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This article was contributed by Ed King, founder and CEO of Openprise.
We’re all familiar with the concept of the front office and back office. The front office typically consists of customer-facing functions like sales, marketing and customer success, while the back office consists of human resources, legal and finance.
The middle office is an established concept in the financial services industry that consists of operational teams handling risk management and the IT needs of the front office. Empowered by the explosion of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, high-growth venture-backed technology companies have created their version of the middle office.
I’ve noticed the companies that scale successfully often have a high-performing middle office, so it’s worth understanding how it works. This article will examine what makes a successful middle office for a high-growth technology company.
The many faces of the middle office
The technology industry’s version of the middle office had a humble beginning as marketing operations and sales operations. Marketing operations started with the adoption of SaaS marketing automation platforms like Marketo and Eloqua, while sales operations started as system support for SaaS CRMs like Salesforce. Both of these ops teams emerged as a result of being early SaaS adopters.
SaaS made it possible for each line of business to procure, deploy and run its own technology stack. These ops teams support the front office with people, processes, data and the technology required for go-to-market needs. In recent years, these ops teams have grown more sophisticated and now handle data management, process automation, integration and analytics.
The adoption of middle office capabilities has expanded to other departments, and we’re starting to see the emergence of customer ops, people ops and finance ops. The pioneering marketing ops and sales ops are now transforming into a more integrated unit known as the Revenue Ops or RevOps team responsible for delivering visibility and improving efficiencies across the revenue process, driving revenue predictability, and ultimately achieving revenue growth. If you consider that sales is revenue-generating, and finance is revenue recognition, RevOps, then, is revenue enabling. This team is the face of the technology industry’s middle office.
Why do you need a middle office?
Those unfamiliar with ops teams — including RevOps teams — may question the need for a middle office. Isn’t that what IT’s for? While the middle office increasingly performs IT-like functions while actively adopting best practices—like establishing a Project Management Office (PMO) — the reason we need it is that it fulfills a business need that’s proven challenging for IT to deliver effectively.
Keeping the go-to-market machinery of the front office running requires many processes be executed daily, including but not limited to:
- Adding new leads into the CRM.
- Routing leads to the right sales rep.
- Handling channel deal registrations.
- Ingesting channel sales data.
- Managing orders.
- Handling sales team personnel changes.
These processes combine automation and manual tasks, and often require human decision making. Most importantly, when these processes stop working, the business stops generating revenue. Increasingly it’s the RevOps team from the middle office that owns these processes and maintains responsibility for “keeping the lights on.”
The front office of a fast-growing technology company is a messy and fast-changing environment where the go-to-market strategy and execution can change as much as three times a quarter. To cope with this, the best marketing and sales teams adopt an agile execution mentality, where they embrace experimentation and learning from failures—where ideas are validated quickly and opportunities explored before the competition gets there first.
The middle office also needs to build processes, data, and technology fast—based on highly uncertain input, then iterate it with the business users in an agile manner. Within this context, the only constant is change, and from my experience, you usually have only 20% of the required input you need to execute.
Use data to provide insight
Every go-to-market team wants to get a leg up on their competition. These days that means using data to get insights. For example, they may use attribution analysis to understand which marketing campaigns and sales plays produce the best results, or score accounts and contacts to ensure the sales team invests in the buyers most likely to convert or determine the buyer’s journey patterns that nurture a tire kicker into a hand raiser.
Today the front office is inundated with multiple new data sources and technologies that can provide a business with an unfair advantage, while on the flip side, it can waste valuable resources, and sometimes cause analysis paralysis.
The best middle office teams effectively leverage data and technology to deliver high value to their go-to-market teams.
Critical capabilities for the middle office
Given the middle office’s charter and challenges, it has to operate very differently from IT. However, it needs to partner with IT to get the infrastructure support it requires, while shielding IT from the day-to-day business gyrations and uncertainties that it’s not designed to handle. A world-class middle office team should have the following organizational capabilities.
An agile mindset
IT takes three to six months to do a project and every change goes through a change management process that can further lengthen the time to a workable solution. To enable the business effectively, the middle office needs to operate at 10x that speed.
It should adopt the agile development methodology that product teams have long embraced, to develop a minimum viable product (MVP) or prototypes quickly, enabling the go-to-market team to test and provide feedback to enable rapid development of the next iteration of the solution.
