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Product Operations: What it Is and 6 Critical Job Functions

Product operations is an essential function within product management. Discover how to build a strong product ops team and implement effective processes here.

First, the developers got an ops team. 

Then, sales and marketing wanted a seat at the table and started throwing off all kinds of RevOps roles.

Isn’t it time that product gets in on the operations game?

ProductOps. Kinda has a nice ring to it.

It could be the key to fixing those inefficient product development processes, too.

In this article, we’ll give you a quick 101 on ProductOps (or Product Operations, if you want to be formal).

We’ll dive into:

  • What Product Operations is
  • Why ProductOps are important
  • Six key responsibilities that Product Operations owns
  • Four critical skills for ProductOps professionals to master

What Is Product Operations? 

Product Operations (ProductOps) is a discipline that looks to find ways to improve how product teams work.

Think of ProductOps as the meta version of product.

The product team is responsible for designing the product roadmap, building the actual thing, and bringing it to market. 

ProductOps says, “Okay, but how do we do all that better?”

As a ProductOps team member, you’re going to be responsible for tasks like:

  • Creating efficiencies by suggesting processes and tech changes
  • Accelerating feedback loops
  • Improving reporting and analysis capabilities
  • Activating collaboration within and between product teams, as well as between product and the wider GTM (go to market) team

So, to sum, ProductOps is really there to help the product team be better.

The role and importance of product operations in product management 

So, what’s the point of a ProductOps team, and can you get away with not having one? Technically speaking, yes. But you’re going to miss out on three important benefits.

1. Design more efficient processes

A dedicated ProductOps team will have their eye on how processes work, where bottlenecks or slowdowns exist, and what’s getting in the way of working more efficiently.

Then, they’ll make suggestions for process improvements, such as a product launch checklist.

Ignition product launch checklist

For example, ProductOps might examine your existing launch process and determine that the product marketing team isn’t getting enablement collateral over to sales soon enough, which is dragging out sales cycles.

They can then bring this stage up in the process so product marketing jumps on it earlier.

2. Take tangential tasks off product leaders’ plates 

A well-developed ProductOps team will be able to take routine tasks like hiring and software sourcing off the plate of the PMM.

Yes, the PMM will likely still want to be consulted on these activities, but they can act simply as an advisor rather than having to run everything from writing a job ad to organizing a new employee pack with HR.

3. Enhance collaboration and performance 

ProductOps can look at areas of tension, low collaboration, or siloes that exist between teams and come up with ideas to solve them.

For example, they might improve collaboration between product and customer support by setting up an automated leaderboard of issues raised by users. Those that get raised more often become a priority for the product team to incorporate into the product roadmap.  

So, by taking work off the plates of PMMs, helping product teams create more efficient processes, and facilitating inter-department collaboration, ProductOps acts as a powerful catalyst for growth.  

6 key responsibilities of product operations

To understand whether it is worth having your business invest additional dollars into ProductOps, let's dive into the actual activities that ProductOps team members would be responsible for.

6 Key Responsibilities of Product Operations

You might already be doing some of them.

1. Aligning product strategy with business goals

One of the most important responsibilities of the ProductOps team is to help align the product vision with the broader goals of the business.

For example, if the company’s primary goal is to increase revenue by lengthening the average customer lifetime, this might translate to a product goal of increasing stickiness.

ProductOps would then work with the broader product team to identify areas of and causes for low adoption and add changes or new developments to the product plan.

In some cases, the required change might be to a process rather than to the product itself.

Suppose ProductOps, having dug into user data, identifies that adoption of feature X is a key driver of stickiness and retention. In that case, the new user onboarding process is adjusted to focus heavily on improving the adoption rate of that feature in particular.

2. Improving the product feedback loop

User feedback is critical to helping product managers understand how changes they make to product features impact the customer experience.

After all, a product is only worthwhile if it's actually getting used and delivering value to that end user.

ProductOps can help improve the product feedback loop by running in-depth customer interviews and by identifying the right moments to deliver CSAT (customer satisfaction score) surveys.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Then, they can use their data analysis skillset to turn that feedback into actionable insights that the dev team can execute on as product updates.

3. Streamlining product development workflows

ProductOps is all about finding ways for the broader product team to work smarter, faster, and with fewer errors.

As such, looking at the product development process and identifying bottlenecks, technological challenges, or other efficiencies is a core ProductOps responsibility.

The solutions that ProductOps produces can be varied.
Depending on the problem at hand, the solve might be to:

  • Program a new set of to reduce manual work
  • Introduce a new piece of software that’s more appropriate or offers AI functionality 
  • Cut out an approval stage to speed up deliverability 
  • Provide additional training to developers to create more cross-functional teams
  • Add a set of QC checks to prevent rework

All of the above can be right answers. The point is that ProductOps is raising the question.

4. Managing the product development tech stack

ProductOps is also responsible for managing the product tech stack, from competitive monitoring and research solutions to roadmapping and product management tools.

They’ll be responsible for:

  • Sourcing new tech
  • Working with procurement to negotiate contracts
  • Integrating newly purchased software into the existing architecture
  • Orchestrating onboarding
  • Managing software updates
  • Dealing with customer support to resolve bugs and issues.

