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Alberto IncisaProduct and Growth at June

22 Feb 22

Complete Guide to Product Operations (ProdOps)

Successful products are in perpetual beta: you cannot afford to rest on your laurels, and finding new ways to improve your user experience is the ultimate purpose of the product team.

But the more your business grows, the harder it is to stay on top of everything that goes into building an awesome product: getting new talent up to speed, researching the latest technology trends, analyzing user data… all time-consuming tasks, yet necessary to keep the competition at bay. That’s where Product Operations comes in handy.

In this article, you are going to see how Product Ops helps your business scale, and how June can provide you the analytics tools to help your ProductOps team.

What Is Product Ops?

Product Ops is an operational function that involves using product data to drive decision-making about a product:

  • It serves as a bridge between customer success, product, and engineering.
  • It supports the research and development teams to help them improve communications, alignment, and processes for a given product.
  • Effective product operation team fast-tracks feedback loops and feature adoption and increases efficiencies.

You can view it as a role within an organization. It is a significant skill that professionals can also develop as a company scales. There are various priorities within the product operations function. But it depends on the industry, company maturity, and the product’s nature.

What Is Product Operations: Product Operations Vs Product Management

While Product Management is about developing a great product, Product Operations focuses on scaling product management by simplifying and automating repetitive operational tasks like data reporting, talent onboarding, or cross-team communication.

The operations team acts as the safeguard of the whole product team, making sure that the production pipeline goes as smoothly and efficiently as possible.  

Prod ops should not be mixed up with DevOps―the latter addressing the complexity of the software development process itself.

It is important to note that the two work in tandem despite the differences in their roles. Below are some of the ways product operations and management collaborate.

  • Product operations create and implement tools that product management uses. Product managers will then provide feedback about these processes to product operations to help them improve them.
  • Product operations and management sometimes come together to create ideas and experiments. Then, product ops execute the experiments and share results with prod management.Prod ops collect and organize product data, then they work with product management to derive insights. Product management then uses these insights to improve product development. Prod ops and product management can both gather actionable insights about a product using June’s ready-made templates.

Why ProductOps

  • Data-driven product development - Data drives decisions: there is no good product without good data. ProductOps extracts data, ensures its quality, and transforms it into easy-to-read reports for product managers and other executives to make informed decisions about the product’s future.
  • Business alignment - By standing at the crossroads between marketing, sales, product, and development, ProductOps bridges the gap between product strategy and operations, increasing the whole product strategy’s coherence: the product roadmap is aligned with the overall business goals.
  • Productivity gains - ProdOps frees time for the product team by creating processes and developing automated systems to get more done, while reducing technical debt with research and documentation.

Product Operations Job Description: Who’s Responsible for ProdOps?

It is unlikely for companies that have yet to reach product-market fit to have a dedicated ProdOps team, so the responsibility goes to the product manager at first.

As the business reaches critical mass, however, the product manager will have too much to do and that’s when hiring a ProdOps team happens. According to a report written in 2020, product managers that do what they know best―building great products―can increase company profits by 34%, so you don’t want to distract them by assigning them redundant tasks.  
The Product Operations team is divided into two separate roles: a product operations analyst focused on analyzing data and coming up with compelling reports, and a product operations manager to handle process optimization. As the team grows further in size, it is not unusual for companies to have a director of product operations to coordinate everyone.

When Is Prod Ops Important to a Company?

There is a specific time when the role of a product operations team in a company needs to be filled. As the product management team grows, there are more customers to handle, and the company’s workload can double. As a result, there’s a need for a product ops team.

Below are some indicators of the need for product operations.

  • Ad-hoc use of data: Data gathering for each product happens differently. The same is the case for analysis, decision making, reporting, data curation, etc. While some product managers do not recognize the importance of data, some don’t use it effectively.
  • Inconsistent testing: A company needs prod ops when there’s conflicting research, testing, and validation. This could be because the product team is busy and has other focus. However, create a product ops team when you’re not learning about market needs efficiently.
  • Confusion in feature requests: When the product team and other departments in the organization are getting lost in customer requests and feedback, prod ops become necessary. A prod ops team is imperative when the organization loses the ability to prioritize, acknowledge, and position feature requests.

