Product Management Webinar: Product Ops Bootcamp
Product Ops Bootcamp with Melissa Perri
If you want to learn and get to grips with Product Ops, we’ve got the Bootcamp for you!
Watch Melissa Perri and host, Janna Bastow as they explore and dive into the world of Product Ops – What makes a successful Product Ops team? What advantages are there to having Product Ops? When do you need to invest in them?
Our product experts explore these questions and more, whilst sharing their product knowledge and experiences.
About Melissa Perri
Melissa Perri is the CEO of Produx Labs, a Product Management training organization, and the author of “Escaping the Build Trap.” In 2019, she was appointed to the faculty of Harvard Business School to teach Product Management in the MBA program.
Melissa believes the key to creating great products is growing great product leaders. Committed to that mission, she created two online schools: Product Institute, where she has shared her scientific approach to Product Management with over 3500 students, and The CPO Accelerator, which specializes in growing product leaders into Chief Product Officers.
- How to convince your team you need Product Ops.
- How to know that you are ready to invest in Product Ops.
- What a career in product ops looks like, and how to get the skills needed for the role.
- How to hire for Product Ops.
- And so much more!
All right. Hey, everybody, come on in. This is the ProdPad product expert series of, firesides that we run here. today we’re joined by Melissa Perri. And, if you’ve joined for one of these, webinars before, you’ll know that it’s a series of webinars that we do, we always record them and it’s always a mixture of presentations or firesides like we’re doing today. And it’s a fireside conversation by, between myself and, these experts that we get on board.
And it’s always with this focus on the experts and their insights and their experiences and this focus on, the content and the learning and the sharing and what they’ve gotta say and what you’ve gotta say as well. so there’s always so much to learn outta these sessions. These sessions are always recorded and we always do put them up on our YouTube channel and on the, the websites, you’ll always be able to define those. and you will have a chance to ask questions as well.
keep an eye out for that Q&A section. I can see somebody’s already used that already, to ask whether there will be a recording, which yes, there is going to be a recording sent to you. So great, we figured out to use the Q&A too. So use that Q&A, ask us questions today, and use the chat, chat to each other, chat, to us. We can see your questions, but if you want your questions to be seen, definitely try to use the Q&A, it’s a lot easier for me to moderate from there. and we’re gonna kick off and, chat to Melissa Perri about, product ops today.
but before we go and I kick off with that intro, let me just tell you a little bit about what we do here at ProdPad, ’cause ProdPad is a tool. It’s a product management tool if you haven’t heard of it. It’s, it was originally start by myself and my co-founder, Simon Cast. We were, product managers ourselves and we needed tools to do our own jobs and nothing like this existed. So we started building something and we needed something to keep track of the ideas and the experiments that we needed to, to do to hit the objectives that we were given in and to solve all the customer problems that we had in front of us.
And basically just to keep tab on all the ideas and feedback and everything that was in our plate and our backlog. So building ProdPad gave us control and organization and gave our team transparency into what was actually going on in the product space. And so it wasn’t long before we start to sharing it with our wider team and other product people around us. And today, it’s used by thousands of teams around the world, many of you here today as well. so it is free to try. You can jump in and start a free trial.
we even have what we call sandbox mode, which is, it’s basically a version of ProdPad that’s preloaded with product management data. So you can see how things like OKRs and lean roadmaps and experiments and everything else fits together in that product management space. And our team is made up of product people. the founders are product people. A lot of the people on the team that you’ll chat to today are product people. so you’re always gonna have lots of expertise as you’re using it, lots of support.
and also it means that, we’d love to hear what you think of it. We’d love your feedback. So start a trial today, jump in there, let us know what you think. So with that, I want to jump in and say hello and have you all say hello to Melissa Perri. Melissa probably doesn’t need too much of an introduction because she’s hugely known in the product space and it’s wonderful to have her join us here today. I know Melissa, Melissa, I think we first actually met at a product tank in London. This must have been about-
Yeah. seven, eight years ago. I don’t wanna date it, some time ago, pre-COVID, which we can’t date anymore. but-
Yeah, pre, pre pre COVID, PC. [laughs].
and, we also had the chance to, work together when you did some workshops and some training with Mind the Product. now, Melissa Perri, she is the CEO of Produx Labs. It’s a product management training organization and she’s the auth- author of a book that you might all know. And you should definitely get your hands on it if you haven’t got it already, it’s called Escaping The Build Trap. and she’s also, currently in the process of writing another book, if you haven’t, heard, I believe it’s called Product Operations or something like that.
Melissa will tell you more about that in a moment. she’s also on the faculty of the Harvard Business School, where she teaches product management in the MBA program there. so Melissa, there’s probably more there that, you could fill us in with, why don’t you jump in and, say hello and, let us know, a little bit about yourself?