While it’s vital to build for the future and no one wants to throw away work, the fact is: many of the initiatives the middle office is asked to support are transitory in nature. Even for long-term projects, the initial design and ideas often have significant gaps, so plan to deliver a solution that works today while building with an eye on the future, and be ready to tweak it.
Ability to build safely and securely
It’s hard to be agile if the only options available to the middle office are duct-taping together point solutions or custom coding. Both options are too rigid and fragile to keep up with the changes in a high-growth company. While, yes, you can code anything, custom code is difficult to maintain and change.
The optimal technology platform provides a sort of “innovation sandbox” to the middle office so they can not only build quickly, but safely too, and without interfering with shared data and infrastructure, or running the risk of ruining the system of record, while also meeting all security and compliance mandates.
No-code and low-code
To enable agility, the middle office needs no-code and low-code platforms that make it easy to build and iterate solutions quickly and transform ideas into execution. Middle office team members are usually technically savvy but aren’t programmers, so they need easy-to-use technologies that offer extensive flexibility.
Create scale with automation and self-service
Besides the ability to move fast and keep up with the business, the middle office needs to build scale into the business, which means three things:
- Automation: Automation is key for a business to achieve scale. Automation can add speed, efficiency, and repeatability to most go-to-market processes. And, as more businesses build out their middle office, it will make the already tight job market even tighter. Making the most out of the team members you have and keeping job satisfaction high requires automating repetitive work that requires no human input.
- Self-service: Automation is hot and people love to talk about it, but you can never eliminate humans completely from most business processes. So if you focus exclusively on automation, you’ll still be unable to achieve scalability because the inefficiencies of human tasks and interactions become the bottleneck. Enabling self-service is a critical part of achieving scalability because it helps to maximize the speed and efficiency of human tasks. Whether it’s enabling a field marketer to instantly load a list of leads scanned at a tradeshow, or enabling a sales rep to quickly build a list of invitees for a lunch-and-learn event—if the middle office can easily create self-service solutions, it can create scalability by democratizing safe and compliant access to data, remove the operations team from doing gatekeeper tasks, and improve business user efficiency.
- Enable the mass: Scalability is not just about speed and feed. It’s also about how many people within the organization can create and maintain the automation and self-service capabilities discussed above. If only three people in IT are capable of doing that, they become the bottleneck to achieving scalability. But if 30 people from the middle office can create and maintain these automations and self-service solutions without an engineering degree, then we’ve achieved true organizational scalability.
The way forward
The middle office may not be a sexy idea, but most essential things in life are not. The people, processes, and technology that enable us to move efficiently through our everyday lives are often transparent to us, especially when done well. SaaS has created a fundamental gap between the need of the business to move fast, be agile, and react to uncertainty vs. what the IT team is able to provide. The middle office is a critical team that bridges this gap and gives a fast-growing business the ability to execute its ever-shifting go-to-market strategy. As technology and data continue to evolve faster than ever, no company can remain competitive and achieve scalable go-to-market without building out a world-class middle office.
Ed King is founder and CEO of Openprise.
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AMD CEO says 5-nm Zen 4 processors coming this fall
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Advanced Micro Devices revealed its 5-nanometer Zen 4 processor architecture today at the Computex 2022 event in Taiwan.
The new AMD Ryzen 7000 Series desktop processors with Zen 4 cores will be coming this fall, said Lisa Su, CEO of AMD, in a keynote speech.
Su said the new processors with Zen 4 architecture will deliver a significant increase in performance upon their launch in the fall of 2022. Additionally, Su highlighted the strong growth and momentum for AMD in the mobile market as 70 of the more than 200 expected ultrathin, gaming and commercial notebook designs powered by Ryzen 6000 Series processors have been launched or announced to-date.
In addition, other AMD executives announced the newest addition to the Ryzen Mobile lineup, “Mendocino;” the newest AMD smart technology, SmartAccess Storage; and more details of the new AM5 platform, including support from leading motherboard manufacturers.
“At Computex 2022 we highlighted growing adoption of AMD in ultrathin, gaming, and commercial notebooks from the leading PC providers based on the leadership performance and battery life of our Ryzen 6000 series mobile processors,” said Su. “With our upcoming AMD Ryzen 7000 Series desktop processors, we will bring even more leadership to the desktop market with our next-generation 5-nm Zen 4 architecture and provide an unparalleled, high-
performance computing experience for gamers and creators.”
