What is product operations?
When a SaaS company is known for and defined by its unique breed of products, its growth is closely tied to its rise and fall. This concept is known as product-led growth, which cannot just occur on its own.
That is where product operations come in. Product operations is an organizational function that integrates cross-functional teams — including design and engineering, customer service, product management and marketing — with the goal of increasing product success.
Often led by its own product operations manager, this holistic method of looking across an organization to find new ways to streamline processes and functions around the product suite helps to build a better product and refine it over time. In practice, product operations can include streamlining communications and feedback between teams, standardizing business processes to make product development more efficient, monitoring resource usage over time, and putting internal and external controls in place for quality assurance.
Why is product operations management important?
The short answer is that product operations teams give product managers the space, time and data they need to design, experiment and deliver products that customers will love.
By taking the day-to-day tasks of user experience, data collection, initial analysis and strategy implementation off product managers’ plates, product operations management staff ensure the best practices are established and the organization is using tools effectively to deliver for customers. In practice, this could mean the consolidation of data generated by product experience software, monitoring the performance of products from across the product or service stack, performing user testing and analyzing feedback. Product operations management staff also play a key role in launching products, especially when it comes to coordinating tasks and communication across cross-functional teams.
How is product operations different from product management?
For what seems like a slight change of vocabulary, the functions between product operations and product management are actually quite distinct.
Product managers own the overall scope, development and vision for a specific product, utilizing data, feedback and market research to help make decisions about the future of a product. Product operations teams make this vision and plan come alive each day by handling the daily tasks that actually make a difference in reducing costs, saving time, improving quality and enhancing communications.
Given their scope, both product operations managers and product managers work together, share the same focus and require many of the same skill sets, but it is the product operations teams that collect the data and do the work that product managers need to fuel their visions and make them come alive. Powerful tools such as product experience and customer success platforms facilitate this analytical and planning work and help to collect and compile the data.