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GuidesProduct developmentWhat is product operations, and why is it important?

What is product operations, and why is it important?

Last updated

9 July 2023

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Dovetail Editorial Team

For product-led organizations, a product operations team enables your product teams to operate efficiently and effectively.  

They use a combination of processes, reporting, and metrics to build a strong product. Product operations can help your team streamline routine tasks and better communicate across the entire organization. 

In addition, they emphasize your team’s accountability for a consistent product.

The importance of product operations extends throughout the organization. 

Product teams can use product operations to improve your offering by compiling data, feedback, and trends while following organizational goals.

Let’s learn more about product operations.

What is product operations?

Product operations (or product ops for short) is a product team role that fosters functionality and collaboration between teams involved in the product lifecycle.  

It allows the collection and management of data and encourages standards between internal teams. These teams can include: 

  • Product managers

  • Research and development (R&D)

  • Engineering

  • Marketing

  • Customer success

  • Sales

It streamlines the product development process through collaboration and clear roles.

Product operations’ primary role is to make the product team more effective and consistent. The desired result is a better, more consistent product that successfully engages the customer.

Why is product operations important?

Your product should be your main focus, and the success of your business depends on how you design, manufacture, market, and sell that product. 

There tends to be abundant data, research, processes, and interaction between teams. Product managers often deal with minutiae instead of developing, improving, or launching products. That cuts into the bottom line and competitiveness in your industry. 

Product ops can assist product managers by supplying information to help them make the best decisions.  

With masses of data available, it can be inefficient for a product manager to manually collect and analyze it, and interactions between teams can be overwhelming.  

Product operations aid communication between teams, define specific processes, and lay out clear objectives for all teams. It can result in a consistent, high-quality product with optimal efficiency in all product lifecycle phases.

Is product operations necessary?

Businesses have been producing and selling products for years without product operations, so they can still manufacture products successfully without a dedicated team.  

However, effective product development and management become trickier once your product line expands or your business offers enhanced or improved models. 

Small businesses with a limited budget and headcount may not reap the benefits of a larger scaling product business.  

Product operations aim to streamline processes, facilitate collaboration, and optimize customer engagement

Multiple or complicated products, increased rollouts, or a product line expansion could benefit from product operations.

Product operations responsibilities

There is no cookie-cutter design for product operations responsibilities.  

While companies that offer anything from video games to canned vegetables may benefit from product operations, responsibilities may differ.  

Data

Data is that all-inclusive term that is essential to all types of products.  

It follows costs and profits while measuring demographics and trends.  

The video game manufacturer can look at the data to determine whether baby boomers need a product.  

The owners of the vegetable product line may discover a salt-free offering would benefit their customers. 

While some products require little to no focus, others require product managers to investigate certain areas. They can look at dwindling sales numbers to see what business elements need improvement.

Data can also prioritize where you should focus to be most effective.  

Product ops allow the collection and analysis of data so product managers get the biggest bang for their buck. The team can look at:

  • Sales and trends

  • Results of customer surveys

  • Product usage data 

This lets the product manager optimize their time by focusing on the most critical items.

Research 

Product research from customer feedback is essential to increasing sales. Sources of this data include:

This data can be overwhelming and time-consuming to correlate and report.  

Product ops can sort through the huge amount of data to zero in on the most relevant issues.  

Once they've determined the biggest issues, they can create systems to organize and act on feedback.  

Processes 

Companies create many processes during product development. Some of those processes become complicated or add little to no value.  

For example, research, product testing, and data analysis tasks are often repetitive and time-consuming. 

Product operations can streamline and standardize these tasks. Establishing processes allows documentation for easy reference.  

In the research and testing area, consistency and standardization are crucial to validate the data that results from the research.  

Most areas benefit from standardization. As your business changes, so will some processes. 

Another advantage to product operations is that it allows for easy and quick process updates.

Tools

Product teams use specific software to support their processes. 

Software or tools can quickly become unmanageable for a product manager during company growth stages.  

Product operations can simplify and manage the product team's tools and software.  

They can provide training, offer guides, and create best practices for the product teams. That means they can spend their time on other tasks rather than deal with unfamiliar tools.

