Why ScaleUps Need Product Operations

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Your company is scaling using the recent capital raise or customer capital to build a product and engineering team that can execute a larger vision. You hire product managers, platform engineers, architects, and a DevOps team. You’re building the infrastructure and the product for more customers and more pain points. Yet over time, with a bigger team executing in silos, communication starts to become a problem across the organization. You notice that processes are breaking and don't scale. A few deadlines slip. Some team members leave, citing disorganization. Product management can’t fix the processes and systems. Engineering might be able to, but they have other responsibilities. Neither team has the expertise, and they have other tasks to accomplish.

Amidst all the hiring – you forgot to hire for one essential role: Product Operations. This is the ultimate cross-functional role, the trusted advisor, the process guru, the pusher of data-driven decision making, and the banner carrier for communications and information sharing.

So, What is Product Operations?

Product Operations is the heartbeat of the Product Development organization. Without it, the system breaks. 

The concept isn’t new. Go-to-market teams have already figured out that operations are critical. Sales Operations and Marketing Operations have emerged as must-have roles for their teams – essential to rollout and execute strategy, optimize the process, implement and leverage technology, and integrate data and analytics. Additionally, Revenue Operations is emerging as an integrated function to eliminate the operational silos between marketing, sales, and customer success. In this model, individual functional leads in marketing ops, sales ops, CS ops, report to a Head of Revenue Operations, who then reports to a CRO or COO. Revenue Ops is a high profile position because it’s essential to ScaleUps.

These same practices apply to product teams. Product operations can be leveraged to implement the right processes, technology, and measurements, and serves as the catalyst to drive a stronger focus on alignment across your organization. 

Product operations is the cornerstone of the strategy to scale your product development capabilities and team. 

Broadly, product operations should focus on supporting the product development organization in the following areas:

  • Product Strategy – Planning & Execution
  • Process & Stakeholder Management
  • Data & Analytics
  • Product Management Technology Stack

Product Operations doesn't need to be the center of attention in the organization. Done right, team members work seamlessly in the background, making your organization more effective and efficient while keeping scalability in mind in everything they do. 

How does Product Operations help build scale?

A natural result of scaling is that communication becomes more difficult across a larger team, processes start to break down, and teams lose focus on the most critical outcomes needed. Product ops is the team pulse that keeps the system running while increasing the following:

Alignment & Repeatability

Aligning the development organization around the planning and executing of the product strategy. Aligning actions can include:

  • Establishing a planning and execution cadence for the organization.
  • Building automated dashboards for product investments and per strategic initiative and associated resources.
  • Ensuring Beta Programs have a framework and can be leveraged by any product manager.

Effectiveness & Efficiency

Building repeatable processes and using the right technology makes the organization more efficient and scalable, saving time and money. Repeatable processes can include:

  • Creating Roadmap templates or ensuring you’re using one technology for your Roadmap tool.
  • Refining how you collect user feedback and interpret that data to make better decisions.
  • Developing and administering the on-boarding process for new product team members.

Scalability of the Organization

Scaling your product managers is crucial. They need to focus on their core responsibilities. Product operations helps Product Managers scale by:

  • Taking on more analyst responsibilities across the product management technology stack.
  • Making data and analytics more accessible to the team and leaders.
  • Driving process definition and improvements to enable the organization to move from old process to new process as you scale.

Why Wait?

Product Operations is a must-have area in the Product Development organization as more product-led growth organizations emerge. As with any new function in an organization, the inflection points that drive the need to change are different for every company; what’s common is that larger teams, more deliverables and more customers create a gap in Product Development for product operations to fill. The opportunity cost of not investing in product ops may be more detrimental to your Scaleup than the value of just one more product manager or engineer.  

To learn more about Product Operations, reach out to the Product and Technology Center of Excellence and continue to read our blog. We will have more Product Operations topics in the coming months as we dive deeper into this arena, including showcasing Product Operations leaders in our portfolio. Remember, without Product Operations, you are missing the heartbeat that aligns and connects everyone in your product development organization.
 

Hiring a Product Operations Manager? Read this First.

  • Andrew Korbel, Vice President, Product & Tech COE

    Andrew Korbel joined Insight in 2020 as a Vice President. He is the practice lead for the Product and Technology Center of Excellence within Onsite. He partners closely with portfolio company executives to accelerate growth and to create operational capabilities, specifically through lean and agile processes and data-driven strategies. Andrew…