The six habits of highly successful business technologists

by Andrew Park

Business Technologists: The Secret Weapon to Supercharge Business Operations

If you’re already in a business technologist role or considering business operations for your next career move, you’re right at the inflection point of one of the hottest new jobs out there. Whether you’re in business apps, corporate technology, business transformation, business systems, or biz ops—you’re in the perfect place to help companies adjust to a rapidly changing future.

Why are business operations professionals so crucial today? Because digital transformation is both a priority and a pain point. While 89% of organizations have adopted or plan to use a digital-first strategy, 36% still don’t have the right staff or skillset to implement one, the fusion of business and technical, which is precisely where the opportunity for business technologists comes into play.

We hear it every day from leaders at fast-growing companies like Segment, Outreach, and many others. These companies share a common focus: They’re closely aligning technical leaders with business teams, so they can use technology to transform business processes and analytics, to make them more automated, responsive, efficient, and connected. In short, they’re committed to digital transformation within every team.

89% of companies are going digital-first. Image courtesy IDG.

The Six Habits of Highly Effective Business Technologists

A business technologist’s projects might include applying automation to improve customer experience and employee onboarding, integrating data for cloud data warehouses and analytics, or cutting the manual labor in core processes like lead routing in marketing or delivering NPS surveys in service teams. But while there’s incredible diversity with what business technologists are working on, they all share one thing in common. These business operations professionals work closely with leaders in marketing, sales, service, and other teams, so they can understand the demands and business needs of each department, identify the innovation opportunity, and ensure they apply the right technology solution to the right initiative.

But what separates a great business technologist from an average one, especially for such a rapidly-evolving role? We see a repeating pattern, separating those who can work quickly, fluidly, and frictionlessly with the tech stacks they engage with every day, and those that don’t. Business operations professionals of all types use similar strategies, whether they manage tech stacks that are marketing-based to run ABM campaigns or track marketing metrics, sales-based to track sales metrics or the quote-to-cash process, or tech stacks for any other department.

The best technologists have built a repeatable game plan to tackle one of the biggest headaches in modern software, having to develop code-intensive API integrations, the software-level connections that stitch together cloud apps into tech stacks. Business technologists that can’t furnish flexible system integrations to meet business needs quickly drag down the speed at which they can ramp, iterate, partner, and respond to business requirements. (A lack of integrations can also create maintenance bottlenecks down the line.) Successful business operations professionals understand the need to connect cloud apps at the API level - as well as how to ramp faster, iterate faster, and book more wins quickly.

We asked tech leaders among our customers and summarized the tactics they use to succeed at every project and advance their careers. Here are the six habits of highly successful business technologists.

Habit #1: They reduce their learning curve and ramp for each project

If there’s one thing we hear repeatedly, it’s that technologists struggle with their backlog and priorities. Frankly, it’s incredibly hard to clear your backlog when each project is a one-off while teams across your entire company pile on more projects daily. But the reality is that these requests tend to be more similar than they may seem. Most projects fall into two buckets: they either focus on automating a business process, or they’re all about integrating data for analytics. So while the target and source systems may be different for each (business triggers vary from app events to webhooks to forms, or business logic may be entirely different for each, from loops to conditionals, to complex data transformation), a smart approach is to use a standardized toolset to handle a large swath of needs.

It’s why technologists avoid using one-off, hand-coded, or point-to-point integrations between apps and tools, and instead use General Automation Platforms (GAPs), enabling them to learn and apply one tool to connect their apps to tackle any business process or data integration, rather than learning many. It’s a faster way to accelerate across initiatives.

Habit #2: They prioritize low-code development

Every technologist typically has some hands-on experience with code, such as Python or JavaScript. It’s frequently possible for them to directly tackle projects by writing their own scripts to handle processes like lead routing for marketing and sales.

But there are multiple challenges when taking a code-first approach. For instance, readability becomes a challenge when sharing with new teams to help them visualize, understand, and maintain. Maintenance itself becomes burdensome for coded scripts to update processes on an ongoing basis. And readability and maintenance both drag down speed and response times.

A best practice among technologists we work with is to take a clicks-or-code approach. They use a drag-and-drop workflow builder to quickly take care of the heavy lifting, such as connecting to the endpoints of an app, adding logical operators such as loops, conditionals, or nesting to a process, and dealing with strings, dates, and math operations. A GAP offers all these features as completely visual click-and-drag options while also being flexible enough to add code as needed to fine-tune. Using a low-code approach is also a faster way to prototype and iterate projects to break through inertia. It also completely bypasses any need to petition for highly-contested IT resources, which companies are better off deploying to create better products that drive growth. Smart business technologists understand that IT teams can only complete a limited number of projects in any given year.

Habit #3: They factor in ongoing “tech stack flux”

While architecting the tech stack for every department in your company sounds good on paper, ultimately the stacks that sales, marketing, and other teams run are continually in flux. With the advent of cloud-based applications, every department can deploy their own best-of-breed apps, databases, and tools and customize them. While the advent of cloud computing has liberated professionals in any business unit to choose whatever apps they need to get the job done, the enormous amount of choice has led companies to add more new apps to their tech stacks endlessly. Research shows that enterprise teams use as many as 90+ cloud-based apps tools, and instances.