Sure. Hey everybody, nice to meet you. Nice to be here today. yeah, I think Janna gave a good, good description. I guess if I had to sum up all the things that I do, which is a bunch of everything, it’s really to try to make better product leaders, because I believe better product leaders will help us make better products and make more valuable companies. So I’m on a mission to help make more, chief product officers, get more product into the C-suite.
So I do things like, CPO Accelerator, which is an online program I have for VPs, products and use, chief product officers to help level them up into the executive suite. I work with companies to train their organizations through Product Institute. and I used to do a lot of really deep consulting, into trying to set up product organizations for scale and help create better strategies, in companies that were growing through software, whether that was SaaS companies that were, in scale up.
Like I really loved the scale up stage of companies, that’s where I thrive, in SaaS businesses, but also a lot of digital transformation. So I’ve seen it all, worked with almost every type of company I think you could possibly work with at this point, which is pretty cool, in many different countries. everything from really small startups through, growth stage all the way up to super large enterprises that have, tens of thousands of product managers all over the place.
and it’s interesting because while all of our problems are not exactly the same, a lot of them are really similar. And a lot of the things that you see happen from company to company and face to face, can apply to many different industries and many different places that we do product management. So I’m super passionate about this role. I believe it’s a critical driver of value in organizations, and the more and more that we use software, the more important our role will be.
Yeah, that’s wonderful. And actually somebody, also did to shout out in the chat here for your podcast, so yeah.
I do the, the Product Thinking Podcast. Yeah, I’ll put it in here. but yeah, I just started doing that, that, that has been fun. sometimes it’s weird to remember I have a podcast, just ’cause I did it more, as a way to help answer questions that people had for me about product management. So if you do have a question for me, because I can’t answer everybody individually and I was getting so many questions through email and I felt bad not answering them, you can submit to dearmelissa.com and I answer them on the podcast every other Wednesday.
and I love it because it helps, so many people have the same question and you might be like, oh, this question is just really particular to me, but I guarantee you I’ve gotten the same question from people over and over again. So it’s a really great way to help other people learn too, and help, your question could help somebody else, which is really neat.
Yeah. Amazing. And, huge, thanks for me for being a great resource for product people, myself included. there’s always something that, you can learn from you because you have had this experience across all these different businesses and, which is why I wanted you to come in and talk to us about product ops, which is this new, interesting space that, is touching so many businesses. so many businesses are trying to wrap their heads around it, but it’s still so nebulous. It’s still such an interesting growing space. So I guess is probably a good place to start, just from your brain, what would you say product ops is? How would you define it?
Yeah. Product operations, I define as like an enablement function for product management. So it helps organizations scale their product management practice, so that it can help inform strategy and you make quicker decisions. So that’s the whole purpose of what product operations is. I feel like it’s been getting like labeled weirdly, from some people saying that they don’t love product operations. But I fell in love with this, particularly when I was, helping an organization called Athena Health.
We were doing a massive transformation there, across 5,000 people implementing product management in great ways, with the chief product officer. So I got brought in to lead that for about a year and a half. And, we were taking 350 product managers, you didn’t really have any standardization across this company and trying to make great product managers out of them, and create a great product management practice where people could thrive.
And, what you find is that at scale, things start to break if you don’t have some tools and standardization for what you need. product operations is really about getting that to your product managers. The number one thing I hear team level product managers complain about is I don’t have time to do my work. I am spending all my time trying to dig through the databases and get the data. I don’t have the data to make decisions. I can’t get in touch with my customers. I don’t, I’m spending all my time creating OKRs.
I have to, three, five hours a week trying to monitor the OKRs, all of these different things. We spend hours and meetings a week just to align each other. And then I hear executives complain that they have no idea what’s going on with their teams ’cause there’s no insight into like how are we tracking towards our goals? And any time they have to do a board presentation, which is something that I work with CPOs on all the time, it takes us like two months to pull together all the data to actually do that board presentation, which happens four times a year.
So we’re spending eight months getting the data that we need to go update people four times a year. So product operations helps with all of these things. It’s meant to really let you focus on what you were hired to do, which is make great product decisions that deliver value to your customers and your business and take away the things that prevent you from doing that and making it much more easy for you to make decisions in real time.
So product operations is basically getting the product managers back to product managing?
And that’s the whole point,some critics of product operations say, oh, it’s just like really dogmatic about tools and processes. And tools and processes are definitely a piece of it because that allows you to do your job better, but that’s not all that product operations is about.
