What Is Product Operations and Why Might I Need It?

Unpack what product operations is and its role in optimizing product, engineering, and customer success.
Nicole Bansal
Nicole Bansal, August 16, 2023

With customer needs shifting rapidly in today’s day and age, consistent product innovation is the name of the game. One group in particular plays a vital role in making sure a company’s products and services continue to be loved by customers: product operations.

You might be wondering, "What is product operations? What role does it play in my business? And why should I consider it as a crucial part of my organization?" This blog post is your guide to understanding the ins and outs of product operations management. We'll demystify this emerging function, explore its key responsibilities, and reveal why it might just be the secret ingredient your business needs to thrive in today's competitive landscape.

Unpacking product operations: What is it?

Product operations, often abbreviated as product ops, is an operational function that optimizes the intersection of product, engineering, and customer success. It supports the research & development (R&D) team and their go-to-market counterparts to improve alignment, communications, and processes around the product. Effective product operations teams accelerate feedback loops, increase efficiencies, and improve feature adoption.

Product operations can be thought of as both a role (or team) within an organization and a skill that product professionals can develop. The specific priorities within the product operations function may vary based on company maturity, industry, and the nature of the product itself.

Product operations is an emerging discipline designed to help product teams operate as effectively as possible. It builds a foundation of excellence through key metrics, infrastructure, business processes, best practices, budgeting, and reporting. In essence, product ops is the backbone of product-led growth, ensuring product teams are held accountable for their outcomes and setting up the product organization to scale consistently and with low friction.

The backbone of the product team

Think of product ops as the trainer to an elite athlete—the efforts of the former significantly impact the overall performance and success of the latter. When done right, product ops has the power to transform the efficiency of the entire product team by streamlining critical routine tasks and facilitating better communication across the whole organization. These steps help product teams to build even better products in less time.

Fostering experimentation culture

Product operations is also responsible for creating and systematizing the experimentation culture of a company, designing processes for product managers to run experiments, and ensuring that the experiments are as reliable and actionable as possible. This sustainable culture of experimentation within the product team requires establishing consistent processes in place.

In addition to these responsibilities, product ops also plays a central role in understanding the customer experience through insights delivered via interviews, feedback, testing, and experimentation. Insights derived through these channels inform future product decisions that lead to product improvements and improved customer experience.

Key responsibilities of product operations

Product operations responsibilities fall into several areas:

  1. Customer experience and insights: The product operations team plays a pivotal role in understanding the customer experience. They gather insights from various sources such as interviews, feedback, testing, and experimentation. These insights are then used to inform future product decisions, leading to product improvements and an enhanced customer experience. These insights often come with help from Viable. They also facilitate user interviews and other market research, which are crucial for understanding the customer's perspective.
  1. Managing the product tech stack: Product operations teams are responsible for managing the product tech stack. They administer these tools and create best practices for using them across the organization. This includes overseeing the product team's vendors and establishing processes around the product stack tools.
  1. Data analysis for informed decision-making: Product ops provide critical support by building systems to capture, review, and analyze data. They use this data to help product managers make better-informed product decisions. This involves analyzing data to help product management make more informed decisions and developing business processes to streamline product development.
  1. Streamlining routine tasks: Product operations teams take on the responsibility of streamlining routine tasks such as conducting user interviews and roadmapping. These tasks are critical aspects of product management and excellent candidates for streamlining to increase efficiency for the product team.
  1. Standardizing communications: Product operations teams can reduce the burden on product managers by standardizing communications across the organization. For example, setting up a weekly call between product managers and support team leaders can reduce back and forth interactions. They also work closely with support and sales to improve the customer experience.
  1. Optimizing onboarding: These teams can assist in improving the adoption rate by streamlining the onboarding process, ensuring a positive customer experience from the get-go. As a product team grows, product operations help new product managers get established quickly.
  1. Overseeing quality assurance: Product operations teams oversee quality assurance checks on new features. They ensure that the product meets the highest standards of quality before it reaches the customer.
  1. Facilitating product experimentation: Product operations teams develop processes to make experiments reliable, actionable, and easier to implement. They create best practices templates that product managers across the organization can use to run and report on experiments.
  1. Influencing product roadmap decisions: Product ops play a key role in influencing product roadmap decisions. They use their insights and data to help guide the direction of the product.
  1. Supporting cross-functional teams: Product ops support the teams most closely involved in the daily product development work — product management, engineering, and customer support. They help clear a path to ensure the rest of the team can perform under the best possible circumstances.

Why does a company need product operations?

In a world where the product experience is synonymous with the customer experience, product operations plays a pivotal role. It drives analysis, testing, and experimentation to improve the user journey. By managing the customer feedback lifecycle effectively, product operations can ensure that user needs are addressed promptly and efficiently, leading to a more satisfying customer journey.

Data management is another crucial aspect of product operations. With the increasing complexity of products and the product management stack, product teams are often inundated with data. Product operations can manage this data effectively, ensuring that key insights are easily accessible to the product team. This enables product managers to make better-informed decisions based on data rather than assumptions.

Finally, product operations is essential for scaling. As the team grows, product operations ensures that the product organization is equipped to scale and grow consistently and with low friction. It puts in place effective onboarding processes, best practices, and support resources to ensure that new team members can quickly become productive members of the team.

Ultimately, product operations is not just a support function; it's a strategic function that can significantly enhance the efficiency of the product team, improve the customer experience, and drive business growth. As more companies recognize the value of product operations, the demand for this role is likely to increase. And, with AI-powered tools like Viable, these teams can generate even more useful insights to inform product decisions.

Take your product operations up a notch with Viable

Product operations is a critical function that can help your business operate more effectively and efficiently. By understanding your customers, aligning your business with their needs, and creating a customer-centric culture, you can become more customer-centric and ultimately improve your business performance.

In this context, Viable can be a game-changer. Viable's AI-powered platform can streamline the process of collecting and analyzing customer feedback, a key task in product operations. It can help you understand your customers' needs and preferences more deeply and quickly, enabling you to make data-driven decisions that enhance the customer experience. By automating the analysis of qualitative data, Viable frees up time for product operations teams to focus on strategic tasks and initiatives.

Moreover, Viable's ability to integrate with various data sources means you can have a unified view of your customer feedback, regardless of where it's coming from. This can significantly improve your ability to manage and act on customer feedback, a crucial aspect of a customer-centric strategy.

Whether you're a product manager, a product operations professional, or a business leader, understanding the role and importance of product operations can help you make more informed decisions and drive your business forward. With the right tools like Viable, you can supercharge your product operations, making it more effective and efficient. Get started today and see how Viable can help you get more value out of your product ops.

Nicole Bansal
Nicole Bansal, August 16, 2023
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