Likely all of us have heard the expression (or something close to it), "If I was starting this company all over now, I would do it much differently." Often such break-away thinking yields new companies, or in some cases, new divisions or subsidiaries of companies. To achieve true transformation, one must employ "trans-process" thinking. I'm not sure if anyone has coined the term yet, but if they did my credit is hereby given. If not, I will claim it now.
As a Deming disciple, I give W. Edwards Deming large credit for transforming how businesses operate, and not just in Japan. His approach was to look at the complete end-to end-process...helping people early in the value chain of manufacturing a product or service, to see the ripple effects down the chain and the inherent exponential cost to fix is greater than the cost to create correctly. Decades later, Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline, created the paradigm which he called "systems thinking"...that businesses are ecosystems in and of themselves, and that companies who took this view would operate and be viewed differently by their customers. When I think of companies that appear to operate in this model companies such as Disney, Southwest Airlines, Virgin, and my former employer, EDS, come to mind.
To this end, we have seen businesses mature and evolve to create new, "trans-process" roles. Trans-Process functions/roles have slowly emerged to fully exploit trans-process business thinking. Functions such ‘branding' and ‘customer experience' are early examples of trans-process thinking. In recent years, the newest entry onto the "trans-process" scene has been in the area of sales operations. Sales operations is not the selling aspect of sales. Sales operations is the collective sum of activities, spanning the enterprise, whose sole mission is to support and motivate the distribution network, enabling them to generate more revenue at a lower overall cost through the ideal application of people, processes and technology thereby creating a preferred salesperson/agent/rep/broker experience. Perhaps the easiest way to think of sales operations is to view it as the customer experience for salespeople. In this instance salespeople are the "customer". This also applies to external salespeople, agents, brokers, channel partners, and anyone who is authorized to sell your company's product or service.
While sales operations is often viewed as part of Sales, that would be a dangerously shortsighted perspective. The Sales organization is a player/coach/contributor/customer in this process. Other functions such as Incentive Compensation (for calculating and paying commissions and bonuses), Training (especially important for regulated industries that requires licenses and certification), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Analytics, Performance Appraisals, IT support for hardware, software, change requests, and integrating the related supporting and backend systems to minimize rework and errors. On a department by department basis, companies are challenged to lower or contain costs...within their department.
When one looks at Sales Operations as an ecosystem, greater efficiencies can be identified through the collaboration and synergy of these functions working toward a common goal. But equally as important, is the ability to free up and motivate the sales force to sell more. Done correctly, managing it as an ecosystem, one can better manage costs across the enterprise while concurrently growing the top line. Anyone can lower costs in a single department, but doing so may raise costs for another department. Such a sub-optimized approach does not look at things on a trans-process basis. The goal for Sales Operations is to lower the total cost of sales operations, while also enabling the salespeople to further increase revenue generation. Unfortunately, in most companies, there is no single person held accountable for this goal. For those who do, they know firsthand that a well supported, motivated sales force will always outsell one that is frustrated, unmotivated and spending an inordinate amount of time in "administrivia". Done correctly, Sales Operations is a sales force multiplier!
Trans-process change is not easy as it often seen as a disruptive process that runs counter to the status quo and the existing political structure. As Deming put forth, "People will do what they are compensated to do," so it is important to identify a change team that has no vested interest in the existing way of doing things. When attempting to implement a trans-process initiative, keep in mind, change is continuous. Creating a trans-process function that will endure is to recognize it is a journey, not a destination. It is not a one and done endeavor. Like any sustainable quality process, continuous improvement is critical. Don't fear change...own it! In the end, the lead sled dog had the best view and always arrives first.