Wall of Pain: The Struggles of Today's SaaS Companies


Earlier this month, we did an experiment. Whenever founders, managers, or operators visited our booth at SaaStr Annual, we handed them a blank notecard. On that card, we asked them to jot down an operational pain they’d been feeling at their company. We wanted to see which of the struggles they were facing were most common among them, and which were relatively company or location specific. Furthermore, we wanted to see what new challenges await us in the world of SaaS and PaaS this year. Here’s what we found. 

 
Out of the dozens of pains stuck on our wall, a solid majority were related to data and processes. Is this an earth-shattering revelation for a SaaS consultancy? That’d be a hard no. But, if we’re looking for silver linings to these hardships, it’s that we know these types of problems are highly treatable, and don’t have to mean a company won’t end up thriving. This is also a good indicator that the revenue operations framework isn’t just for mid-market companies. In fact, these methodologies are easier to adopt when you’re small, young, and super-agile. While you’re still teaching a new dog new tricks, so to speak. 
 
Here’s a more specific example: For those who wrote things like ‘broken processes’ and ‘inaccurate data’, the unfortunate truth is that as you scale, these problems will permeate deeper, becoming the roots of other problems, and it will be frustrating and inefficient to have to keep putting out fires caused by the core issue. This is where revenue operations can be something of a hero, heading all this stuff off at the pass. It’s the RevOps team’s job to reorganize, strategize to fix what’s broken, and create repeatable processes—not only to keep things from breaking again, but to turn those deficiencies into revenue. This includes things like data stewardship and management.
 
The next most prolific pain point of the SaaStr Annual masses? Misalignment, and all the fun stuff that comes along with it. Several people mentioned marketing and sales specifically, while others pointed to a more company-wide communication problem. From a RevOps perspective, the solution here is to drive home the fact that every team should be prioritizing the work that is going to move the needle, revenue-wise. Department-specific metrics are all well and good, but at the end of the day, revenue needs to be your North Star. This sounds like a given, but it’s easy to get caught up with vanity metrics, especially when you truly feel like those initiatives are pushing the company forward. If the work you’re doing is not the work that’s going to help you provide a seamless, personalized customer experience and drive more revenue, it’s probably the wrong work—at least for now. 
 
The final thing we’ll touch on here is the subject of tools. It’s no secret that SaaS companies use a lot of them, and often struggle to effectively integrate them with one another. On the other hand, it’s also true that some companies just don’t know which tools are best for their business, or when to say ‘enough is enough’ regarding their tech stack. Honestly, it’s a knowledge base that’s simply hard to have when you have people who are all specialists in different tools. This is why revenue operations champions generalists, who can look at something holistically instead of solely from the perspective of their specialty. Of course, every person will have something they’re best at or enjoy most, and this, too, becomes a great asset when it comes to knowledge sharing to create your team of generalists.  
 
There were outliers on our wall, too. Things like invoicing and payroll, recruiting and hiring, and, our personal favorite, ‘I’m just wingin’ it!’. For us, SaaStr Annual was a chance to hear people, and we’re really grateful for all those who took the time to talk to us, not just about what we do at Go Nimbly, but about what’s going on at companies who are just starting out, and how their landscape is changing. 
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