Operational KPIs and Role Development in SaaS (especially when Finance & People are none of your business)


  • How to measure the success/performance of Ops when Finance and People are separate?
  • What does the operations role development look like in SaaS?
  • Difficult to quantify the core of our work which is to make sure that our business functions seamlessly, across a huge range of remits and processes. How do you measure that?
  • Issue: no stable/continuous priorities to measure
  • OKRs vs KPIs can be a struggle, especially for ops
  • What are you upskilling in next?
  • What are operations outside of logistics and customer care space?


  • Filling in the gaps - do what needs to be done
  • What is ops if not filling in the gaps
  • Filling in the gap that no one knows it’s there in advance
  • Showing your value is hard -- KPIs help
  • Role development...what are you upskilling in next?
  • Doing the thing that nobody knows how to do
  • Bringing in more structure instead of getting things done as and when the company needs them
  • How to link the long term with short term?
  • KPIs vs OKRs, leading vs lagging
  • Creating more context to understanding the role in the future
  • How can you measure your actual tangible outputs?
  • Ops is such a broad role, how can you define it more concretely?
  • How can you show what you’ve delivered in the past (for future employment)?
  • What does success look like for the ops team?
  • A lot of what we do is being the backbone of helping the other teams creating their metrics, but not our own. E.g. it’s helping sales understand how to grow and how to create KPIs. Ops is a lot of culture, communication, …
  • Ops roles are about being helpful, especially in the early stages. You create your own marketing ops or IT ops as you go along, filling in with the team temporarily. But that won’t be a long term solution.
  • Internal stakeholders, external stakeholders and … putting things in buckets or categories helps the team to understand what they’re working on. They all have goals and that will also make it more tangible to what they’re working on.
  • For most ops roles, you’re becoming the person that everyone talks to a lot, and you feel like you’re not progressing on anything specifically.
  • How do you measure success in your own role?
    • It feels like everything is very intangible.
    • I know when ops is doing a good job and it’s running seamlessly, but how do you answer or explain that to an outsider?
    • Setting priorities in the list of priorities and setting a timeline, if that’s done in time, then you can say you’re successful.
    • If you can show that a change has happened and that it’s now running more seamlessly, that’s a story you can tell. You can prove things are going better. The lack of issues and requests is a measurement, but that’s a hard thing to do.
    • Engagement, e.g. implementing confluence, it’s now used as a communication tool, people are updating the wiki,... It brings new challenges, but the new process is being used.
    • Project deliverable and setting milestones are helping to tell that story
    • What are the error rates? E.g. how many invoices have been missed, what wrong info was being shared, … It shows that there is friction
    • Employee engagement
    • Scalability, if your growth plans are big, what are the processes and platforms going to need to grow 10X? Are we set up to help absorb that 10X growth in the future?
    • Customer effort - when things go wrong, the time that it takes to resolve, calls → It’s a lot and many metrics. How can we reduce that effort?
    • Having a questionnaire about cross-team communication, setting up new ways of communicating and now that survey is being asked frequently to see if there’s any improvement over time
    • NPS score
    • How sad would you be if Zoom wasn’t an option? You can apply this on yourself and ask your team “How sad would you be if I now left? “. You do need to know your team well.
    • How do you know if a CEO is successful? A table format about how to be a good CEO, and you can create that same thing for an ops role, which are the steps that you can take to be good in your role?
    • How many hours would each new starter take up with their questions on average -> equate this to salary and show saving by reducing these Qs using a wiki
    • Creating metrics around projects: ROI’s, time, planned milestones and perceived quality
    • Ops roles are about bringing cohesion between different functions and areas of the business. By trying to measure something, are we forgetting to do what really matters? Is our KPI ensuring everyone else’s KPI is on track?
    • Have a mindset rather than a quantifiable approach
    • As an ops person you can look at the company KPIs and how they affect each other over different departments e.g. there’s huge conversion, great KPI vs more questions are coming in for the support team, KPI isn’t great.
    • Headline measures vs operations measures vs diagnostic measures.. Why are headline measures performing? Creating categories and how measures correlate and affect each other.
    • Why do you need to quantify things in an ops role? Sometimes it’s hard to accept that you’re doing a good job or accept the praise, you need proof in numbers for your own comfort.
    • You can’t always identify your input in success, your impact on projects, how can I justify what I’ve done and my contribution
    • How do you then communicate that with board level, …
    • How do you grow in your role and go towards a COO for example?
    • “If Ops is going well then you’re invisible and when ops are doing badly you’re visible”
    • “Being a COO is not about being visible, if you can’t deal with that then, then you shouldn’t be a COO.”
    • “What would happen if I left?” A huge testament to your business continuing is that you’ve done a great job.
    • How easy is it for everyone else to do their role without having to go through extra steps on having to find answers in different places.
    • Busfactor: what happens if everyone is hit by a bus and what is the risk associated with that? It’s a whole process to create a company where if someone disappears things still work out.
    • “I want to make myself redundant but the next challenge is to find a new project where I can make myself redundant again…” That’s the goal of the role. → scaling means that you can’t make yourself redundant because new challenges are coming your way.
    • “Being able to relax on a day off is a huge win for an ops person.”
  • Is there space for 2 senior ops people in a company?
    • If your company is growing you need to look after strategy, and internal communication around that strategy is important.
    • It becomes more than just logistics and processes
    • There’s space for being that person that’s the glue. They’re doing well when everyone else is doing well.
  • The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni - Organisational health
  • Ops role and where it could go
    • Strategic insights, the ops person can join the dots
    • Problem solves
    • Taking the time to design a good process
    • Speaking up when a problem is becoming an issue and talking about why that is important, bringing in people to understand why that problem needs to solved and how to get it solved.
    • Not every ops person can be all three, or it depends on the project
  • How do you think about upskilling yourself?
    • Doing a crystal knows profile, it helps you uncover your personality which helps you plan in your next steps professionally. It helps you understand where you can grow.
    • Doing an MBA to become an allrounder
    • How do you find the time when you’re in operations? You’re the organised person, just plan it in.
    • As an ops person, you feel like you need to know all the answer all the time, but you need to think on which focus will help the business.
    • Reading job specs to see what other people are asking, if you don’t know a certain area, you can start thinking about learning the basics of.
    • Upskilling before you need it is a good idea. You don’t want to learn complex financial modelling when you actually need it.
  • During this pandemic seems to have become easier because people don’t have to go anywhere to catch-up. Networking is important and makes you think towards the future. Talk to other people who might have the role you want in the future.
  • Mentorship
    • If you don’t have a role where a senior person can guide you, how do you find answers to questions? Mentors? Network?
    • Have different people to talk about the different aspects of your role and career path, they all fill in a different aspect.
    • What do you want a mentor for? What do you want Ops Stories for? More profound questions vs quick answers?
    • What are the benefits of having a mentor?

How do we know when the COO is successful?

Successful COOFailing COO
Internal systems and processes continually improving
Internal systems and processes getting worse
Strategies and objectives agreed to with the CEO are being purposely implemented throughout the organization
Organization is not implementing these strategies and objectives; signs of an overly political, unpredictable or slow moving organization
People agree that the company and various functions are well-managed and that the COO exemplifies that
People are not satisfied with the quality of management and leadership throughout the company
CEO and COO speak with one voice
Organization confused about strategy and direction of the company
Upholds the core values of the company including empowerment and other servant leadership based principles.
Does not uphold such values and principles.