This piece is part of our Digital Change Agents Series – Bay Area.
When a business process intersects with multiple teams’ systems, how do you go about making it more efficient?
Erik Lopez, Senior Business Systems Manager at Lucidchart, suggests that—much like the dictionary—it’s all about definitions.
With its intuitive and collaborative diagramming solution, LucidChart is a leading tool for thought mapping. It’s no surprise, then, that Lopez applies a similarly rigorous framework to all of his projects.
“I provide the internal support our employees need so they can focus on the work that they do and not the administration of internal systems,” he says.
In his experience, being a neutral presence has been key to successfully building rapport between the business systems team and the rest of the company. “It’s usually less about decision-making and more about consensus-building,” he says.
To that end, Lopez works hard to make sure that all teams are on the same page—before they start looking for solutions.
“In my role, I try to provide definitional clarity for things. What do we mean when we say ‘lead’? What do we mean when we say ‘contact’?” he notes.
This approach can also help you evaluate new tools more effectively, he adds. Once you define the problem you’re looking to solve, you can choose the best possible solution.
“Automations [and other techology] come at the very end, after you talk to the people and define the process,” he notes. “If you define things and have a good process, technology will just make it better.”
In fact, defining the problem was the first step in solving Lucidchart’s biggest business systems challenge: eliminating duplicate leads in Marketo and Salesforce and using automation to create beautiful customer experiences. Because the sales and marketing teams worked separately, they treated data in those apps very differently—and the customer experience, too.
“Solving this problem involved actually getting everyone in the room—sales, marketing, and support—and clearly defining when they were touching the customer and what they were responsible for. End-to-end, finding a solution took four months,” Lopez recalls.
He’s also developed a framework for evaluating potential business systems projects. As part of this framework, he and his team:
- Sit down with business units to define OKRs on a quarterly basis;
- Have teams justify their systems project requests in terms of their OKRs; and
- Ask teams to identify the metric they’ll use to measure a project’s success.
These steps allow Lopez to take on projects with a clearly defined ROI, instead of simply pursuing every ask.
While ideally, the business systems team can have a productive dialogue with lines-of-business stakeholders, Lopez also recognizes that sometimes systems professionals just need to act.
“It’s important to talk to stakeholders, but after a while, you have to just try things out and ask for forgiveness later.”