Even though the product operations process is complex and nuanced, it could be logically split into three major stages. Those are not sequential stages and you could be doing all three at the same time.
It’s vital for product ops to understand the people they work with, their goals and the tools they use to achieve them. To build this body of knowledge product ops should spend time gathering and synthesising the needed information. It could be done by combining observation, interviewing and surveying techniques. Similarly to product research, in this stage product ops need to learn what teams are working on, why they work on it and how do they do it?
To document the knowledge product ops receive during the surveying stage it is useful to create process maps, lists of tools people use, organisation and reporting structures and competence matrixes.
The special focus during the surveying phase should be paid to the following domains
- How do teams set goals for themselves and decide what they will work on
- How do teams discover worthy customer problems to solve and solutions that bring value for customers and the business
- How do teams iterate on delivering the value and measuring their progress
At this stage, a product ops team seeks to identify improvement opportunities for their product teams and design experiments to validate them. To design a good experiment you need to formulate a hypothesis, pick the research method and measure the results. It’s possible and preferable to start any changes as experiments. A product ops team might help to design an experiment and share the results, but it’s vital that a product team performs the actual experimentation. The ultimate goal of this stage is not to find the best process or a tool that works, as those can change rather quickly. The ultimate goal is to create a useful habit of experimentation within the product teams.
Things you can experiment on together with a product ops team
- How do you come up with your product strategy and goals
- How do you get feedback from your customers
- How do you validate solution ideas
- How do you prioritise between valuable initiatives
- How do you form a delivery backlog
- How do you validate and put live the increments of your product
- How do you go to market and grow your solutions
- How do you measure the outcomes of your initiatives and learn from the experience
- How do you distribute the knowledge across the company and grow the competence of your product teams
This stage is a bit similar to experimentation as it seeks to find further ways to improve the way you build products and satisfy your customers. However, the main difference is that experimentation is focused on finding new ways of working while optimisation is about polishing already established best practices. You can say optimisation is about fine-tuning when you seek to make already performing teams hyper-productive.
Measuring becomes the most important at this step. You want to make sure every little tweak actually improves things.
Manage product managementThey say when you become a product leader - other product managers become your product. Similarly, when you become a product ops - your product management process becomes your product. And just as with products, you need to discover problems in your process, identify opportunities, validate your assumptions, and deliver value incrementally while measuring your actions as you go.
In the future articles, I’ll describe every stage in more detail and hopefully provide some useful tips to product ops teams out there.