AMD Ryzen 7000 Series desktop processors
The new Ryzen 7000 Series desktop processors will double the amount of L2 cache per core, feature higher clock speeds, and are projected to provide greater than 15% uplift in single-thread performance versus the prior generation, for a better desktop PC experience.
During the keynote, a pre-production Ryzen 7000 Series desktop processor was demonstrated running at 5.5 GHz clock speed throughout AAA game play. The same processor was also demonstrated performing more than 30% faster than an Intel Core i9 12900K in a Blender multi-threaded rendering workload.
In addition to new “Zen 4” compute dies, the Ryzen 7000 series features an all-new 6nm I/O die. The new I/O die includes AMD RDNA 2-based graphics engine, a new low-power architecture adopted from AMD Ryzen mobile processors, support for the latest memory and connectivity technologies like DDR5 and PCI Express 5.0, and support for up to four displays.
AMD Socket AM5 Platform
The new AMD Socket AM5 platform provides advanced connectivity for our most demanding enthusiasts. This new socket features a 1718-pin LGA design with support for up to 170W TDP processors, dual-channel DDR5 memory, and new SVI3 power infrastructure for leading all-core performance with our Ryzen 7000 Series processors. AMD Socket AM5 features the most PCIe 5.0 lanes in the industry with up to 24 lanes, making it our fastest, largest, and most expansive desktop platform with support for the next-generation and beyond class of storage and graphics cards.
And AMD said the “Mendocino” processors will offer great everyday performance and are expected to be priced from $400 to $700.
Featuring “Zen 2” cores and RDNA 2 architecture-based graphics, the processors are designed to deliver the best battery life and performance in the price band so users can get the most out of their laptop at an attractive price.
The first systems featuring the new “Mendocino” processors will be available from computer partners in Q4 2022.
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AMD’s Ryzen 7000 desktop chips are coming this fall with 5nm Zen 4 cores
AMD’s upcoming Ryzen 7000 chips will mark another major milestone for the company: they’ll be the first desktop processors running 5 nanometer cores. During her Computex keynote presentation today, AMD CEO Lisa Su confirmed that Ryzen 7000 chips will launch this fall. Under the hood, they’ll feature dual 5nm Zen 4 cores, as well as a redesigned 6nm I/O core (which includes RDNA2 graphics, DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 controllers and a low-power architecture). Earlier this month, the company teased its plans for high-end “Dragon Range” Ryzen 7000 laptop chips, which are expected to launch in 2023.
Since this is just a Computex glimpse, AMD isn’t giving us many other details about the Ryzen 7000 yet. The company says it will offer a 15 percent performance jump in Cinebench’s single-threaded benchmark compared to the Ryzen 5950X. Still, it’d be more interesting to hear about multi-threaded performance, especially given the progress Intel has made with its 12th-gen CPUs. You can expect 1MB of L2 cache per core, as well as maximum boost speeds beyond 5GHz and better hardware acceleration for AI tasks.
AMD is also debuting Socket AM5 motherboards alongside its new flagship processor. The company is moving towards a 1718-pin LGA socket, but it will still support AM4 coolers. That’s a big deal if you’ve already invested a ton into your cooling setup. The new motherboards will offer up to 24 channels of PCIe 5.0 split across storage and graphics, up to 14 USB SuperSpeed ports running at 20 Gbps, and up to 4 HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 2 ports. You’ll find them in three different flavors: B650 for mainstream systems, X650 for enthusiasts who want PCIe 5.0 for storage and graphics and X650 Extreme for the most demanding folks.
Given that Intel still won’t have a 7nm desktop chip until next year (barring any additional delays), AMD seems poised to once again take the performance lead for another generation. But given just how well Intel’s hybrid process for its 12th-gen chips has worked out, it’ll be interesting to see how it plans to respond. If anything, it sure is nice to see genuine competition in the CPU space again.
While Ryzen 7000 will be AMD’s main focus for the rest of the year, the company is also throwing a bone to mainstream laptops in the fourth quarter with its upcoming 6nm “Mendocino” CPUs. They’ll sport four 6nm Zen 2 cores, as well as RDNA 2 graphics, making them ideal for systems priced between $399 and $699. Sure, that’s not much to get excited about, but even basic machines like Lenovo’s Ideapad 1 deserve decent performance. And for many office drones, it could mean having work-issued machines that finally don’t stink.