Communication

The product manager and product team are at the center of a product-led organization. They work with all departments across all phases, from product development to customer engagement.   

Product ops are key to keeping the entire business informed and focused on the product. They share information across many teams and encourage consistent two-way communication. 

This collaboration is essential to keeping a product viable and a business successful.

Product operations vs. product management

People often confuse product operations and product management. While they're different, they work together to produce the best product and meet business goals. 

A product manager deals with high-level tasks in product development, and the product operations manager offers the product manager support. They supply crucial data and processes so the product manager can do their job.  

Product ops managers collect and organize the data that the product manager uses to develop or improve products.  

They also collaborate on ideas and share feedback on tools and research.  

A major difference is the product operations manager delivers data while the product manager delivers a product.

What problems does product ops solve?

Product operations approach each task to streamline and simplify many areas, like: 

They can run experiments without the product management team and share the resulting information with them.  

Other problems that product ops can solve are:

Managing big data volume

Product ops can manage and simplify huge amounts of data from customer surveys or feedback. This reduces product management's time spent on analyzing data. 

Keeping other departments updated

Sending company-wide updates on changes, cost adjustments, or any information that will impact the product is crucial. This important step can prevent confusion or disruption by others in the product chain.

Ensuring consistency 

Consistency in experiments avoids overlaps and interference.

Providing feedback on upgrades

Product operations help product management decide if product enhancements or upgrades are viable by providing feedback.

Avoiding confusion within product teams 

Working on multiple products can get confusing, so product ops are key to ensuring clarity. 

Product ops can also decrease the workload of the product management team by reducing daily tasks. This gives the PM more time for higher-level issues.

Increasing data integrity 

Ensuring data integrity while manipulating large amounts is another key product ops role. The team works with data that's too time-consuming for product management to handle effectively.

Why companies choose product operations for their businesses

Product operations are essential for any company that wants to create collaboration between departments involved in the lifecycle of any product.  

Though there's an initial investment, most companies find the return on investment is quick, with almost immediate results.  

In this day of labor issues and tough competition, most companies want a successful product to reach as many customers as possible.  

It can become difficult to balance piles of data from fact-finding strategies and the required effort to develop quality products.  

With the help of product operations, product management teams can: 

  • Streamline processes

  • Reduce bottlenecks

  • Provide access to timely, reliable data to continue their product's success.

FAQs

What are examples of product operations?

Product operations simplify and streamline processes, tools, and data while promoting collaboration between other product-related departments.  

Some examples of product ops include: 

  • Interpreting user feedback

  • Analyzing data

  • Providing consistent processes

  • Road mapping

  • Customizing information to departmental requirements 

Crucially, they supply information to the product manager to save time and money and yield impactful results.

What skills does a product operations manager need?

Product operation managers must focus on communication, data analysis, and technical skills.  

They must lead a customer-centric team while gathering, curating, and exposing data for optimal decision-making by product management.  

Since product operations work with every department that plays a part in the product lifecycle, they must work well with others, be open-minded, and be data-driven.  

They work at the core of product-led companies and should strive for efficiency, providing necessary data to the product management team and others.  

A product operations manager must be able to take a broad view of a growing company and find ways to streamline processes into usable checklists.

How can product operations improve the customer experience?

Product operations supply data and streamline processes, but they can still impact the customer experience.  

They can gain insights into the overall customer experience by compiling and analyzing data from customer interviews and surveys or testing and experiments.  

They pass this information to product management to aid decision-making.

What is the difference between a product ops manager and a product ops analyst?

Smaller companies may forgo a product operations manager, opting for a product operations analyst.  

If you're still deciding which will work better for your business, consider their different skill sets.

A product operations manager must have a high EQ (emotional intelligence) to understand and manage people better while diffusing conflict.  

Ideally, they have: 

  • Previously worked in positions to lead others

  • A diverse background in streamlining processes and creating efficiencies

  • Some knowledge or background in production processes

A production analyst should have technical skills with a consulting or data analysis background. 

Choosing between the two will depend on the amount of data you are dealing with, the number of products, and the size of the company.

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