As companies grow, it’s almost inevitable that silos emerge, processes that were once effective break down, and efficiency takes a hit. While some growing pains are unavoidable, there’s a way for product-led companies to avoid any major setbacks and actually increase efficiency as they enter new markets, hire more employees, and build additional products.

These companies are turning to product operations (also referred to as product ops): an operational function that aims to improve alignment, communications, and processes around the product—serving as a critical connector between the product team and the rest of the organization. A company’s product ops function could be a single person or a full team, but their responsibilities usually fall into four categories: tools, data, experimentation, and strategy.

Since product-led companies use the product to drive each stage of the customer journey, they need to ensure the product experience is optimized and ready to take on this load. Product ops not only helps take administrative work off of product managers, but also enables the entire organization with product knowledge and processes that help them put the product at the center of their work, too.

What problems does product ops help solve?

While the makeup and goals of a product ops function will vary from company to company, it’s helpful to think about the value of product ops in two ways: improving a company’s collaboration, and increasing efficiency. More specifically, there are some key problems that organizations can start to solve by introducing product operations. 

One of the biggest challenges companies with software products face is a lack of consistent data and product insights. Product managers might not have time to proactively collect, organize, and analyze product data, and the rest of the company likely doesn’t have the ability to access that information on their own. This is why product ops is usually tasked with collecting data from multiple sources (e.g. product usage, Net Promoter Score, and customer sentiment), organizing it, and making it easily accessible for teams across the company.

It’s also common for companies to see gaps in their customer feedback process, which hinders the ability to leverage this qualitative data to its fullest. If customer feedback lives in multiple places with no easy way to view it in aggregate, important feedback can end up in a black hole—and never reach the product team at all. When companies have a dedicated product ops function, this person or team often manages all customer feedback channels and builds a robust feedback program that serves the entire organization. This way, no requests or pieces of feedback slip through the cracks and the necessary information always makes it back to the right stakeholders—like product owners, customer success managers, and leadership.

Another issue many product teams face is wasted tools and unused (or underused) systems—which equate to money down the drain. The product operations team should both manage the product tech stack as a whole and train the rest of the team when tools are first implemented (and on an ongoing basis) so the organization can realize the full value of their investments.

The product ops tech stack

As product operations takes on managing the product team’s tech stack, there are certain tools and systems that help them do their best work. In order for product ops to drive efficiency across the organization, they need to be efficient in their own right—which starts with their tech stack.

Here are some key tools your product ops team can benefit from:

  • Product analytics: Since product ops pros live and breathe data, they need a product analytics platform to power this work. They’ll use product analytics to track product usage, build dashboards for important metrics, and make this data available to the rest of the company.
  • In-app guidance: Beyond the ability to collect and manage product data, it’s important for product ops to be able to act on that data, too. In close collaboration with product, marketing, and customer success teams, product operations should leverage an in-app guidance tool to drive programs like in-app onboarding, adoption campaigns, and user research.
  • Account management: Product ops should use an account management tool to ensure product usage data reaches the teams responsible for bringing the product to market. By integrating product analytics data with this tool, product ops can instantly give sales and customer success teams access to product data. They can also use account data in their own work to build user segments and create more targeted in-app guidance.
  • Issue and project tracking: It’s important for product ops to have a clear sense of what the engineering team is working on at all times, making an issue and project tracking tool crucial. Visibility into things like enhancement backlogs, product bugs, and scoped sprint work helps product ops better prioritize their work and prepare for releases well in advance.
  • Release management: One of the main areas where product ops can help drive collaboration and efficiency is the release process. As product ops works to define release standards and bring together stakeholders from multiple teams, a release management tool can help them scale and streamline their efforts.

How product ops helps improve efficiency

Every company will have different priorities when it comes to where product ops’ expertise is needed the most. You might be heavily focused on building processes around how you launch new products. Or maybe, you need to establish better (or new) communication channels between departments and mechanisms for scaling product knowledge. Regardless, your product ops function will likely have its hand in a lot of different areas of the business—which only increases the potential to drive efficiency company-wide.

Here are some different ways product operations can increase efficiency across a product-led organization:

Managing product tools and systems

Other operations functions (e.g. sales ops, marketing ops, and DevOps) usually take ownership of their respective team’s tool procurement, integration processes, and ongoing maintenance of the tech stack. Product ops is no different, and when it is an established function they are responsible for the product team’s tech stack—including technology selection, managing vendor relationships, and administering tools to the wider team.

Beyond general tool management, product ops also helps ensure that team members use systems appropriately, get the most out of them, and leverage established best practices. This helps the product team work more efficiently and effectively, which, in a product-led company, has a ripple effect on nearly every team in the organization.

Data centralization and analysis

Product-led organizations leverage quantitative and qualitative data to inform decision making and optimize the customer lifecycle at every stage. With product ops, they have a single entity that’s in charge of centralizing all data in one place, analyzing it and sharing insights, and enabling the rest of the company to use this data, too. This not only alleviates some work from product managers, but also drives efficiency for anyone looking to use product data to shape roadmap decisions, marketing campaigns, sales plays, or otherwise. These teams know where to go to access this data, and have a go-to resource (product ops) if they need any additional help or insight.

Streamlining and automating processes

Since product ops interfaces with so many different teams across the company, one of the function’s main tasks is to create processes for new and existing workflows. And the more of these processes they can automate, the better. Here are some examples of what this looks like in practice:

  • Setting up workflows and standard cadences for proactively sharing product data with the rest of the company, for example by creating shareable dashboards that update automatically
  • Establishing processes for communicating customer feedback and requests to the product team, and ensuring these qualitative insights are properly documented
  • Running the product experimentation process in a way that prevents experiment overlap and ensures the data coming out of experiments is clean and accurate
  • Training internal stakeholders on new products and features, including creating on-demand resources that team members can access at any time

In-app communication governance

At product-led companies, the product is the customer communication channel of choice. And while it’s great when teams across the company want to create in-app guidance to support their initiatives, organizations need a way to manage their in-app experience as a whole

The best strategy is to establish a cross-functional team to manage your in-app communication efforts. And if you have a product operations person or team, they have a key role to play here. In partnership with teams like product design, product marketing, and user experience (UX), product ops helps create processes for how in-app guide requests are submitted, how (and how often) these requests are reviewed, and how in-app guides are built and implemented.

Product ops might also be responsible for certain steps in these processes, for example providing final sign off on all guide copy or owning segmentation and targeting. And since documentation is often already part of their role, product ops may be the ones to create and distribute documentation about these governance practices. This added structure helps ensure the rest of your company feels empowered to leverage in-app guides—and that users get the best product experience possible.

Get started with product ops

Check out the Pendo e-book, How to set up product ops in your organization, to learn more about how to build a product operations function at your own company.