What Is Product Operations and Why Do you Need It?

Learn how product operations will transform your business.

Best Practices
January 5, 2024
Image of Carolyn Feibleman
Carolyn Feibleman
Principal Product Manager, Amplitude
Woman sitting at computer

Product operations is a business function that acts as a conduit across teams, including product management, DevOps, sales, and marketing, to streamline product development and launch processes, improve product-related internal communication, and create a feedback loop.

The product operations function is the glue that connects every piece of the product puzzle. From the product team to DevOps and sales, product operations provide clarity, organization, and consistency to what can be a disjointed product-led business. Creating a product operations role or department is key to business growth and product development outcomes.

Key takeaways
  • Product operations teams wear many hats, including helping the product team decide on product direction and prioritization.
  • The product ops function develops and implements processes to streamline the product development lifecycle, including standardized templates and process optimization to increase efficiency.
  • Product ops teams create a product-related feedback loop, gathering internal and external feedback to inform DevOps and product management teams of potential features and other product enhancements.
  • Product ops teams are vital to developing better products and growing the business.

What is product operations?

Product operations is a function carried out by a single manager or an entire product ops team. The purpose of product ops is to support product teams by streamlining and standardizing product development activities to ensure that new products and features successfully reach the market. The product ops function connects the dots between various teams, including product design, dev teams, sales, marketing, and customer success.

The product operations management team can transform an ad hoc and inconsistent product launch process into a scalable, repeatable machine. To do so, they develop methodologies, standardized processes, and workflows and identify automation opportunities to make time-consuming tasks, like user research and data analysis, more efficient for product management teams.

Why is product ops important?

Time is a product team’s most valuable asset. Product operations helps free up time for product management to work on improvements that shape the trajectory of the business.

Without product ops, product management often spends extra time on tasks like acquiring data and research to make decisions or communicating product updates to stakeholders. Bottlenecks like these can delay new product launches and negatively impact business and revenue growth, especially in the SaaS industry. The product operations team can help cover knowledge gaps and accelerate tasks to speed up production.

According to product management leader and educator Melissa Perri, product operations enables strategic decision-making. “The number one reason why I hear product managers can’t talk to customers or be more outcome-focused is because they don’t have time,” Perri said in a panel discussion with Dragonboat. “This means that the organization was not set up well to distribute data to the product manager to make those informed decisions.”

Product ops evaluates all the tasks and moving parts involved in the product launch strategy. Then, they help prioritize and make decisions based on product data and team input and curate the best product launch experience for all teams and customers.

For example, developers might be awaiting approval to launch a new feature, and, while waiting, begin tackling a backlog of feature requests and bug fixes. However, some of those bugs and feature requests might be irrelevant after the new feature launches. A product operations team could avoid this wasted time by guiding and prioritizing the bugs and fixes for the DevOps team, including removing those that will soon be irrelevant.

Key responsibilities of a product ops manager

The product ops manager provides the right tools and processes for everyone to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Tool management: Select, monitor, and troubleshoot the product tech stack.
  • Project management: Oversee collaborative projects between product teams and other departments to ensure that respective teams complete tasks assigned and help communication flow smoothly.
  • Data analysis and insights: Capture and interpret data on feature adoption, revenue growth, app retention, bugs, and more using analytics tools like Amplitude.
  • Cross-team communication: Facilitate consistent communications between teams and external stakeholders.
  • Setting standards and best practices: Create a product roadmap development strategy, templates, and other process guidelines for product managers (PMs).
  • Guiding experimentation: Assist with experiment prioritization.
  • Product team onboarding: Handle the portion of product manager onboarding related to product team operations, educating the new team members on the product and training them on tools and processes.
  • Product planning: Manage and execute the product team’s annual and monthly product planning and prioritization processes.

The role of product operations in research and development (R&D)

Product operations teams are integral to product research and development processes, helping decide and execute the direction of the product. Product ops teams use data and other resources to help teams develop new features, remove underperforming ones, and discover ways to increase product adoption.

Using feedback to spearhead new features and products

Many product ops teams gather and analyze internal and external product feedback to equip individual teams with relevant information to guide their next moves.

For example, product ops can use a product analytics tool to determine where product engagement is low and recommend removing or improving certain product features accordingly. They might also send a customer survey or pull data from customer support conversations to discover new customer feature requests. These data insights can give the product management team new ideas or product adjustments to make.

Collaborating to increase R&D efficiency and consistency

Product operations teams increase the efficiency of the R&D process by facilitating collaboration and communication between PMs, dev and engineering teams, revenue teams, and customers. When all functions are on the same page about the product strategy, they can provide the input necessary to continuously improve it.

Examples of how product operations collaborates with R&D stakeholders include:

  • Product manager, dev team, and engineering team: Product ops assumes tasks like connecting with user researchers, communicating with developers, and gathering product feedback. With more available time, PMs can focus on research and testing. PMs and the product ops manager can use the feedback to implement data-driven decisions and delegate tasks to the dev and engineering teams.
  • Revenue teams: Product ops helps sales, marketing, and leadership teams better understand product value. Product ops teams ensure that revenue teams receive product education, timely updates, and enablement when there are launches and new features. Product operations managers also ensure that product managers create product-specific documentation that revenue teams can reference. This ongoing enablement helps go-to-market teams feel more confident, increasing their success in the field and promoting quicker adoption of new products and features. Additionally, product operations teams capture and translate feedback from the field into meaningful insights for product managers to consider in roadmap planning.
  • Customers: When product operations teams learn of new customer pain points, they pass them along to the product team. When new features are released to address these pain points, the product ops team is often in charge of keeping customers updated, whether it’s through customer documentation or customer enablement sessions. Not only does this improve the product, but it also makes customers feel heard, increasing customer loyalty.

Setting and tracking experiment metrics

Product ops helps set and track metrics in R&D experimentation that can inform the decision to launch a new product or feature.

For example, if the goal is to increase product adoption, product operations teams rely on performance data and input from sales to provide an accurate metric. Using product ops’ standardized templates for product roadmaps and strategy plans, the R&D teams have a quick and easy way to get started on the experiment.

What types of businesses need product ops

While all organizations would benefit from creating a product operations team, product-led organizations, especially those with larger or very segmented and disconnected teams, need to implement this function. Smaller organizations may not yet need the assistance of a product ops team. Organizations that benefit from adding a product ops role or team share the following pain points:

  • Have large or multiple product teams, increasing the potential for miscommunication, misalignment, competing priorities, and duplicative or overlapping work.
  • Their product has a variety of services and streams of revenue but lacks standardized processes, guidelines, and templates.
  • Is undergoing rapid growth and expansion and doesn’t have the bandwidth to keep up.
  • Teams experience frequent bottlenecks and struggle with decision-making.

If you experience any of the pain points above, creating a product operations function within your product organization will tremendously impact your business.

Equip your product operations team with the gold standard for product analytics

The product operations function touches every aspect of the company and is designed to mobilize it forward—and feedback and data are foundational to its ability to do so. All team members, with product operations at the helm, must work together to surface and share findings that impact the customer journey. Whether you’re trying to understand current customer behavior or prioritizing features for your next major release, the answer lies within your product analytics.

That’s why leading product operations teams turn to Amplitude for real-time, collaborative, and self-service product analytics.

Now that you know the basics of product operations, learn how to set the right metrics with The Amplitude Guide to Product Metrics.

About the Author
Image of Carolyn Feibleman
Carolyn Feibleman
Principal Product Manager, Amplitude
Carolyn Feibleman is a principal product manager at Amplitude, where she focuses on helping companies adopt digital analytics to build better products and experiences.

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