You may be thinking, how boring! What could compliance possibly have to do with operations?
Sales Operations is transforming with advances in technology, and access to big data is pushing complexity deeper into the selling organization.
It's now critical for Sales Ops to understand compliance around data and be part of a culture of Data Governance.
Data is used across the entire GTM organization and data quality is vital in many places throughout the sales process such as commissions, activity tracking, Quote-to-Cash, and more.
So how can you ensure your sales teams and leaders trust their data? A Data Governance Framework.
What is Data Governance?
Data Governance refers to the rules and procedures around how an organization handles data.
Data Governance includes three core principles:
- Data Management
- Data Quality
- Data Stewardship
Data Governance is a wide-ranging field, but for this article, we'll break it down into three core areas:
1. Data Management
Data Management is the way in which a company or organization captures its data and what it does with that data. Data Management frameworks are rarely static, they require constant updating to meet changing needs.
Many of these components apply to Sales Ops. For example, when Sales Reps need to capture contact and company data to close a deal.
That's why a Data Governance Framework from Sales Ops is an important consideration.
2. Data Quality
Data Quality focuses on the accuracy, completeness, and consistency of a company's data. Because data is so critical to all decision-making, the quality of that data is paramount.
3. Data Stewardship
A "Data Steward" is responsible and accountable for some portion of company data, such as data quality, security, and usage.
Why Should Sales Operations Care About Data Governance?
Data is readily available to GTM teams now more than ever before. With more data comes more responsibility to ensure it is accurate and used correctly.
Sales Ops should make sure GTM teams avoid data siloes, agree on definitions of shared data, improve data quality, and increase the effectiveness of your sellers. Sales Reps will be more effective in generating deals as a result, and sales leaders will be confident in the data used for forecasting.
Laws like GDPR and California Privacy Act also impact GTM data and the sales organization. Sales Ops can mitigate compliance risks with this framework.
In addition to privacy laws, highly regulated industries like Finance and Healthcare require third-party audits around data.
Let's not forget those all-important tools that operators spend most of their time in!
Data flows throughout your core operational systems like CRM, Marketing Automation, data warehouse, and other business systems.
Who doesn't like a clean Salesforce or Hubspot instance?
Data Integrity Throughout Your Revenue Engine
Although Sales only works in a small part of the ecosystem, the data is used across the entire organization, so it's essential to have processes in place to ensure data integrity and quality.
If your organization doesn't have a Data Governance Framework, data inconsistencies in different systems across an organization might not get resolved.
For example, customer names may be listed differently in the CRM, Marketing Automation Platform, even Billing.
That could complicate data integration efforts and create data integrity issues that affect the accuracy of reporting and measuring important revenue metrics.
From a Finance perspective, poor Data Governance might also impact Revenue Recognition.
What is Revenue Recognition?
Revenue Recognition is a Generally Accepted Accounting Principle (GAAP) according to which revenue can only be recognized once a "critical event" has occurred. In the world of SaaS, this usually refers to when products or services outlined in an agreement have actually been delivered.
In addition, data errors might not be identified and fixed. That further impacts reporting and analytics accuracy.
Keys to a Data Governance Framework
Now that you are (hopefully) convinced about the need for a Data Governance Framework as part of your Sales Operations roles and responsibilities, let's break down what your framework should include.
It's OK to start small, especially if your company is early-stage. You don't need fancy bells and whistles on your Data Governance Framework to begin, the key is to adjust as your organization grows and changes.
First, you have to define your Data Governance Framework.
Explain how it will be used in your company and how it will benefit your teams. Make sure to document your framework and share it so your team can reference it; this is your data governance program charter.
2. Include a "Data Dictionary"
Definitions don't mean much if they aren't used by everyone. It's important to document how you are defining your data; things like "how do we define an SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)?"
Your dictionary also will define the business owners of different data. For example, documenting that the Sales Team is responsible for opportunity data.
You should also include definitions for critical opportunity information:
What systems do the data live in?
Who can update the data?
Are updates of the data done manually or should they be automated?
Is the data required or optional?
3. Data Management Policies
Define how data is managed. How does data flow from marketing to sales to customer success? Where and how does data get enriched or updated? Will you need tools to help manage this process?
4. Roles and Responsibilities
Your Data Governance Framework must make clear who will be included in the governance, as well as define how you will adjust as your company grows.
Initially, Sales Ops makes a good candidate for the data steward, but that might change as the company scales.
It's important for everyone to understand what other roles and responsibilities will be included and which teams will be involved. If your company is early-stage, you might not have a dedicated data team or an IT team. Decide how to partner with Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, and Engineering to get everyone on the same page.
Access to data, collection of data, using data to make business decisions, and organizations wanting to become more data-driven speak to the need for processes, documentation, guidelines to manage it all.
GTM operations teams like Sales Ops are a critical part of this process.
Remember to align your governance policies with overall business goals, and don't forget to improve continuously as you go along!