You can manage feature requests and learn about the ones frequently used by customers using June’s templates.

  • Confusion in commitments: There are different commitments for a product team, and they might become confused about the one to convey to the stakeholders. While some decisions need to pass through back channels, some are left unattended.
  • Messy process: If the release process gets messy and you don’t always meet the deadline and other requirements, you need product ops to ensure success for the internal team and satisfy customers.
  • Pricing and value mismanagement: Product ops need to enter the picture if the pricing strategy is inconsistent or haphazard. When the organization is unsure whether they’re undercharging or overcharging, prod ops can help the company figure it out.

7 Ways to Streamline Product Ops in Your Business

When considering product operations, Google is one company to learn from. However, the responsibilities of the product operations team usually depend on your company’s needs. Below are seven ways to streamline product ops in your business.

1. Data Analysis and Reporting

Raw data is of no use to a product manager: only actionable key insights are. A good ProdOps analyst will know how to extract data from analytics tools and provide relevant metrics to the product team to simplify market research―like feature adoption, retention, or revenue, but also qualitative data like feature requests and bug tickets.
Of course, having the right tool for the job helps tremendously. Take June’s retention feature for example:

Instead of digging down a database for gems for hours, having instant access to the right level of details saves precious time to the product team. Retention―a key performance indicator to steer product decisions―becomes accessible in a click, for example.

2. Product Experiments

Product Ops also helps develop a sustainable methodology for running experiments: formulating hypotheses based on user data, designing tests to prove or refute them, and processes to gather objective results.

Nurturing an experimentation mindset is key for companies to keep innovating and stay ahead of the competition. This is why companies like Google used to let their employees spend 20% of their time working on whatever product they could imagine and how Google Mail came to be. But in a startup, resources are scarce, and experiments need to be carefully planned to fit in the budget.
A typical scenario is finding out from your customers they need a specific feature, and using feature adoption reports to decide whether or not the product experiment is a success:

Dozens of new apps are launched every single day on Product Hunt alone: the startup landscape is constantly shifting. Keeping up with these changes is time-consuming, but through Product Ops, you can put energy into researching and assessing the relevance of the latest tools, practices, and processes for the product team to use.

Three ways to find new product opportunities:

  • RSS feeds - An RSS reader like Feedly can grab information from hundreds of websites dedicated to product management to stay on top of the latest in the industry.
  • Social networks - Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook groups, subreddits… thought leaders share tidbits of valuable insights if you look hard enough.
  • Newsletters - Websites dedicated to product management all have their own newsletter covering timely events: the amount of content to keep up with is gigantic and you will never thank your ProdOps colleagues enough for going through the noise.
    Investigating new ways of doing things takes time, but implementing them is much harder: 70% of change efforts are predicted to fail right away. Planning for change is a job in itself, but a company that doesn’t strive to reinvent itself is planning to fail too. This is why having ProdOps streamline your technological watch with curated content and sources provides huge value.

4. Freeing knowledge for the whole team

Poor or lacking documentation is a typical productivity drain. Not everyone likes to write, after all. If you lose 15 minutes every time you are looking for a specific information―asking colleagues, logging in, finding the right keywords to search for, finding the right version of the document, etc.―and you apply that to the whole company every day for a year, you are probably losing a fortune.

There is a lot going on in developing and maintaining a product. Without clear and accessible documentation on tools to use and best practices to follow, the product would be in jeopardy as soon as a team member leaves. ProdOps makes sure that the knowledge surrounding the product―guidelines, tutorials, templates, training―remains available and relevant.

The product operations manager's job also includes developing resources to onboard new talent in the product team and get them up to speed as swiftly as possible.

5. Optimizing processes

According to the Product Management Trends and Benchmarks Report 2020, 50% of product managers declare lack of time as one of the main challenges they have to face, and another 52% proclaim 52% most of their time is spent dealing with emergencies.

