End of Year Operations: Dos and Don’ts
The end of the year is stressful for even the most veteran DevOps leader. There are mission-critical projects, process changes, and numerous action items that have likely piled up. How can you successfully manage this long list and set your team up for success in the new year? Two of our SaaS leaders, MJ Kahn and David Carnes, discussed the end of year Operations: Dos and Don’ts that every operations team should follow. Empower your team and crush your growth goals!
When looking at your list of current projects, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Take a breath and make a list. Does everything on your list need to be completed before the end of the year or can some tasks wait for Q1? Once you define what absolutely needs to be done, prioritize your refined list. It’s always better to complete some projects than to start everything and leave most of them half-finished. Keep in mind, this list may change as you approach the end of the year and unexpected needs come up. Take the time to celebrate small wins as you check things off your list and give shoutouts to the people that made them happen!
MJ suggests considering factors like PTO on your team, the dependencies you have with other teams, and what came up unexpectedly last year that you can prepare for this time around? Especially at the end of the year, it’s important to know in advance who’s taking PTO.
When considering EOY reporting, it’s typical behavior to dust off and copy the reports you built out last year. You should copy rather than modify these existing reports so you can make adjustments. One thing that many teams may not be aligned on is the standard definition of terms like customer, latched customer, and new customer vs old customer. The end of the year is a perfect time to create a glossary for these terms and ensure your teams using the same definition across the board. It’s surprising how common it is for a company to not have proper alignment on this.
As you get closer to the EOY deadline, your team will likely skip some corners. Small shortcuts, like not accounting for a leap year that isn’t an issue now but may cause some problems down the line, will likely pop up. Each time your team cuts corners, your tech debt grows. MJ has a simple solution, keep a running list of items you’ll need to come back to at a certain point. Some shortcuts specific to the EOY include account, contact, and opportunity ownership. Ask yourself who’s in charge of this, and whether or not it’s up to date. Field clean-up is another area you should look at; delete or hide fields that are no longer in use. Finally, clean up inactive and out of date workflow rules, automation, and triggers. Think of it as an EOY cleanse.
It’s important to keep proper track of fields and ensure your team’s aligned throughout your processes. David recommends using a tool like Schema Lister. This enables you to create an excel file tab for each object that lists all fields associated with that object. Create a data dictionary for leads, contacts, and opportunities. This is key for keeping an inventory of items to reference throughout the year. Naturally, as your organization matures, its governance needs to evolve and grow with it.
At the end of the year, you’ll often get small one-off requests. You need to manage those requests, and email is not a good place to do this. We recommend implementing a mechanism for managing enhancement requests and establishing a process for reviewing/approving them. Dependent on your process, you may want approval to require additional information like a pre-deployment and post-deployment plan. This can be done either in Salesforce or through external resources.
Having a sandbox strategy is very important for your team. Your strategy may vary depending on your team but MJ lay’s out ours. At OpFocus, everyone making a change that’s going into production has their own sandbox. They’re responsible for ensuring it’s up to date with the most recent version of our Salesforce instance. All these sandboxes are then promoted to an integration sandbox where testing occurs. This is the sandbox where the changes are ultimately deployed from.
Your tech stack’s likely comprised of dozens or even hundreds of pieces of technology. Many tools likely have an expiration/renewal date towards the end of the year. Davids an advocate of documenting each technology your team uses in a sheet, including its license count, renewal dates, and cancellation policy. During end-of-year operations is a perfect time to review this list if you have it or put one together if you don’t. A member of the audience joined the conversation, outlining her team’s policy of following up on renewals 90 days before they take place so they can cancel or renew as needed. MJ and David recommend a tool called Elements Cloud for this type of documentation.
This is the time of year when a lot of teams finally ask the question, “Are we backing anything up?” It’s a good question, but not all backup tools are created equal. The backups may be the same but the restoration effort can be very different. Weekly backup links from Salesforce, for instance, are only active for a short timeframe before expiring. Larger companies may want to consider a tool like OwnBackup that makes backups more straightforward.
MJ’s hard and fast rule is to export everything likely to be touched before bulk updating data. Creating a production sandbox before major updates is another good way to ensure you have a backup ready if anything goes wrong.
Looking to the new year
When looking forward to RevOps, there are a number of factors to consider from an end of year Operations standpoint. Spend time thinking about each of these when planning for the future, as they’ll impact the coming year.
Territory & Quota Planning
Consider whether your territories have changed due to something like an update to your Go To Market approach or new team members coming on. What OpFocus does is create a set of “Shadow” fields not visible to most users. Once needed, these field values replace the existing ones. This enables us to get ahead of the updates on each user without changing the current assignments.
Account Ownership & Lead Assignments
Another thing to look at is any updates you’ve made to lead assignment rules. David suggests creating a new set of rules that’s ready to turn on in the new year. Again, this allows you to get ahead of the edits you need to make without impacting the current process.
Given the Coronavirus, many of us are hosting Sales Kickoffs virtually for the first time. It’s surprising how much this will dictate. Teams often work backward from the kickoff to determine what can be done before it takes place. This typically impacts tasks like territory planning and account reassignment.
Updating the roadmap is an important task your team needs to tackle. This determines things like the budget and headcount you’ll aim for in the coming year. It typically includes a set of “Big Rocks”, major initiatives like implementing CPQ or merging multiple tech stacks. It likely also includes some smaller projects you’d also like to target.
My company doesn’t have a Continuous Integration process. What kind of process and tools should we put in place?
The answer here is the usual consultant answer, it depends on your needs as an organization. Small companies that have 1 or 2 admins or developers may not need a full-blown continuous integration system. Larger companies, on the other hand, may want to consider investing in one. That doesn’t mean it needs to be built out all at once, however. Instead, try to take things piecemeal. Standup meetings and sandbox management help with this. Once ready, using Salesforce’s SXD commands or another system can be used.
What’s the one most important thing to consider this time of year?
David’s top priority at the end of the year is to ensure that business can close. This may mean being available to support the sales team. Documenting tech debt and process improvement is important, but at the end of the day, business still needs to close.
The biggest don’t at the end of the year is to plan a deployment that may interfere with closing sales. The last thing you would want is to deploy something that breaks the system and prevents deals from closing. MJ suggests declaring a moratorium on deployments and holding off until Q1.
It was great to hear from these two DevOps leaders, not only about how to prioritize and prepare, but how to be proactive about setting your team up for success with the end of year Operations. As you prepare your team, we hope there are a few things from this presentation you can act on. If your team’s set ambitious goals and is serious about hyper-growth in the new year, connect with a member of our team and let’s discuss how to reach them!