What are Product Operations (Product Ops)? A Pivotal Role For Product-Led Companies

Product Ops are in demand. Here, we look at the responsibilities that come with this role and discuss whether your team needs to hop on the Ops train.

Paula Becchetti
9 min read
What are Product Operations (Product Ops)? A Pivotal Role For Product-Led Companies

We often hear about Product Ops skills needed or see Product Ops Manager job posts, but things don’t look that clear yet—unlike the well-known value of DevOps for a SaaS company. It’s murky waters when it comes to definitions, responsibilities, or benefits of this relatively new role. 

So, let's have a closer look into it. We're going to take you through key insights on what Product Ops is, how it can benefit product development, and why its support is essential for product-led teams.

  • Product Operations is a cross-functional role focused on streamlining product processes, workflows, and collaboration across the entire organization. 

  • Think of Product Ops as PM’s best sidekick – taking care of the operational aspects of the product development process.

  • One of the key responsibilities of a Product Ops Manager is to increase the efficiency of the product team by collecting, organizing, and analyzing product usage data to help product management make informed decisions.

  • Product Ops focus on tooling and tech stack management, product enablement, customer feedback comprehension, product experimentation, continuous team training, and other areas. 

  • Do you need to hire for this role? This will depend on your team size, the current state of product development, and business goals. For example, having a Product Ops Manager is especially important for product-led teams in a rapid growth scenario.

  • Other situations when you might need a Product Ops Manager include having multiple product teams, chaotic product data management, or swamped PMs who waste time on administrative tasks. Ops Manager will take care of procedures and set up best practices to achieve the team’s success. 

  • There’s no doubt: The future of PLG is powered by Product Ops đź’Ş

What is Product Operations (Product Ops)? #

In a few words, Product Operations is a cross-functional role designed to guarantee successful collaborative work among all teams connected to the product lifecycle, from product managers, R&D, and engineering to product marketing managers, sales, and customer success teams.

Product Ops is a must-have operational position focused on streamlining the product development processes across the entire organization and therefore increasing efficiency, helping to make a better product, and ultimately improving customer engagement.

The Product Operations Manager is typically in charge of:

  • Collecting, organizing, and analyzing product data to help PMs make informed decisions

  • Streamlining communication between the product teams and other teams in the organization

  • Standardizing business processes, such as planning and reporting, to facilitate product development

  • Promoting product innovation by creating seamless experimentation processes

  • Managing the product tech stack to ensure effective employment of resources

  • Overseeing product quality assurance and identifying product improvement opportunities

  • Setting up onboarding and training programs to keep the team at its best performance

  • Supporting Sales and Product Marketing to sharp go-to-market strategies and improve customer experience

We’ll dive deeper into the Product Ops Manager competencies later on, but for now let’s say we can think of Product Ops as Product Management’s best sidekick—taking care of the operational aspects of product development to release Product Managers from time-consuming chores and allowing them to focus on what they do best: building amazing products.

Product Operations vs. Product Management: What is the difference? #

Now, you might think that there's an overlap between the roles of a product operations manager and a product manager. So, let's break it down a bit and clearly define the difference between the two domains.

Product ops facilitate product management #

A helpful way to understand the relationship between Ops and PM teams is to think about the latter as customers of the former. Product Managers own the definition and development of specific products while the Product Ops team handles the daily repetitive functions to sleek development, launch, and continuous optimization across multiple products.

In essence, product ops function as a grease to product management. While a product manager looks towards wider business objectives and focuses their attention on customer needs, a product operations manager handles various day to day tasks that supports the product team, and optimizes processes that not only affect product ops, but also sales ops, marketing ops, and engineering.

Here's a chart that briefly shows what the differences are:

A table that shows the difference between product ops and product managers

How Product Ops works with Product Managers #

In most cases, you'll see PMs and Ops work side by side in the same fields, but with different focal points. For example, a Product Manager owns decision-making based on data, but Product Ops collects the data and analyzes it first.

The same happens with experimentation: giving room to test new ideas is vital for Product Management success and continuous improvement but you’ll probably see more of the Product Ops team in the making, with their hands on the different stages of implementation and tracking results. 

Groundwork is the keyword here. While PMs are in charge of defining the product’s vision and related company goals, POMs are committed to spreading the word, checking that all team members are properly informed about the strategy and that all canons are aimed in the right direction. 

That’s why post-launch is Product Operations’ golden hour—they test requirements for specific markets, conduct experiments to optimize the product per cohort, and provide value for end users by keeping eyes on maintaining the product's high performance and customers’ loyalty. And Product Ops can shine all the way.

Key Product Ops Responsibilities and Tasks #

Now let's look at some key product operations responsibilities and day-to-day tasks involved.

Routine trimming #

Every product team has recurring processes to attend to, and an amount of essential but time-consuming tasks performed in a loop e.g. user feedback analysis, sprint planning, and product roadmapping. Product Ops is responsible for finding the most effective way to deal with repetitive processes, for the sake of saving time and other valuable resources, such as energy and attention, for team members to boost productivity. 