ProductOps will need to work closely with the dev team on this, as they actually use the tech stack.

5. Enhancing cross-functional collaboration 

A good ProductOps team eliminates siloes and finds opportunities to improve communication and collaboration across related departments.

This might take the form of improving the feedback mechanism from customer success to product marketing via software integration or by introducing a new feedback process.

Or it might look like reducing the amount of back and forth in messaging tools by setting up a weekly meeting between product managers or moving communications into a more contextual location like the product roadmapping tool the PMMs share.

6. Overseeing recruiting, hiring, and onboarding 

The final big responsibility on the plate of ProductOps is to own hiring for the broader product team, from product designers to devs.

Of course, they’ll need to work closely with the leaders of the respective team for whom they’re hiring, but ProductOps will take care of all of the administrative work, such as:

  • Writing job descriptions and ad copy
  • Posting job ads on sites like LinkedIn and Indeed
  • Reviewing, sorting, and culling applicants
  • Interviewing candidates
  • Creating and executing new employee onboarding processes
  • Managing performance reviews 

Clearly, then, ProductOps professionals have a lot on their shoulders (it's part of what makes them such a valuable part of the product team).

4 essential skills for product operations professionals 

4 Essential Skills for Product Operations Professionals

Decided it's time to build your ProductOps team, and now it's time to bring on a person or two?

Here are four critical skills you’ll want to select when hiring for product operations roles.

1. Project management skills 

Project management skills include planning, executing, and analyzing projects. 

ProductOps team members need to be able to administer various projects at once, keep track of project timelines, responsibilities, and dependencies, and orchestrate human resources.

They’ll need to be good at time management, resolve challenges, make changes to timelines quickly, and be confident using project management software.

Effective project management helps with the on-time and successful delivery of product initiatives, mitigating risks and ensuring that projects are completed within scope, time, and budget constraints.

2. Data analysis and reporting skills 

Data analysis is one of the core responsibilities of the ProductOps professionals.

So, they’ll need to be comfortable diving into long screeds of numbers, graphs, and tables and understand how to manipulate data to get answers to specific questions.

A good ProductOps team member also knows how to communicate the story that the data tells.

For instance, having analyzed product usage data, a ProductOps team member may need to report back to company leadership, who only wants to know the problem and how to solve it, not so much the hundreds of data points behind it.

3. Excellent communication and collaboration skills 

ProductOps teams don’t work in a silo.

While they work intimately with the likes of product managers and product development teams, they also collaborate more broadly with departments across the entire organization, especially the GTM team.

A ProductOps team member will need to feel confident communicating recommendations to product designers, for example, based on the insights they dig up through data analysis.

And they’ll need to be able to communicate diplomatically to product leaders when they identify internal processes that just aren’t working and need to be changed (or thrown out altogether).

4. Leadership and team-building skills 

An effective ProductOps professional is also adept at acting as a leader when the time calls.

While a ProductOps team member may not be the manager per se, they could be responsible for heading up a project—like speeding up the product development process—that would require them to act as a leader and manager situationally.

Good leadership, communication, and team-building skills will come in handy here.

To sum up, a good ProductOps team member will be effective at:

  1. Managing projects and people
  2. Analysis data and reporting on it 
  3. Communicating with other team members
  4. Leading and collaborating

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the difference between product management and product operations? 

Product management is responsible for owning the product development roadmap, steering the organization’s GTM motion, and using customer feedback and user behavior to inform changes and new features.

ProductOps’ primary responsibility is identifying ways the product team can work smarter, faster, more efficiently, with fewer errors, and with greater collaboration with the broader GTM team.

What is an example of a product operations process? 

An example of a process that product operations would be involved in is hiring for open product operations roles, product marketing roles, or product engineers.

What does a product operations analyst do? 

A product operations analyst observes product team processes and identifies opportunities to work more efficiently and/or effectively. 

They do data analysis and reporting, improve and update internal documentation, capture customer feedback, and may even be involved in hiring.

What does a product operations manager do? 

The product operations manager oversees the ProductOps team.

They’ll engage in some managerial activities—such as hiring for product operations roles and providing training and support for the ProductOps team—as well as work in the trenches analyzing data and product team processes to spot opportunities for improvement.

Help product operations help you 

By focusing on efficiency, collaboration, and strategic alignment with business goals, ProductOps is essential to enhancing overall product team performance.

A well-tuned ProductOps department can take work off the plate of PMMs, spot opportunities to improve processes and communication, and ultimately align high-level business goals with product strategy.

Ignition, our AI-powered GTM platform for helping product teams connect with revenue, can help facilitate this:

  • Use Ignition’s AI engine to accelerate workflows, analyze customer conversations and pull out key insights, or support collaboration with the sales team with AI-driven sales enablement
  • Build and prioritize product roadmaps in our product management suite and enable seamless handoffs from product to GTM teams
  • Measure and track OKRs in our launch measurement dashboard to understand the impact ProductOps has on efficiency

Want more? See Ignition in action.

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