And it totally makes sense that this exists. I mean you have sales teams and then you have sales operations, you have market teams and then you have marketing operations. Right? Why, when product was this tiny little thing, when we started in this space years ago, it’d be like a single product manager. So you, of course you didn’t need product operations because you only had that one product person and you didn’t have, all these different tools and processes and, you didn’t have access to all this data and you didn’t have all these different reporting lines. Nowadays, you’ve got teams of literally hundreds of product people trying to coordinate and you just can’t do it without some sort of cohesion, without processes.
Yep, exactly. And Ben just posted in here like PMO for project management, that is like one thing that everybody says, it’s the rise of the PMO, it’s coming back, but it’s not. PMOs typically in organizations align what projects you were working on and made the decisions about what would get funded. So they would actually bubble up all the projects around the organization. They would host meetings where you would figure out, look at funding, run the budgeting and stuff.
And some of those, the product operations, part of the product operations team will help you surface those things. But they’re not solely in charge of that, right? that’s not their only job and they’re not making any funding decisions. Right? Product operations makes absolutely no decisions about what work gets done. They just help surface up the information so that the chief product officer and the product managers and everybody can actually decide where it should be going.
So that’s a really big difference in the way that traditional project management offices used to work, which would just be, hey, the PMO needs to fund this or it needs to go to the PMO for approval, that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about giving people the right data so that they can make those decisions in real time, not have to go to a committee for approval.
Yeah. And so where does it fit within the business? does it include the data teams and the product teams? Does it report to the CPO? Where does it all fit together?
It typically reports up into the chief product officer. when we help onboard chief product officers, I worked with Insight Venture Partners for a long time. We would hire a lot of their chief product officers and onboard them, or help them just standardize us. We would try to hire them a product ops person and it depended on which person we got depending on what they needed. But most often, in scale up and grow stage companies, they need data and they need to be able to get that data so that they can make decisions about what strategy to go after first.
So that helps, so this person usually will come in and be like their person who’s gonna synthesize the data coming out of the systems, as it relates to product and start to match that up to the financial data. So that you can answer questions like which one of my products is producing the most revenue? where does, where’s my cost center? are we appropriately staffed, cost verse revenue-wise for growth in these different product portfolio areas?
is my pricing, correct? So if you start to slice and dice this type of financial data on top of what it looks like from a customer segment, a market segment, a product segment, all those different things, you start to get the answers you need to set strategy at the upper levels. And that’s really important if you wanna be an effective product leader, if you don’t have the data, you can’t look at these things, you can’t set strategy. And that usually is what paralyzes people I think when they get in that role, they’re like, oh, I need to set a roadmap. I need to do that.
You can’t do that without data. So this person comes in and helps you. so product operations can be incredibly important there. When we start talking about products, I, I try to do three different areas of it and this would be at scale. So if you’re a smaller company, you don’t need all of this at once, it’s like you start from where you are. But let’s take a really scaled up company. They probably have three major areas. One is the data piece, and the data function is really to, one, be the right hand of the chief product officer.
So,all of the product ops people at scale would report up through a VP of product operation into the chief product officer, so it would live there and then they would oversee these three areas. Data, so that helps make sure that we have things, implemented in our organization to get data out of things. Things like, amplitude and Pendo and all these different, user metrics. But also we’re pulling in data from, our, accounting records. We’re pulling in data from like our headcount records in HR.
And we’re putting them into formats where I, as a leader can look at these and start to make decisions very quickly or grab these charts and put them into board slides and not spend two months trying to get all this data out and put them into a board site to tell a story. But then it dives deeper into the team and then it starts to provision the teams and make sure they have the dashboards and the tools they need as well. So this helps them get the insights that they need about the internal data we have already and surface it up to them so they can make decisions.
the second part is really about, getting external insights into the organization. and this is not about having a whole user research center that’s the only people who talk to customers. It’s about enabling people to do user research at scale. Whenever I work with large companies, especially companies who are not used to building software, one of their big fears is that people go out and talk to the same customer over and over again and they don’t want them to do user research. And this was actually a big problem that we faced at Athena.
We had, somebody who would go and approach the same hospital over and over again, everybody in the company. So we’ve got 350 product managers asking questions of the same client. So there’s like a couple problems there. One, how do we not bother this person, these people like over and over again? But two, how do we make sure we get enough feedback from a wide variety of people so that we can make good decisions? So they, we ended up building this database of all of these, customers that you could reach out to, pulling all of them in, showing like, asking them what they would like to opt into.
Do you wanna be targeted for like experiments? Do you wanna be targeted for prototypes? Do you wanna be an early adopter of some of these new products? How often can we contact you? So we put that in there, the product managers have access to it. And then the user research team would do big user research pushes. But the product managers could go and contact people, see who their sales rep was, say I talked to this person so nobody bothers them again and get the information they needed.