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Disney’s Disney+ ad pitch reflects how streaming ad prices set to rise in this year’s upfront
With Disney+, Disney is looking to set a new high-water mark for ad prices among the major ad-supported streamers. The pricey pitch is representative of a broader rising tide in streaming ad pricing in this year’s TV advertising upfront market, as Disney-owned Hulu, Amazon and even Fox’s Tubi are looking to press upfront advertisers to pay up.
In its initial pitch to advertisers and their agencies, Disney is seeking CPMs for Disney+ around $50, according to agency executives. That price point applies to broad-based targeting dubbed “P2+,” which refers to an audience of any viewer who is two years old or older (though Disney has told agency executives that programming aimed at viewers seven years old and younger will be excluded from carrying ads). In other words, more narrowly targeted ads are expected to cost more based on the level of targeting. A Disney spokesperson declined to comment.
At a $50 CPM, Disney+ is surpassing the prices that NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Warner Bros. Discovery’s HBO Max sought in last year’s upfront market and that gave ad buyers sticker shock. The former sought CPMs in the $30 to $40 range, while the latter sought $40+ CPMs. By comparison, other major ad-supported streamers like Hulu, Discovery+ and Paramount+ were charging low-to-mid $20 CPMs that major ad-supported streamers charge. As a result, Peacock’s and HBO Max’s asks ended up being price prohibitive, with some advertisers limiting the amount of money they spent with the streamers because of their higher rates.
Unsurprisingly, agency executives are balking at Disney+’s price point. “They’re citing pricing that no longer exists, meaning Peacock and HBO Max recognized they came out too high and they’re reducing it. Disney+ is using earmuffs to pretend that second part didn’t happen,” said one agency executive.
However, Disney+ isn’t the only streamer seeking to raise the rates that ad buyers are accustomed to paying. Hulu is also seeking to increase its prices in this year’s upfront, with P2+ pricing going from a $20-$25 CPM average to averaging in the $25-$30 CPM range, according to agency executives. And during a call with reporters on May 16, Fox advertising sales president Marianne Gambelli said that the company will seek higher prices for its free, ad-supported streaming TV service Tubi in this year’s upfront market. It’s unclear what Tubi’s current rates are, but FAST services’ CPMS are typically in the low to mid teens, said the agency executives.
“We have to get the value for Tubi. Tubi has grown to a point — it’s doubled, tripled in size over the past couple of years. So we are going to obviously make that a priority and look for not only more volume but price,” Gambelli said.
Meanwhile, in pitching its Thursday Night Football package that will be streamed on Amazon Prime Video and Twitch, Amazon has been pressing for a premium on what Fox charged advertisers last year, according to agency executives. The e-commerce giant will be handling the games’ ad placements like traditional TV, meaning that it will run the same ad in each ad slot for every viewer as opposed to dynamically inserting targeted ads. “It’s streaming broadcast,” said a second agency executive.
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on pricing but did provide a general statement. “Thursday Night Football on Prime Video and Twitch is a purely digital broadcast, and we’re excited to bring fans a new viewing experience. There are 80MM active Prime Video households in the U.S. and, in a survey of our 2021 TNF audience, 38% reported they don’t have a pay-TV service – meaning TNF on Prime Video and Twitch enables brands to connect with cord-cutters and cord-nevers. Brands can also reach these viewers beyond TNF. Our first-party insights enable them to reengage TNF audiences across Amazon, such as in Freevee content.”
One of the agency executives that Digiday spoke to said the latest ask is for a plus-10% increase on Fox’s rates, though what Fox’s rates were are unclear and other agency executives said the premium that Amazon is asking for varies. Ad Age reported in February that Amazon was seeking up to 20% higher prices than Fox’s rates. “I don’t know if it is consistently plus-10, but it is definitely more. Which is crazy because Fox couldn’t make money on it, which is why they gave it up for this fall,” said a second agency executive.
“Someone was eating way too many gummies before they put the pricing together,” said a second agency executive of Amazon’s Thursday Night Football pitch.
Ad-supported streaming service owners also see an opportunity to push for higher prices as advertisers to adopt more advanced targeting with their streaming campaigns, such as by using the media companies’ and/or advertisers’ first-party data to aim their ads on the streamers.
Said one TV network executive, “You’ll see premiums, especially as it relates to advertisers that really want to hook into [their company’s streaming service] and buy those targeted audiences across the platform and either use [the TV network’s] first-party data or bring their own data to the table. That’s the biggest business we’re in, and that’s where we see great growth from a pricing standpoint.”
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