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This article was contributed by Ed King, the founder and CEO of OpenPrice,
We are all familiar with the concept of front office and back office. The front office usually includes customer-content functions such as sales, marketing and customer success, while the back office includes human resources, legal and finance.
Middle office is an established concept in the financial services industry, consisting of operational teams handling risk management and front office IT needs. Empowered by the explosion of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, high-growth venture-backed technology companies have built their mid-office version.
I’ve noticed that successful scaling companies often have high-performance middle offices, so it’s worth understanding how they work. This article will examine what makes a successful middle office for a high-growth technology company.
Many faces of the central office
The technology industry version of the middle office got off to a humble start as a marketing and sales operation. Marketing operations began with the adoption of SaaS marketing automation platforms such as Marketo and Iloqua, while sales operations began as system support for SaaS CRMs like Salesforce. Both of these app teams emerged as early SaaS adopters.
SaaS made it possible for each line of business to acquire, deploy and operate its own technology stack. These apps teams support the front office with the technology needed for people, processes, data and go-to-market needs. In recent years, these OPS teams have become more sophisticated and now manage data management, process automation, integration and analytics.
Adoption of middle office capabilities has expanded to other departments, and we are beginning to see the emergence of consumer apps, people apps, and finance apps. Leading marketing apps and sales apps are now being transformed into a more integrated unit known as Revenue Apps or RevOps team responsible for providing visibility and improving efficiency, revenue forecasting and ultimately revenue growth throughout the revenue process. If you consider that sales are revenue-generating, and finance is the hallmark of revenue, RevOps enables that revenue. This team is the face of the middle office of the technology industry.
Why do you need a middle office?
Those unfamiliar with Ops teams – including RevOps teams – may question the need for a middle office. Isn’t that why? While middle offices are increasingly performing IT-like tasks while actively pursuing best practices – such as the establishment of a Project Management Office (PMO) – the reason we need them is because they meet the business needs that are effective for IT. Is challenging to deliver.
Continuing the front office go-to-market machinery requires a number of processes, including the following, but not limited to:
- Adding new leads to CRM.
- Routing leads to the right sales representative.
- Managing channel deal registrations.
- Injecting channel sales data.
- Order management.
- Handling sales team staff changes.
These processes combine automation and manual tasks and often require human decision making. Most importantly, when these processes stop working, the business stops generating revenue. Increasingly it is the middle office RevOps team that owns these processes and is responsible for “keeping the lights on.”
The front office of a fast-growing technology company is a chaotic and rapidly changing environment where go-to-market strategies and implementations could triple in a quarter. To counter this, the best marketing and sales teams adopt an agile execution mindset, where they embrace learning from experiments and failures જ્યાં where ideas are quickly recognized and opportunities are explored before winning first place in the competition.
Middle offices also need to speed up processes, data, and technology – based on highly unpredictable input, then cleverly repeat it with business users. In this regard, the only stability is change, and in my experience, you typically have only 20% of the required input that you need to execute.
Use data to provide insights
Every go-to-market team wants to excel in their competition. These days it means using data to gain insights. For example, they may use attribution analysis to understand which marketing campaigns and sales plays give the best results, or the sales team invests in buyers to score accounts and contacts that track the buyer’s travel patterns of tire kickers. Comply. In the hand razor.
Today the front office is full of multiple new data sources and technologies that could give the business an unfair advantage, while on the other hand, it can waste valuable resources and sometimes cause analytics paralysis.
The best middle office teams effectively leverage data and technology to deliver high value to their go-to-market teams.
Critical capabilities for the middle office
Given the charter and challenges of middle office, it has to work very differently from IT. However, it needs to partner with IT to get the necessary infrastructure support, while protecting IT from the day-to-day business activities and uncertainties that it is not designed to handle. The world-class middle office team should have the following organizational capabilities.
IT takes three to six months to complete a project and each change undergoes a change management process which can further extend the time for a working solution. To enable business effectively, the middle office needs to work 10x faster.
It should adopt the agile development method that production teams have long adopted, to develop a minimum practical product (MVP) or prototype quickly, enable the go-to-market team to test and respond so as to enable rapid development of the next iteration. The solution
While it is important to build for the future and not want to throw away any work, the fact is: many of the initiatives that are being asked to support the middle office are fleeting. Even for long-term projects, there are often significant gaps in the initial design and ideas, so plan ahead to deliver a solution that works today and be prepared to improve while looking to the future.
Ability to build safely and securely
It’s hard to be agile if the only option available in the middle office is duct-tapping together with point solutions or custom coding. Both options are very rigid and fragile to sustain the changes that take place in a high-growth company. While, yes, you can code anything, custom code is hard to maintain and replace.
The best technology platforms provide middle offices with a kind of “innovation sandbox” so that they can build not only quickly, but also securely, and without interfering with the shared data and infrastructure or running the risk of corrupting the record system. Obey all safety and compliance commands.
No-code and low-code
To enable agility, Middle Office needs a no-code and low-code platform that makes it easy to quickly create and replicate solutions and transform ideas into action. Middle office team members are generally technically savvy but not programmers, so they need easy-to-use techniques that provide widespread flexibility.
Create scale with automation and self-service
In addition to the ability to move fast and keep the business afloat, the middle office needs to scale the business, which means three things:
- Automation: Automation is key to achieving scale for business. Automation can add speed, efficiency, and repeatability to most go-to-market processes. And, as more businesses build their middle office, it will tighten the already tight job market. You need automated repetitive work that requires no human input to get the most out of the team members you have and keep job satisfaction high.
- Self service: Automation is hot and people like to talk about it, but you can never completely eliminate men from most business processes. So if you just focus on automation, you will still be unable to achieve scalability as the inefficiency of human functions and interactions becomes a hindrance. Enabling self-service is an important part of achieving scalability as it helps to maximize the speed and efficiency of human tasks. Whether it enables Field Marketer to instantly load a list of scanned leads into tradeshow, or enables the sales representative to quickly create a list of invitees for a lunch-and-learn event – if the central office can easily create self-service solutions, Democratizing secure and consistent access can create scalability, eliminate operations team from performing gatekeeper functions, and improve professional user efficiency.
- Enable set: Scalability is not just about speed and feed. It is also about how many people in the organization can build and maintain the automation and self-service capabilities discussed above. If only three people in IT are able to do that, then they become an obstacle in achieving scalability. But if 30 people from the middle office can create and maintain these automation and self-service solutions without an engineering degree, we have achieved true organizational scalability.
The way forward
Middle office may not be a sexy idea, but it is not the most essential thing in life. The people, processes and technologies that enable us to move efficiently in our daily lives are often transparent to us, especially when done well. SaaS has bridged the gap between the need for business to move fast, to be agile and to respond to uncertainty. What the IT team is capable of providing. Middle Office is an important team that bridges this gap and enables fast-growing businesses to implement its ever-changing go-to-market strategy. As technology and data continue to evolve faster than ever before, no company can remain competitive and achieve a scalable go-to-market without creating a world-class middle office.
Ed King is the founder and CEO of OpenPrice,
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