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Feb 22, 2022

Complete Guide to Product Operations (ProdOps)

Alberto Incisa

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 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.

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.

7 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?

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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