Whether they realize it or not, every company is engaged in some form of product operations (or “product ops”). It’s the intricate ballet of coordination, communication, and analysis that brings a product from conception to the hands of the user.
If handled poorly, product ops can slow down your product teams and significantly strain your business operations costs. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a dedicated team handling this crucial process for many organizations, especially those outside of the world’s tech giants.
Product ops encompass many tasks that many PMs don’t initially consider when they build their 0-to-1 products. It’s about harmonizing different teams — be it designers, developers, or product marketers — and ensuring they’re in sync. From managing tasks timelines to detecting and solving bugs and predicting user needs, product ops is the bridge that fills the gap between an idea and its execution.
When there’s no dedicated team for product ops, this massive workload often falls on the shoulders of those who might already be juggling multiple tasks, adding to the complexity of their roles and potentially jeopardizing the end product.
Table of contents
- The ROI of product operations
- What does product ops do?
- 9 pitfalls of poor product ops
- How to do product ops without a dedicated team
- Best practices to bolster your product ops
The ROI of product operations
Having a product ops team can bring a significant return on investment (ROI). Their expertise speeds up product launches, reduces costs associated with last-minute changes, and ultimately gives you a competitive edge.
For instance, imagine you’re launching a new feature. With product ops, potential issues are spotted early and prioritized with the engineers, saving last-minute fixes, which tend to be expensive. The presence of product ops could mean the difference between a smooth, timely launch and an expensive delay filled with user complaints. Over time, these savings and increased revenues from satisfied and retained users easily justify the team’s initial setup costs.
Now, you might argue that most of the tasks mentioned are already being handled by product managers. And that’s precisely the point! Product ops primarily remove the operational and coordination tasks from the PM’s to-do list, allowing them to fully concentrate on strategic aspects such as optimizing the user experience and driving growth.
What does product ops do?
To truly understand the value product operations can bring, let’s zoom in on the core responsibilities of this function:
- Cross-team coordination
- Timeline management
- Process streamlining
- Data analysis and feedback collection
- Resource allocation
- Stakeholder communication
- Training and onboarding
- Troubleshooting and issue resolution
- User adoption and change management
The product ops team ensures seamless communication between different departments working on the product.
For example, it’s product ops’ job to share the design team’s updated mockups for features early on in the sprint so there’s no delay in the development process and developers can start the technical analysis early on. Product ops might also facilitate regular meetings between the design and development teams to discuss and implement mockup revisions, avoiding miscommunication that can result in rework.
Often in conjunction with the PM, the product ops team oversees product milestones to ensure timely delivery. For example, they might set up product release calendar reminders to follow up with teams on critical milestones like beta testing or launch dates. They might also use Gantt charts to monitor progress visually and proactively address delays — e.g., speeding up beta testing by coordinating with QA teams in different time zones.
Prcess streamlining is the number one benefit of having a product ops team. With a proper process in place, it is easier for products to scale.
Product ops identify inefficiencies in the product development process and introduce automation and unified solutions to collate user feedback automatically, track tasks, share documentation, and reduce time lost to switching between platforms.
Data analysis and feedback collection
The product ops team sometimes takes it a step further and monitors user interactions to gather insights and guide product improvements. They often use automated alerts that will notify the product manager of any drop in KPIs.
Product ops will often use a product analytics platform to track the adoption rate of a new feature and share a report or insights with the product manager. They may also prioritize enhancements with the PM.
Some product ops teams run A/B tests on a new onboarding process, collect data on user drop-off rates, and then share the findings with the design team for improvements.
Collaboratively with the engineering manager, product ops ensure that all human and technical resources are properly distributed. For example, product ops might raise the need to assign a temporary developer during a crunch phase to meet a critical product delivery deadline. Or, they might notice a feature requiring expertise in a specific technology and temporarily bring in a specialist developer from another team to assist the core team.
Another core responsibility of product ops is keeping all relevant stakeholders, especially leadership, updated about product progress and challenges. This can be through weekly syncs or emails.
Stakeholder management activities within the purview of product ops may include:
- Providing monthly updates to company leaders about product milestones and potential roadblocks
- Hosting quarterly reviews with company leaders, highlighting product advancements and setbacks, and eliciting executive feedback for course corrections
Training and onboarding
Product ops is responsible for ensuring that all team members are familiar with tools, methodologies, product development processes, and best practices used in the company. For example, they might organize a sync meeting to introduce new engineers and PMs to the company’s project management software and the product process they follow. The role may also involve crafting detailed onboarding documentation and interactive training modules to enable new hires to contribute faster.
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Troubleshooting and issue resolution
The product ops team serves as the liaising link between the CX team and the developers. They work with CX to collect the issues and bugs reported by the users and raise and prioritize them with developers.
For example, when users report a recurring bug in a new feature, product ops might coordinate a rapid response between the customer support and development teams. They may also, in collaboration with the CX team, set up 24/7 chatbot support for initial troubleshooting and alerting the relevant team if a significant issue arises, ensuring minimal downtime.
User adoption and change management
Product ops will leverage various techniques to help users adjust to and adopt new product features or changes smoothly. These activities may include:
- Creating tutorial videos for users after a significant update to the product’s interface
- When a significant UI change is rolled out, hosting webinars to walk users through the changes and address concerns in real time
- Writing the FAQs page of the feature
9 pitfalls of poor product ops
Product ops as a concept encompasses activities that are designed to facilitate collaboration between all stakeholders of the product. Whether you have a dedicated team or these activities fall to the product and engineering managers, insufficient product ops can lead to substantial business losses.