Product operations management will unbundle the product development process into manageable steps, and find ways to optimize each subsystem to free time, increase output, and reduce risks.

6. Managing the tools

Tools allow product teams to work with less friction. But when the average team uses a dozen, from messaging platforms to mock-up apps, managing the infrastructure overhead can quickly get out of hand: ProdOps is also responsible for managing and optimizing the tools used by the product team to make the best out of them.

7. Cross-functional Communication

Lastly, ProdOps is in the unique position of being able to work with cross-functional teams to ensure user needs are understood and worked upon.

Bad communication between teams is definitely hindering your growth, but syncing data, organizing meetings, gathering requirements, and learning to speak each other’s language can be a drag for product managers. A survey by Product Plan states that 56% of product managers are unhappy with their communication process to discuss product strategy.
Luckily, ProdOps can bridge the gap and improve collaboration. With the right data and the right content format, the operations team can go around and collect feedback to drive the product upward. Take this chart describing signup conversion rates for example:

If the product team’s goal is to increase acquisition, it’s the marketing department’s strength to write copy that converts new visitors to paying customers. Without ProdOps to do the link, who knows how much time a product manager could waste going back and forth?

Why Prod Ops Matter for Product-Led Growth

Product-led growth isn’t just a buzzword. It is a solid strategy SaaS and tech companies use to remain competitive in the marketplace. It is also a great way to ensure customer experience remains the most crucial goal in an organization. First, however, you must understand what product-led growth is and how product operation facilitates this.

Product-led growth is a strategy that requires the company to focus on the product alone. It ranges from generating new sales to improving customer satisfaction. It also factors in brand awareness to ensure the growth of the company. The ultimate goal is to improve the main product.

Since product-led growth focuses on the product itself, the product team is usually quite busy. So this is where you need product ops. By filling a supporting role, product operations help to scale the company. Also, product operations allow the product manager to streamline their focus and the engineering to concentrate on improving the product.

They can focus on eliminating bugs, developing new features, and focusing on customer feedback. As a result, product operations help the product team deliver better results.

The prod ops team handles everything else by managing the nuts and bolts of facilitating a successful development. They ensure that the processes implemented by the product team run smoothly. While the product team’s goal is to increase product adoption, the purpose of the prod ops team is to remove the friction between the product team and these goals.

Four Benefits of June for Product Operation

Below are four top benefits of utilizing a product analytics tool like June to boost product operations.

1. Manage Insights Effectively

According to Statista, the total amount of data created, captured, copied, and consumed globally is forecast to increase rapidly, reaching 64.2 zettabytes in 2020. Furthermore, experts estimate the rate of data generation to only increase with each year. As a result, incorporating data into your business can be difficult without the right tool. June helps product ops review, capture, and analyze active users, usage information, and other data.

2. Oversee Product Use

It can be frustrating to design a fantastic product and have it plagued with many issues. Whether it’s inconsistent user experience, performance issues, or your product simply isn’t meeting requirements, these flaws can harm the product team’s reputation and significantly affect usage and adoption.

Prod ops can use June to oversee quality assurance processes by identifying which features are being constantly used and how they can be improved to unlock more growth:

3. Collect and Manage Feedback

There’s no denying the importance of user feedback in developing a good product. Product operations create a reliable process for the management of user feedback.

June offers you templates to collect implicit feedback and analytics on product use across many categories that prod ops can submit as a digestible report to management.

4. Facilitate Feature Retention

Apart from using June to grade user feedback, you can also use it to figure out product retention once you incorporate this feedback into your product roadmap. After collecting feedback and building features based on the information, your product operations team can use June to ensure the right activities are carried out to ensure feature retention.

Take ProdOps To The Next Level With June

Whether you are just starting your product operations career path or looking for new product ops jobs, add June to your toolset to provide delightful products analytics reports to your team.
Not only will it make you a more efficient ProdOps analyst with automated data reporting, you can get started for free in a few clicks by connecting your Segment account

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