Enterprise teams use as many as 90+ cloud-based apps. Image courtesy Netskope.

Forward-thinking business technologists plan accordingly, using a GAP to not only connect to and automate across the known cloud apps and databases that teams are currently running but also to access connectors for apps they might run in the future. They want a full, unlimited library of connectors that plug into apps across their companies’ various stacks right out of the gate. And they take care of any other special requests by using universal API connectors that can plug into any REST API without coding.

It’s the same way with customizations that line-of-business administrators occasionally try to apply themselves, which tend to break brittle integrations and multi-app workflows or throw a wrench in new development. Code-heavy integrations are particularly vulnerable to change, while pre-built vendor integrations that make (usually incorrect) assumptions about how fields are being used frequently come up short. It’s why capabilities like flexible visual data mapping are essential to handle ongoing changing data fields and customizations with confidence.

Marketing tech stacks alone can consist of 7,000+ apps. Image courtesy ChiefMarTec.

Habit #4: They prefer platforms that enable them to collaborate and iterate

The fact is that being a business technologist is a team sport. If you or your team are doing all the building, and the business teams you support are waiting for you to deliver rather than actively participating in development, then you’ve probably got an opportunity to change how you work for the better. One secret is to use tools that enable everyone on the project team to work together in real-time. Think Google Documents, except for building automated workflows and system integrations. For example, with collaborative tools, database specialists like yourself can work together to hammer out these processes with the marketing operations analysts, sales operations directors, and other team members at the same time.

Business operations experts tend to look for these collaboration features:

  • No kludgy, desktop-based tools - These old-fashioned tools hinder collaboration in general.
  • Key collaboration features: team-based undo/redo, version history - These features are must-haves to avoid teams stepping over each other during crucial building and testing processes.
  • No reliance on code - A clicks-or-code UI gives broader teams full access to collaborate directly on integrating apps and automating processes. A UI that requires coding excludes team members who don’t have coding backgrounds.
  • Highly Visual UI - Ideally, when co-innovating business processes such as lead enrichment, personalization, and other areas, the virtual team should be working together around highly visual, descriptive workflows.
  • Version control - Business systems experts need to ensure that collaborative projects, for which any team member can make changes, have full version control as a safeguard to track changes over time and zero in on when and how any issues arise.

Habit #5: They never overlook scalability and security

While business operations professionals often work with other departments on specific projects, scalability requirements can quickly become anything but departmental. And security is everyone’s business.

Security

Nothing stings more than outgrowing an automation or integration platform for a project because it’s no longer compliant with company policy, or isn’t certified to handle the kind of data for the project.

SOC-2 compliance for the AICPA’s System and Organization Controls is a well-known standard that holds businesses accountable for proper security. It’s also table stakes. SOC-2 compliance offers an assurance that the provider has robust processes around the retrieval, storage, processing, security, and transfer of data.

Many companies increasingly handling sensitive customer data, such as payment information, which means PCI Compliance, which helps businesses ensure that customer credit card payments are secure, is also essential. And of course, compliance with GDPR - the European General Data Protection Regulation, which is intended to protect personal data, is a must, given the regulation’s hefty fines. So the most successful business systems experts research not only the certifications they need right now to comply with corporate policy, but those they may need in the future—and ensure their integration and automation platform supports them.

Scalability

On the other side of the equation, business technologists must plan for practically limitless scalability needs. Nothing hinders innovation and morale more than an otherwise successful project rebounding because of performance bottlenecks. Unfortunately, data and API volumes can quickly add up, even in the unlikeliest of places, whether it’s taking integrating real-time customer signals in marketing, analyzing vast amounts of product usage data in development, or acting on customer sentiment in service. Integration and automation platforms built on modern architectures like serverless computing provide tech teams with a backstop against unforeseen volume growth or seasonal spikes, ensuring they can upshift from thousands to millions of transactions in an instant, without having to drop everything to request additional resources from their provider.

Facebook stands to pay billions to the FTC for security violations.

Habit #6: They continuously deliver quick wins

If there’s one thing that sets successful business technologists apart, it’s velocity. We've worked with tech leaders that have partnered with their organizations to deliver close to 100 integrations and automated processes inside eighteen months. That translates to providing value to business teams on an almost weekly cadence. How did they do it?

They combined all the strategies we outlined earlier in this post. They use a general automation and data integration platform rather than spinning their wheels with one-off, point integrations. They tackle initiatives with a low-code visual approach. They adopt tools that enable co-innovation with teams rather than siloed development that gets held up by connectivity and customization roadblocks. Finally, they ensure the platforms they use can easily transition projects to being fully business-owned after production so that they can focus on new initiatives rather than change management.

To learn how business operations leaders use General Automation Platforms to succeed in their role by integrating cloud apps and automating time-consuming tasks, join a weekly group demo.

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