BizOps leaders are fixers. Whether making internal processes more efficient or validating new avenues for growth, BizOps leaders bring the skills and experiences to successfully launch new ideas and then execute them.
Within our community, the BizOps Network, we see first-hand the challenges BizOps leaders are working to solve. For example, leaders have shared,
- “I once worked at a company that sent PDF sales contracts to customers via email or fax. This was extremely unwieldy and made understanding who we had sent contracts to very hard. I was able to implement an e-signature solution with a templatized contract so customers could just click a button and fill out their contract.”
- “I figured out how to run a cold email campaign to grow the business, from identifying a persona, scraping lead data, cleaning it, selecting an email tool, devising the emails, launching the campaign, A/B testing the emails, and trying to close sales.”
- “Ahead of an investment decision, I led the market analysis. Based on data analysis, I recommended not to invest because I believed the Buy Now, Pay Later space would not survive in a high-interest rate environment. We skipped investing and, as predicted, the sector has struggled.”
To solve challenges like these, BizOps leaders need a combination of skills—both technical and interpersonal. That’s why Wafic El-Assi, Product Manager at Uber, describes BizOps practitioners as the ultimate generalists. We couldn’t agree more.
But is BizOps a technical role? Well, yes, you need technical skills, but BizOps professionals are not technical specialists per se. Instead, they’re cross-functional and multi-faceted by necessity. The issues they solve don’t neatly fit within one department and can span entire companies.
So as a BizOps leader, your responsibilities will have you breaking down silos, working with different departments and teams, all to solve these tough business problems.
So what are the skills that BizOps leaders need? Of course, each BizOps professional is unique, but from our experience interacting with the best BizOps leaders today, we’ve identified several common threads.
In this guide, we’ll explore the critical skills that all successful BizOps leaders have in common.
6 Must-Have BizOps Hard Skills
BizOps leaders need to be adept at several technical skills. That’s why the career paths of the strongest BizOps leaders included backgrounds like consulting and finance — both require strong analytical skills. Let’s look at the six must-have hard skills if you want to excel in BizOps.
1. Data Retrieval and Querying
Peter Sondergaard, when he was the Senior VP of Gartner Research in 2013, said, “every company is a technology company” at the Gartner Symposium. If it was true then, it’s even more true today.
Within any role, we’re steeped in data today. We need the ability to draw insights from it all. Within BizOps, this is crucial. To understand meaty business problems, you need skills to crunch the numbers.
Therefore, knowledge of SQL is an essential skill for data analysis. The ability to assess vast amounts of data, clean it up so it’s understandable, and analyze it to draw actionable insights will make you a superhero.
For example, if you're trying to determine the most effective customer segmentation strategy or the best pricing strategy for a specific product line, knowing how to write SQL queries that can extract data from multiple databases is extremely helpful.
2. Data Visualization and Analytics
BizOps professionals don’t just pull data and come up with great ideas. They also champion those solutions (a soft skill we’ll unpack below). For instance, if a BizOps leader determined, through data analysis, a potential pricing scheme that could drive more monthly recurring revenue, they’d take that recommendation to their execs and get buy-in.
To advocate for their idea and get the resources to execute it, BizOps leaders need to be able to make their findings concrete and easy to understand. They can do this through data visualization.
No BizOps leader is unfamiliar with presenting executive-level reporting on key performance indicators. These indicators can range from the broad question, "How many new customers come to the site through paid advertising channels?" to the more particular ones like, "How many enterprise software customers viewed and used a particular feature last month?"
Apart from data visualization and reporting, expressing your data analysis clearly and compellingly is also a key skill for any BizOps team member. If you're presenting about the number of active users on a platform, it’s best to create aesthetically appealing charts using tables and figures to communicate and explain what those figures mean to the bottom line.
3. Defining and Tracking Key Metrics
BizOps professionals must learn how to identify, track, and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect the success of their company’s product or service. These include customer retention rates, average order value, lifetime value, gross margin percentage, and many more. Close monitoring of these indicators enables you to verify whether things are headed in the right direction and take prompt action if you feel they are veering south at any time.
For example, if your average order value drops below a threshold value, you can investigate and identify the root cause, whether it’s a pricing problem or lack of customer engagement, and take steps to address it, which may be as simple as evaluating the overall pricing strategy or running a promotional campaign.
4. Stakeholder Management
In BizOps, stakeholder management is crucial to the practical completion of any project, program, or activity. From internal executive stakeholders to external partners and customers, successful BizOps leaders know they need to understand others’ needs and preferences, effectively communicate the required inputs and expected outcomes, and manage all their expectations.
“BizOps people are enablers, and they have to be careful about overstepping boundaries and coming across as somewhat of a 'head' inadvertently. They're actually co-pilots,” notes Sujay Seetharaman, Chief of Staff at PipeCandy.
The way BizOps leaders manage stakeholder interactions can make or break the life cycle of a project. Therefore, the skill of developing a stakeholder management plan is what gives many BizOps leaders their edge.
5. Experimentation and Statistical Analysis
To succeed in BizOps, having the analytical skills to come up with ideas is only the first step. The strongest BizOps leaders are also project managers, able to see their projects through to completion—and pivot as necessary.
