You know the feeling when you do something or see something and it’s just right, it’s not necessarily perfect, but it’s a perfect fit for you!
This is how I feel when I start my day and end it working as a product operation manager. In my career, I switched from a few roles and grew up in the cyber industry. I started as an analyst, then software engineer, and had many product management roles, which led me to my holy grail - product operations.
Unlike many of those in product operations who came to the role from different operation roles, I really evolved in product management. I lived and breathed PRDs, vision, roadmaps, escalations, and releases the whole ‘shabang’ and I loved it.
About a year ago when I had to look for my next adventure, a friend told me about this opening at Cybereason for product operations. Since Cyber has been my ‘thing’ for the last 20 years that was the easy part, but the product operations aspect was something I only heard about from a few colleagues and very vaguely.
The reason I am writing this post is that after almost a year in product operations, many still don’t know what it is, and I think it’s time to share more about it and why it’s really the greatest show for people who love people, who love process, and love products.
What’s so exciting about product ops, and what it is that we do?
Setting the rules
When there’s something not working in the product organization we work to solve it, fix it and make sure it will work better. It could be a bad process to collect feature requests or a better way to launch a release, it could be internally in the product group or cross-organizational.
There are no boundaries when we set these rules, it means that the need can either come from the product operation, or a product manager or someone in the company needs assistance with defining a process that includes the product group.
Defining the data
I can talk about data and data integrity for days, making sure the relevant data gets to the product manager, and every other stakeholder in the organization, is in the product ops domain.
Product ops should feel compatible with data, and not be afraid to ask questions or questioning the data integrity.
Product analytics is one thing (an important one no doubt) but it is not the only 'data' product ops owns. There is market data that we should be able to feed the product group, there is the field data also known as a win/loss analysis, and there's the connection between the 'win deal' product analytics and market trends, at the end of the day these data pipes are in the product ops responsibility.
Aligning and communicating
Alignment internally in the product and to all other stakeholders in the organization doesn’t just happen. Communication is very important and product ops is a great force to make sure it will happen.
In many organizations, it's a weekly or sync meeting, but as an organization gets bigger and bigger it becomes more of an issue.
I will share our way to align. Our CPO brought an idea that really works well for us, there is a weekly meeting that includes the product group and there is a guest group that joins us (marketing, sales, support, etc.).
We go over issues, pains, important updates like new positioning in the market, important PoCs, returning issues for a customer. That way all the group learns about what's going on, we can update on the next meeting with the same team if we progressed (or not) and we maintain an alignment.
Product ops are the facilitator in the meetings, it's not always perfect, it's not just a meeting that you join, you need to come prepared for it, but the value when it works is huge.
Product ops should help to set OKRs; monitoring them, and ensuring the flow up on changes. OKRs are objectives that are tied to time, metrics, and resources.
OKRs are reviewed and revised every quarter, it shouldn't be static goals for the year. Product ops should focus and build the OKRs for the group, we look at our destination - how do we envision or imagine excellence.
What does it mean to be excellent?
It's just like looking at the ocean - we understand the market conditions, our competitors and main players, our customer needs and demands.
We then look at the ship itself - our strengths and weaknesses, what do we need to pack for this journey, what resources are needed, what parts of the ship do we need to fix, and what works well.
Product ops in many cases will be the people that will set the cadences. For example, training and enablement, representing the product group on roadmap and vision discussions with senior management, and more.
Being a good facilitator means knowing when to mostly listen, when you need to take responsibility and act, and when it’s time to let go.
What to communicate, how to communicate it. It's a skill and after 11 years in product management, I still find myself learning and hopefully improving that skill.
For me, the above five items are the basics of what product operations will do in a company, and this is what I love in this role.
I love looking at the wider picture and having to look for solutions everywhere. This is my point of view on product operations and I hope you enjoyed it.
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