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What's wrong with product operations manager job postings?

 

Recently, I did dozens of searches for product operations manager jobs and the results both surprised and disappointed me. The situation reminded me of the early days of product manager openings here in Europe when most people had no clue whom they were looking for and why.

Rare beast

The first thing I've noticed looking for product operations manager roles is that there aren't many available. Most popular job sites gave me a lot of low-quality results. There was everything, from operations manager to support representative to COO. When I looked for an exact matching title "product operations manager" I got very few openings, roughly only one in fifty job ads were really looking for product ops.

I don't think the lack of offers is due to a lack of need. On the contrary, I am sure the need for product ops is there, just folks didn't fully realise it yet. Also, chances are high that someone already doing product ops work in your company without the title. It could be your lead PM or maybe even product director, but someone is there or should be, to empower product teams with the right processes, tools and data.

Operations = project manager?


The product operations roles I was able to find weren't particularly promising either. Some of those actually described a project manager role rather than anything even remotely close to product ops. Ads described processes and tools but in the context of either a production process (Six Sigma) or project manager methodology (PRINCE2).

Product and project management have been mistaken countless times. One includes another but they're not equal. Same with product ops. You really need to be prolific in end-to-end product management to be successful in a product ops role. There is no one methodology, no single tool or dataset to rule them all, it's a lot of tweaks, learnings, failures and headaches.

Literally a product


Reading about product operations manager jobs I was able to find I noticed some people look for a particular product's operations manager. So they need someone who will help with the operations of one particular product, not a product team.

I guess that's a symptom of a poor product organisation. In a successful organisation, a product manager takes care of a product end to end. She shouldn't need the help of "an operations manager" or a product owner or a delivery manager. But maybe because of the unrealistic PM workload, the organisation felt the need to hire a "product operations manager" to take care of things PM doesn't have time for.

Salary


That might not be representative, however those product operations manager roles I was able to find offered a basic salary on par with that of a mid-level PM.

This must be due to a misunderstanding of the role I described above. A product operations manager is a senior role. The individual needs to be a seasoned product professional, with diverse experience and a growth mindset. Such individuals need to be compensated fairly, similarly to lead PMs or heads of product.

Early days  


Doing this exercise I once again realised - product ops is still a young, misunderstood and undervalued profession. Job opportunities for product ops are rare, often mistaken for project management or support, and inadequately compensated. Perhaps across the ocean in the US the situation is different, but in Europe, we still have lots of work to do in explaining and evangelising the product ops.

Perhaps product ops as a service might help to increase awareness and showcase the value that good product ops could add to any organisation. Compared to the full-time role, product ops as a service is a lesser commitment with the potential to significantly improve the way your organisation discover and delivers successful products to delight your customers.

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