Most projects rarely work out perfectly and BizOps leaders know that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy. What matters is how quickly the leader is able to adapt,” as Tim Harford, economist and author, says.
To adapt their plans, the successful BizOps know how to experiment with their ideas. Running A/B tests, for example, is an effective way to de-risk new projects, rolling out changes systematically over time.
Doing so makes BizOps professionals effective problem solvers. As Alyssa Higgins, the VP of Business Operations at CipherHealth says, “They look at the people, processes, and technologies that support and drive a business forward.”
The BizOps team, in collaboration with the data science or analytics team, should be able to develop the experiment, define the success criteria, and measure the results to determine whether or not it will be included in the final product.
6. Market Sizing and Business Modeling
Technical modeling and sizing changes are a significant responsibility of every BizOps leader. BizOps teams regularly build systems to expand and accelerate growth. As such, they need to be talented forecasters, able to determine how their growth systems affect the bottom line.
Modeling and opportunity sizing are critical skills for BizOps leaders. They don’t just size up markets for new product launches. They will also look internally. For example, a BizOps leader may forecast the impact expanding the customer success team will have on customer churn. Will it be worth it or will the costs be too high?
5 Essential BizOps Soft Skills
We all know someone who was incredibly good at their jobs. They were experts. But they lacked people skills. Over the years, if we were close with them, we would hear them complain about how so and so got promoted over them because they were better at “small talk.”
Small talk is just part of it. To get ahead—especially in BizOps—you need both hard and soft skills, or more accurately described, interpersonal skills.
Jeff Weiner, former CEO of LinkedIn, noted on CNBC that there’s a significant gap in interpersonal skills among professionals.
For BizOps, you need both hard and soft skills. From our experience connecting with successful BizOps leaders, we’ve seen five key soft skills that they all share. In no particular order, these are the essential soft skills.
1. Excellent Communication Skills
Besides strong business acumen, skillful communication is essential in building relationships, managing teams, and communicating the objectives of BizOps initiatives.
Communication might become lost or muddled when the number of people and channels is significant. As a leader in this field, you are acting as a translator to ensure that everyone is on the same page, guaranteeing smooth operations and successful outcomes.
“Being analytical in problem-solving is a key skill, but being a good listener and collaborator is what will help make sure the recommended solutions have the desired impact,” responds Alyssa Higgins, VP of Business Operations at CipherHealth, when asked about the most important skills BizOps leaders need.
2. The Ability to Simplify Issues in Business Operations
The ability to boil down complicated subjects so leadership teams can easily visualize the correct way of moving forward is crucial for the long-term success of a BizOps leader. Without this skill, they’ll never get buy-in for their projects.
Drawing business insights from information, for instance, is a crucial part of this role's success, but it's only one aspect of it. It's even more vital in streamlining the operations process, where the leader has to identify areas that need improvement and devise solutions.
For example, the patterns in how customers interact with the company and its products could be used to optimize the customer experience and create efficient customer service processes.
3. Pulling the Business Units Together
Working in a BizOps capacity allows you to see the big picture. Employees can lose sight of other business units when they’re siloed into their department.
BizOps, on the other hand, is cross-functional. They can see the entire organization—the proverbial forest from the trees.
When communicating information about a project from one business unit to another, BizOps must be able to recognize the differences between the two in order to create a cohesive narrative.
Sujay Seetharaman, Chief of Staff at PipeCandy, affirms the importance of maintaining close relationships between departments, noting that “knowing how to read the room and get the pulse of the department head and team” is a critical skill. Sujay goes on to say that “BizOps people are enablers and they have to be careful about overstepping boundaries.“
This soft skill is all about understanding how different departments can work together and leveraging that knowledge for success.
4. People Leadership
How can one aspire to bring change without possessing the managerial skill of influencing new talent? That is a near-impossible challenge. In BizOps, influencing is crucial for getting things done, notably when making difficult decisions that require persuasion.
One thing to remember about influencing is that it is neither good nor harmful. The goal is to persuade the person to agree with you and make the necessary alterations.
For example, if you want someone to take a certain course of action, it’s best to make them feel like they are part of the process. Show your understanding and empathy for their point of view and steer them to the most effective solution.
“Empathy...without being able to be in another's shoes, you won't be able to do the job as effectively,” shares Jay Japra, Director of Business Operations at Rubik.
5. Building Alliances
Assume you've finalized your annual plan and are ready to share it with key stakeholders. You may either share what you have, like a giant Excel spreadsheet full of details. Or, you can be proactive and personalize it to the needs of each stakeholder.
That is an example of how being proactive, anticipating future needs, and addressing them ahead of time, leads to a better outcome for all parties involved. You should approach all aspects of BizOps with this perspective.
Ready To Grow Your Career In BizOps?
On the whole, these skills and abilities are necessary for success as a BizOps person. Soft skills are less concrete, more subjective, and, for the most part, more difficult to obtain than hard skills, which may be written as a condition of employment in business operations and human resources.
Both hard and soft skills can be enhanced over time by self-awareness, purposeful action, and tenacity on a lifelong learning journey. But aside from these, joining an online community like the BizOps Network is a great way to benefit from collective learning and support.
As a member of the BizOps Network, you'll gain access to exclusive resources, online workshops and learning sessions, mentorship opportunities, and a supportive community of like-minded individuals. Apply to join here.