Tool management #

The product tech stack gets bigger and more complex by the minute. Monitoring customer behavior, digital prototyping, product road mapping, project management, metric analysis, user testing, and feedback—the list of software solutions to optimize processes seems endless.

How do Product Ops come to the rescue? By administering these tools, managing the relationships with their vendors, creating guidelines for their use, and training the broader product team in best practices to take advantage of their benefits without losing additional time in exploring their capabilities and deciding whether they are the right tools for the job. 

Product experimentation #

A culture of product experimentation in an organization is essential to growth. At the same time, growth makes experiments more complex, with massive user and codebases, endless test possibilities, and loads of qualitative and quantitative results. 

Another layer of potential chaos is the augmentation of the product management team with a multiplicity of PMs, each of them with their own method to plan, execute, and measure success. Product Operations is responsible for creating and systematizing the experimentation culture of a company, designing processes for product managers to run polished experiments, actionable, and reliable. 

Cross-functional communication #

We’ve said it before, Product Ops is cross-functional all the way—they’re the glue that keeps all product stakeholders collaborating effortlessly. Therefore, their focus on promoting and facilitating clear communication among teams is crucial to keep everyone well-informed and documentation updated, as well as conversations valuable with tackled inconsistencies and reaching agreements. 

Product enablement #

At Chameleon, we know how important it is for stakeholders and end-users to have an effortless relationship with the product. With this key goal in mind, Product Ops teams partner with product marketing professionals to help users as much as possible with their multiple interactions with the product, recognizing potential friction and designing engagement strategies for customers to understand core features and new releases. An excellent example of product enablement done right is mastering great user onboarding. 

Customer feedback comprehension #

At the end of the day, our most precious treasure is customer engagement. To keep our customers interested and craving more, it’s important to know what to ask them and how to listen. In this sense, Product Operations assists a great deal in leading reliable feedback recollection strategies like Microsurveys and analyzing customer health metrics. Taking a closer look at the product itself searching for sticky features or potential churn triggers is part of the job too. All of this helps to design customer-centric product roadmaps. 

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Product data management #

One of the biggest challenges of today’s business ecosystem is product data management. Tons of qualitative and quantitative data come every day from the complex tech stack mentioned before. In the face of exponential data volume growth, organizations rely on Product Operations to keep the data analysis clean and accessible. And as collecting, reviewing, and analyzing data gets more complex, Product Ops teams build relevant usage data systems to capture and keep track of strategic product metrics such as Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) to later share with PMs powerful insights to help them make data-driven accurate decisions. 

Continuous team training #

Much of what the Product Operations team focuses on has best practices as outcomes: proper processes for collaborative communication, product experimentation, tool management, and so on. Training the product team in these procedures and guaranteeing learning access to compelling and valuable educational content is a POM’s responsibility too, as well as keeping track of all team members' progress. 

Now that we have seen the different skills expected from a Product Operations team, let’s take a look at how they are actually translated into real-market job descriptions. 

Do you need Product Ops? #

Every product-led company needs Product Management but not all product-led companies need Product Operations Managers. In some cases, it can be considered business extravagance or over-managing.

So, when it’s time to hire a POM? Here are some good indications of your business’ call for Product Ops.

Multiple product teams. When a product-led organization has more than one product, this means it has a complex vision. You’ll need Product Operations to handle different process requirements, team dynamics, and user bases, but without losing the brand essence that keeps them all coherently together. 

Swamped PMs. If your product managers are wasting time with administrative tasks instead of investing it in their core responsibilities, that’s your cue to find proper help in Product Operations. They’ll take care of daily procedures and set up best practices to achieve the team’s success. 

Rapid escalation. In the face of potential growing pains, your company can count on Product Ops to scale gracefully. Bigger volumes of data, more intricate procedures, larger teams working with higher levels of collaboration: nothing is impossible to handle when you have professionals focused on streamlining product-led growth.  

Chaotic product experimentation culture. Creativity and continuous testing are the foundations of innovation. But your experimentation lab can get massier in the blink of an eye. Product Operations will help your team try all their new ideas with a clear path, a consistent measurement approach, and a steady common north. 

Untrusty data management. Data-driven management seems to be mandatory nowadays. When huge loads of data are shot by an enormous amount of measurement tools, you’re signing a troubled business analysis certificate if you don’t have the proper mindset and skills to deal strategically with the information you need. Here’s one of the richest fields to see some Product Operations magic going. 

The future of product-led growth is powered by Product Ops #

There’s no doubt: If you believe in what your company does and delivers to its customers, your organization’s core is product-centric (and, therefore, your heart is a customer-centric one). This corporate anatomy translates into another fact: your growth should be product-led as well. 

Especially in the SaaS sector where competition is fierce, a product team can’t afford to navigate this highly demanding environment without aiming for excellence: carefully planned systems, agile teamwork, and killer best practices.

A great product culture in a fast-growing organization claims for a strong operational backbone for cross-functional teams devoted to success. In this context, with pressure rising on fast innovation and efficient delivery, demand for Product Ops will keep on rising, with Product Managers eager to trust the best support they can ever have.

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