Here are nine common issues that result from lousy product operations:
- Delayed product releases — Inefficient product ops can result in a lag in the development timeline. For instance, a product intended for a Q1 launch might get pushed to Q3, giving competitors an advantage and missing market opportunities
- Misaligned teams — Without seamless coordination, teams can work out of sync. Imagine the marketing team launching a campaign for a feature that the development team hasn’t fully baked, leading to customer confusion
- Wasted resources — Poor communication might result in overlapping tasks. Two teams could unknowingly work on the same project, unnecessarily doubling the workload and costs
- Reduced product quality — Disconnection between design and development teams might yield a visually appealing yet bug-ridden product. Users could encounter a sleek interface that’s riddled with functionality issues
- Poor stakeholder communication — Without regular updates, key stakeholders can be left in the dark. This could mean investors getting surprised by a sudden product change, eroding their trust and possibly affecting future funding
- Inefficient use of tools and software — Without regular tool audits, redundant tools can clutter the workflow. The company might be paying for three different analytics platforms when one would suffice
- Decreased employee morale — Unclear directives and shifting priorities can frustrate teams. Continuous changes without communication can lead to burnout and a drop in team motivation
- Missed market insights — Neglecting data can cause oversight of user needs. If user feedback isn’t collected and analyzed, a product update might miss addressing the most pressing user concerns
- Slow issue resolution — Delays in addressing user concerns can tarnish a reputation. If a critical bug isn’t fixed promptly, users could flood review platforms with negative feedback, affecting future adoption
How to do product ops without a dedicated team
For smaller companies with budget constraints, hiring a dedicated product ops team might not be feasible. In the absence of a dedicated product ops team, the responsibilities typically fall upon various existing roles within the company, mainly the product manager and the engineering manager, depending on the company’s context.
Here are four strategies to help you incorporate the principles and benefits of product ops even if you don’t have a dedicated team:
- Cross-train team members
- Leverage tools and software
- Share knowledge regularly
- Conduct collaborative workshops or sprints
1. Cross-train team members
Equip existing team members with the skills to take on some product ops tasks. Assign specific product ops tasks to existing team members based on their strengths.
For example, you might have your lead developer attend a project management course to help them understand how to manage product timelines.
2. Leverage tools and software
Use technology to automate and streamline operations. You can utilize tools like Trello for task management and Zapier to automate workflows, reducing manual coordination efforts.
3. Share knowledge regularly
Hold regular sessions where team members share insights, updates, and best practices. For instance, you could organize biweekly syncs in which the marketing team shares user feedback with developers and designers to influence product improvements.
4. Conduct collaborative workshops or sprints
Focus on continuous process improvement through collaboration. Conduct monthly process audit reviews with your team to develop and implement ways to make the process more efficient.
On the product side, you might consider hosting a monthly “innovation day” where team members brainstorm ways to streamline communication or improve product quality.
Case study: Building a product ops function with no additional hiring
At my company, a leading B2B marketplace in the MENA region, we recognized early on the significance of product ops, but we lacked the resources to establish a dedicated team. Instead, we leveraged the expertise of our product managers, who were already deeply entrenched in the product’s lifecycle.
With a clear delineation of responsibilities, PMs took the helm of cross-team coordination. For instance, our PMs began organizing biweekly sync-ups between the design, development, and marketing teams. These meetings proved invaluable when we were rolling out our flagship feature. The marketing team was poised to promote it, but a design snag threatened a delay. Thanks to the new communication channel, the development team received real-time feedback and expedited the feature rollout, ensuring that the marketing campaign launched as planned.
Moreover, our PMs actively started overseeing timeline management. They instituted a product release calendar, highlighting critical milestones such as beta testing, feedback loops, and final launch dates. This approach was evident when we aimed for a Q2 product release. Spotting potential delays early on, our PMs coordinated an intensive week of focused work sessions, ensuring that we not only met the deadline but had ample time for final user testing, leading to a smooth and successful product launch.
It is also worth mentioning that the owner of the whole product ops process was the head of the product. The head of product proactively designed the flow of the ops and equipped us, the PMs, with the tools, automation, and maps needed to navigate through the process and fulfill our duties. He was also the process ambassador that led any significant process changes and coordinated the changes with the management.
Best practices to bolster your product ops
I feel you. Product ops is not easy.
Here are three crucial tips I would recommend if you’re just starting on your product ops journey:
1. Streamline communication channels
Consistent and open communication bridges the gap between teams and ensures everyone is aligned. Adopt tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to facilitate immediate conversation and allow your design team to share mockups with developers right away, ensuring developers always have access to the latest visuals.
Another thing that you can do: for each significant project, open a dedicated channel with all stakeholders to keep them informed and to show them the process is going.
2. Foster a feedback-rich culture
Encouraging feedback, both internally and from users, can lead to continuous product improvement.
A startup I consulted used to hold monthly “product retrospective” — or, as big companies like Figma call it “product review” — meetings where team members discussed areas of product improvement. These regular sessions helped the team recognize that its onboarding process was too lengthy. When they streamlined it, it led to higher user retention.
3. Invest in training
Keeping the team updated with the latest tools and methodologies ensures efficiency. In my current company, organizing workshops to introduce the latest project management tools helped one team to learn Notion, making it easier to document and share knowledge and reduce repetitive inquiries.
Product operations serve as the backbone of successful product development, ensuring that every cog in the machine runs smoothly. Efficient product ops can accelerate product teams, foster better communication, and drive user satisfaction.
For startups and established companies alike, incorporating these strategies is not just a nice-to-have but a must-have. By either dedicating a team or integrating these responsibilities into existing roles, you can reduce your time to market and increase user satisfaction in general.
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With LogRocket, you can understand the scope of the issues affecting your product and prioritize the changes that need to be made. LogRocket simplifies workflows by allowing Engineering and Design teams to work from the same data as you, eliminating any confusion about what needs to be done.
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