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HubSpot embraces competitor CRM systems, adds RevOps features

With HubSpot Operations Hub, users -- typically small and medium-sized businesses -- can access cloud tools most often used by large enterprise sales teams.

As the economy begins its first steps toward pandemic recovery, small and medium-sized businesses that were hit hard need all the help they can get.

Before the pandemic, some large enterprises adopted revenue operations (RevOps), an emerging management strategy that integrates sales and finance leadership to more quickly and precisely measure company-wide sales performance in real time, instead of the traditional retrospective quarterly view.

HubSpot's recently released Operations Hub is an attempt to simplify technology to support revenue operations for its majority SMB customer base. Andy Pitre, HubSpot product vice president, discusses it in this Q&A.

What is Operations Hub?

Andy Pitre, HubspotAndy Pitre

Andy Pitre: It enables operations departments that allow them to better use HubSpot as their CRM platform…

With the first version of Operations Hub, we're connecting systems and automating business process. The reason that we picked those is because when we started digging into what operations teams were doing, where they were spending the most time and having the most problems. If they use HubSpot or Salesforce or any other CRM as their platform, operations teams are still using dozens of apps across the entire company. We don't think that's going to slow down. But it doesn't change the need that they still want a place for their customer data.

What are the most common integrations HubSpot users are looking for?

Pitre: It's a mix. Some of the most popular ones that we have are simple -- things like Google Contacts and Outlook contacts -- just wanting to sync their address books with their CRM, which provides a lot of benefit for them. We also see connections to other CRMs, and other CRMs that are also ERPs such as NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics.

We still have a decent number of customers who use competing apps such as MailChimp. So rather than trying to create a closed ecosystem, we want to be able to open the door and say, 'Listen, if you want to use HubSpot as your CRM and use MailChimp as your email tool, we'll never think that our email's not better. But if that's what you decide to do, then we want to encourage those apps to work with HubSpot, because it's the right thing to do for our customers.'

You have to acknowledge and accommodate the reality of the mixed-vendor tech stack, which Salesforce and Microsoft do as well with their recent releases.

Pitre: Our hope is that, as operations teams adopt HubSpot, we make it easier for them to connect systems on HubSpot than with any other system, right? That's our aspirational goal. I think we're doing a pretty good job of it with the first launch, and in the next few years we will continue working on this, iterating on it and making it better. We want to get to where an operations team can sign up for HubSpot, and it is just dead simple to connect their systems and they all work together really well.

RevOps is pretty sophisticated stuff, typically used by large companies or startups that have developer resources who build imaginative forecasting models by connecting esoteric third-party tools. How can you possibly bring these very sophisticated processes to small and medium-sized businesses?

Pitre: Bringing those use cases from enterprises down to midmarket is totally the way that we think about it. That's actually the playbook. If you look at the history of HubSpot, that's a playbook that we've run over and over again. When I joined HubSpot 11 years ago, and the main use case was SEO; HubSpot was built on that concept. Email marketing was built on. We didn't invent SEO, but HubSpot realized that there were all of these enterprise companies that were hiring SEO agencies to go and eat up all the search results. Small and midsize businesses were just getting left behind. They didn't know how to show up on Google, they didn't know how to create content, they didn't know how to do all the things that needed to get done.

We've run that same playbook with marketing automation. We've run that same playbook with sales enablement and we're doing the same thing with revenue operations. We're using our own systems at HubSpot. This is what we actually want to implement. These are the processes that we want to automate. These are the systems that we want to connect.

You're now bumping up against Salesforce and Microsoft. All you need is an e-commerce platform to round it out.

Pitre: I should probably say 'no comment' on that, but it's something that we've thought about internally.

RevOps is a philosophy, a method of attacking processes, not necessarily a technology. Technology enables RevOps processes. Analysts tell us over and over is that it's popular among software companies selling software to other companies. How do you generalize that to the HubSpot audience?

There's continued work we're going to do on with automation and with integrations. There's more that we want to do there.
Andy PitreVice president of product, HubSpot

Pitre: We have a lot of diversity in what our customers sell. The thing that's really interesting for us is getting those customers to think about the entire customer experience. We believe it's the right approach of selling, which overlaps really well with RevOps. When you look at some of these smaller companies, they have a one-person operations team, and maybe one or two people who are thinking about setting up systems. Automating business -- many small businesses haven't even thought about those problems yet. We want to be able to say to those companies, 'OK, you're going to get here at some point. Here's how you should think about it. Here's how you should be build those teams.'

What is next on the HubSpot roadmap?

Pitre: There's continued work we're going to do on with automation and with integrations. There's more that we want to do there.

We think there's more we can do inside of HubSpot to help our customers build better business processes, iterations to our automation platform to make it more powerful for business process automation. There's more integration, there are more types of integrations that we want to add, there are more features that we want to add to our integration platform…

HubSpot has fairly robust reporting visualization tools today that solve a lot of departmental use cases such as sales managers figuring out how many calls their team have made, marketing managers figuring out the open rate of email and service managers trying to figure out how many tickets have been closed in a given period.

As more and more companies run entirely on top of HubSpot, those use cases continue to grow and continue to get more complex. There's a layer in front of the visualization layer that that we think HubSpot needs to get better at. I call it the data management layer, where you would bring in a business analyst type to prepare and curate the data, so that the data can be better used by the end user in a particular department.

As the data complexity in your CRM grows, it becomes harder and harder for the average sales manager to reason through the data model that would be required to produce reports. That sales manager has to understand that the revenue data is stored here, but the sales rep data is stored there. Companies or accounts are stored as separate objects, so I need to run an inner join across these three objects, right? And then if I want to pull out the revenue, there's actually something like eight different revenue properties stored in the CRM; each have eight different use cases, depending on who's asking for the report. It becomes harder and harder for that sales manager to produce what would seemingly be a simple report. We have the last-mile piece of dragging and dropping into the bar chart. What we're missing is that sort of data preparation and data management layer that happens before the sales rep has to come into the system. That's what we want to be able to build for operations-minded teams.

We're also thinking about data quality. One of the big issues that comes up when you talk to almost every company is their data is not good. With AI, we think that we have an opportunity to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to help customers identify bad data, missing data and out-of-date data. We also think we have an opportunity to help customers and clean that data up.

Editor's note: This Q&A was edited for clarity and brevity.

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