself to talk through it with almost no context except the problem that you're trying to solve. That's how you set the stage for talking through whether your milestones make sense. Are they too vague? Are they too deep? If you need to, break out more milestones to make the whole picture make sense.
Give yourself a vague picture of it that is as high level as possible. Then try to go into it with the mindset of the only thing I know about this is the issue I'm trying to solve. With that mindset, you can ask yourself if this is enough information or if it’s too much.
I make the mistake sometimes of putting too many words in my mind maps. For instance, I’ll put a description of the milestone instead of the name of the milestone because I want to see it. While that description makes sense to me, I could condense it more and call it inbound revenue. My audience doesn’t need to see the description. They need the material to be as clear and concise as possible. But in the beginning you can put all the details down first, trim it down, and then make sure it makes sense without a whole lot of context.
How do you decide whether to maintain tech versus innovating?
It often comes down to paying attention to how you spend your time. When I do my audit of projects I want to work on, I usually end up creating a new version of something that already exists. While I’m optimizing something that exists, I don't want to get into the habit of having the whole week go by doing that. That’s when you’re putting so much time into maintaining something, it might be worth adopting new tech to get it done now versus later on.
If maintenance takes up more than a couple of hours a week, it’s not maintenance. It's almost manually doing it. Keep track of how much you’re able to work on new projects and how much you’re working on maintaining projects. That does sometimes come down to staffing issues as well. Sometimes you just need more hands on deck and more help. If it’s not a staffing issue, it may be that you’d benefit more from adopting new tech than trying to maintain what you have.
What’s the best way to unpack processes and untangle things that are interwoven?
Holiday lights are a good example when they’ve been in the box for a year or more and forgotten about. They work when you take the ball of lights out of the box and you plug it into the wall, but it takes someone with the motivation and the patience to untangle them and make sure all the individual lights are all working like they should. Once they’re untangled and working, they’re beautiful again.
that's how someone described me to myself when I didn't know what I was gonna do with myself professionally. I think about it a lot because whenever I look at how I'm approaching projects. Chances are you are just handed a messed up spreadsheet or someone's just hands you a database and asks you to do something with it without knowing what’s in there. There are a lot of different scenarios where someone can give you something that's tangled.
Ops people have the patience and the motivation to untangle those things and make them beautiful. It's a puzzle at the end of the day and we like puzzles. I always think there are salvageable things inside of tangled problems. Just because it's tangled doesn't mean that it's terrible. It just might need a little bit of attention. Maybe a document or two, showing how things work and noting the steps to get the lights to work. It’s assuming there’s something good in there, even if you might be wrong. It depends on your perspective. It’s all about perspective.
As an ops person you really should have a positive perspective whenever you're given that tangled thing. To untangl, don't just go buy a new thing. Just expect there's something valuable there and it's worth the time to have patience with it and to talk to the people who helped make it, If they're still at the organization. Don't assume just because it's not the prettiest right now it doesn't mean it's not working or not worthy of creating a new iteration of.
When it comes to workflow related stuff, if I come in somewhere and there's a complicated onboarding workflow, for example. If it's working, I'm not messing with it. I'm not recreating something just because I think I could make something better. We shouldn't have that attitude when approaching things. That's why it's worth getting to know something that is tangled and messy, because if it works, leave it alone, build your stuff around it.
Don't recreate things for the fun of it. That's why I think I come back to that a lot. Expect that people are smart and intelligent and they build good things. Just because ops isn't their full-time job doesn't mean they didn't build something incredible that you should learn and understand.