Product Operations: The Secret to Delivering Better Products Faster
Inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma in 2014 from University of North Carolina, Charlotte and involved with the Charlotte Area Alumni Chapter. This blog post is the first in a two-part product management series. Read part two here.
Product Operations is a discipline that focuses on the operational aspects of product development. It helps product teams operate more effectively by streamlining processes, improving communication, and providing data and insights that help product teams make better decisions. Product Operations ensure that the product is developed efficiently and effectively, creating the best possible customer experience.
This article covers.
- What is Product Operations and some of the key responsibilities
- Why: the value driven by Product Operations
- Who: What type of organization needs a Product Operations function
- How: the guide to build your Product Operations team
- The risks of not having a Product Operations function
- Key takeaways
A Product Operations team is one of the core pillars of running any company, but setting up a team doesn't just happen in a day or a month. In product-based companies, it takes time to set up a robust operational infrastructure to support new product features. However, ignoring Product Operations or failing to set up a function within the company's culture can lead to inefficiencies, manual overhead, misaligned goals, and ultimately hinder growth and success. In this article, we will cover the scope of the product operations function in detail and why you need to unleash the power of it for maximum efficiency and supercharge your product organization.
What: Product Operations in a few sentences
Product Operations is a discipline that focuses on the operational aspects of product development and helps product teams operate more effectively by streamlining processes, improving communication, and providing data and insights that help product teams make better decisions. Product Operations ensures that the product is developed efficiently and effectively, creating the best possible customer experience (cx)
A few core responsibilities:
- Developing and implementing product processes and procedures.
- Managing the product team's tools and technology stack.
- Collecting and analyzing data to track product performance.
- Facilitating communication and collaboration between product, engineering, and customer success teams.
- Working with product managers to define product strategy and roadmap.
- Helping product teams launch new products and features.
In simple terms, product operations is the glue that holds the product team together. It's the team that makes sure that everyone is on the same page, that the right tools are being used, and that the product is being developed in a way that meets the needs of the customer.
Why: The unsung hero of product development!
Product Operations team plays a key role in helping companies build and maintain a strong operational foundation to support new and existing product features that aligns with their culture and strategic objectives. Product Operations team enables the product team to drive best possible customer experience by bringing in efficiency throughout the product strategy planning. For example, lack of a defined product roadmap process causes misalignment and thrash across many impacted internal cross functional teams and adversely impacts customers, so it is important for all the product teams to use a consistent and structured roadmapping process so the teams can plan a realistic roadmap, map their priorities to companies goals and manage their dependencies well. A Product Operations team in this case can reduce cost and help drive efficiency, quality, and speed along the product roadmap process by building scalable processes, templates and building partnerships in support of the product organization. Product Operations team, would make it easier and formulaic for product, engineering and stakeholders to do key roadmap activities by documenting process and best practices. During my interview with two product management experts, Phani K Vuyyuru (Product Manager at a startup) and Siddhartha Saladi (Product Manager at Best Buy), they emphatically expressed that they lose a substantial amount of time (a minimum of 3 weeks every quarter) on roadmap planning due to the utilization of one-off planning processes, hampering their ability to focus on tangible deliverables. Both Phani and Siddhartha aligned with me on how a product operations function can save their time in roadmap planning and bring process, structure and efficiency to the entire product development lifecycle (PDLC).
Who: A must-have for any growing business
While people may assume that a Product Operations team is only required for mature or big companies seeking to streamline their operations, implementing Product Operations at an earlier stage in a mid to enterprise size company can help build a solid operational foundation.For example, If the product team has no uniform or fixed process to carry out the product development lifecycle process such as product launch playbook, PDLC (product development lifecycle) framework, product roadmap process etc, each instance of a product launch would become ad hoc and vary in the amount of time, pain and effort required. Moreover, by not standardizing and streamlining, there is no continuous improvement of the process or opportunity to operate at scale. So, a strong product operational foundation is essential to set up the product team for success.
How: The secret to a more efficient product team
Companies can ensure that their operational infrastructure is aligned with their cultural and strategic evolution. Product Operations can deep dive into organization’s key pain points and build the necessary processes, frameworks, playbooks and tooling necessary to drive efficiency, clarity, transparency, simplification, consistency, and alignment across cross-functional teams. Here’s a sample template you can leverage for cross product dependency planning.
Few key Considerations when building a Product Operations Team
Creating a strong Product Operations vision and setting up a solid team is critical for Product Operations success. To set up a strong product operations team, you need the people with right skills who:
- Can enable the product team with the right set of tools and processes to execute product activities.
- Can work with the Product and Engineering teams, plus customer-facing teams in Sales, Services, and Support, to operate key routines and meaningfully improve how we serve our customers and how we deliver products.
- Can build a tight feedback loop within our teams and with our cross-functional partners as we deliver routine processes, understand how they could improve, and then help us prioritize and execute that plan.
- Has a track record of leading and proactively managing end-to-end execution of projects/programs that have transformed company’s operations and delivered quantifiable business impact.
- Has a desire to continually learn and improve upon existing product development approaches and methodologies and create approaches when none exists.
- Has proven ability to influence and affect change with the ability to prioritize and simplify for the sake of execution and efficiency.
The risks of not having a product operations function
Without product operations team, the product may lack direction and fail to meet the company's goals; the product may miss deadlines, miss deliverables or fail to meet quality standards; the product development may be inefficient, leading to manual overhead and time to market delay; and the product may fail to meet all requirements and miss the target market's needs and expectations.
- Product Operations function plays a key role in improving product experience, increasing efficiency, and reducing costs.
- Don't let your company's operations evolve as they go.
- Invest in Product Operations to proactively build and maintain a solid operational foundation that aligns with your company's culture and strategic objectives.
Focusing on design, product, and analytics, Product Operations can help you promote transparency from execution to strategy, ensuring cross-functional alignment and collaboration.
Bonus: Handy template to influence your leadership in building a Product Operations team
I am Srinath Kotela, a seasoned Senior Product Manager at JPMorgan Chase, with a track record of over 12 years in successfully launching technology products across a wide range of industries. My expertise spans international operations, technology supply chain, SAAS, financial services, and banking sectors. I have extensive hands-on experience in designing and building product operations functions at industry-leading organizations like Amazon and Twilio. Additionally, I am the Co-host of the popular product and technology podcast "Everything Product" empowering the product community around the world.