How is PLG Changing the Ops Function?

Palette Team

Product-led growth continues to make waves in the SaaS industry as more companies realize that putting users first, lowering barriers to entry, and pricing based on usage can all lower barriers to acquisition and facilitate sustainable revenue growth. PLG motions come with a host of changes across an organization, particularly within go-to-market teams. As different types of companies figure out how to adapt this new motion to their own businesses, trial and error is common and many are figuring things out as they go along. Determining how PLG will work in each unique environment requires data and historical analysis, so some amount of flexibility is required while the company builds benchmarks and tests different approaches. 

Why the Ops Function Needs to Evolve

We see 3 primary factors driving change within the ops function: the specifics of rolling out new GTM motions, new requirements for data and analytics on operations teams, and stronger collaboration - both within ops and between ops and other depts - in order to support the customer journey for PLG. Read on for more details on each of these, and things to think about in your own org. 

Supporting new GTM Motions

Ops teams may be familiar with the mechanics of marketing and sales led go-to-market motions; product-led growth requires ops teams to support a new set of actions and rethinking how automations, workflows, sequences, and triggers all function together. Sales teams will need new incentivization and commission models (for some examples, check out our blog post on the sales commission model key to unlocking product-led growth). Your organization may have focused on MQLs or SQLs in the past; new work is required to support Product Qualified Leads, or PQLs, and determine if and how they interact with these other lead stages. This requires a rethinking of the entire funnel. Many companies have a hybrid PLG approach, which means ops teams will have to support multiple paths to purchase and create proper routing and consistency between all of these. In these cases, there is a risk factor of prospects getting placed into multiple different overlapping categories as they move throughout the buyer journey. Today the path to purchase is no longer linear, and expecting prospects to move in a straight line throughout any of these journeys is probably unrealistic. This is also an opportunity to simplify ops processes and think deeply about the customer experience and the best way to support customers. After all, PLG is about proving value to the customer through the product and experience. 

New Requirements for Data Collection and Analysis

Product-led growth companies must collect detailed information about product usage, and this information is used higher in the funnel in order to find, attract, and retain customers who are more likely to use the product heavily or hit product usage thresholds. As part of the transition to PLG, ops teams must have access to this data and the ability to integrate it into their workflows. One of the largest transitions for ops teams is often moving from data which lives in specific systems to data warehouses which can then be queried. This often requires new mechanisms for communication and analysis, involving GTM ops teams as well as product analytics or other data teams within the company. 

This may be an opportunity to re-evaluate data governance structures at the company. Regardless, ops teams should begin to have a voice in the larger data governance conversation at the company if they don’t already, in order to determine which sources of truth the company will use for which purposes. Then, they must work with other functions in order to understand product usage, learn which signals may be predictive, and help facilitate better targeting and more usage throughout the funnel. 

Streamlining the Ops Function

In order to support this new complexity, different ops teams within the organization will need to come together and develop clear and consistent ways of communicating and working together. The pain of siloed ops functions will be amplified with a PLG motion. Marketing ops, sales ops, rev ops, business ops, and product ops should have clear points of contact and processes for escalations, approvals, and other issues that will impact multiple teams. In many cases, a GTM ops approach can help streamline and simplify this work, and help all the different ops teams or functions get a bigger picture view of the entire customer journey. (Read more about GTM ops here). This perspective can help create a holistic, smooth customer experience rather than a disjointed one. The larger ops team is forced to zoom out and look at the larger experience rather than breaking down specific pieces to it. 

Having a joint ops structure, whether formal or informal, can also help the ops team better advocate for its needs with the product team and other departments at the company. With a wider scope, this team can strategically spot issues and surface them to the product team in order to develop shared solutions, in a more effective way than a more siloed team can. 

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