And then we also created, a whole database system of all the insights that were being gathered during user research so you could go sift through them and see if somebody had answered your question already. So when we think about like external insights, it’s how do we get that information and enable people to do better research? Not necessarily, how do I do research in this bucket over here? It’s like, how do I let that scale? this is also about putting good research tools in there, like making sure people know how to use surveys, making sure there’s a surveys tool we can use, prototyping tools that we can, put in there, like anything that’s gonna get good feedback lives in that department.
Plus it also has, market research too. So I think sometimes we skew so far into the customer research territory of, product management that we forget that there’s also market research. So if you are a chief product officer, when you’re evaluating what market to go into, you’re gonna do a SAM and TAM analysis usually. How do I get the data? How do I figure out, who’s going to be the right person in my target market? That allows you to predict if it’s worth going into and if it’s worth the effort. So that also lives in that area.
And we have analyst in there who could do those analysis, pull that stuff together, start doing the research, look at the competitors and pull that together too. And then lastly, we have the processes and tools, which, a lot of large companies start with, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be where you start. but that helps standardize across the organization, the tools that we need that interact with each, with other departments. So for example, roadmaps, don’t just touch product management, they to many different areas.
If you have, if you are a chief product officer and this happens all the time, and you have a team using 18 different formats of roadmaps, you do not bubble that up into your strategy. You have to then do magic to figure out like, the hell’s going on? what are we doing? What’s going on? Like, how do I translate this into progress? So some things at scale do need to be standardized so that we can, um,actually make decisions and have transparency into what’s going on.
But then there’s other tools that live only within the teams and they will never see the light of day anywhere else in the organization, we don’t standardize that doesn’t fall under product operations, that does what it you want. So this is really about creating processes and systems between sales to make sure like information gets back to the product teams. how do we make sure that we’re seeing the customer insights? How are we tagging things during sales calls so that we can see, that this improvement will translate into an adoption of, 18,000 new customers in the next quarter if we actually implement it? Like we wanna be able to pull those insights back together. And that’s why, tools becomes important and processes become important between different departments so that we can all funnel it back together. So that’s where we look at in the other part that falls under like tools and processes, is standardizing like when do do meetings and cadences of it. So for instance, do we need to do roadmap reviews quarterly with everybody? when do we get the executives in the room? should the teams be doing monthly cross-functional meetings with people? Whatever that is for your organization, standardizing that, making sure we know what inputs come in, what outputs come out. So what information decisions are being made and that this becomes a recurring cadence. That’s also part of that team so that we keep on track and we can communicate with it as well.
All right. That’s really good insight. And actually, I see a couple people in the chat have pointed out that they already have existing departments that map to these places already, product intelligence, CX insights, are these typically existing departments that are being remapped to these? Or are these new spaces that are being created in companies or is it a mixture of both?
It depends. UX usually had that customer research one, and that’s totally fine, if it exists in UX and it did, the UX, Athena reported into the chief product officer. so it all fell under, product at the end of the day. But, they owned a lot of the CX insights, great. That’s fantastic. Don’t reinvent the wheel if you already have it. But this is also a way for people who don’t have this to start thinking about, hey, maybe we do need to standardize this.
And what I would say is I’m not hiring product managers for that role. I’m hiring user researchers for that role. I’m hiring, people who understand UX to do those types of roles underneath product operations. But if you wanna call it UX insights, whatever, like as long as it gets done at the end of the day, I don’t see a I don’t think there needs to be like an ownership fight over any of that.
Yeah. I think that’s a good point. it’s all stuff that’s going to drive the business forward. but I think there is something around,that companies tend to become, tend to, are leaning much more product centric nowadays. We’re starting to see these, uh, the rise in the chief product officer and more and more budgets going towards the product roles. And now we’ve got this product ops, which is absorbing different areas of it, so I think it might be-
And it standardized it, standardizes some of it across the way. It’s, Yeah.
It doesn’t, I’d say too, like when think about implementing this and when I’ve done this in organizations, we don’t start from an overwhelming amount of hey, all the things I just were rattled off, we gotta do that tomorrow. Like we start from a, usually from a data perspective if you’re in a high growth company ’cause that’s what we need. If you’re in a larger organization, it’s more from a tools, road mapping tends to be one of the first things people turn to for product ops because, the leaders don’t know what’s going on. So they need to get the transparency into what work is being done before they can make strategic decisions. So it’s like instrumenting things so that we can get the data out of it to start going that way.
but some of these companies rarely do, especially when they go through transformations. all the companies I’ve worked with, who’ve done transformations before, it all starts from putting everybody in an Agile squad and then you go what are the Agile squads actually doing? and then these conversations start popping up. and then from a growth stage, if you’re coming from a company that actually understands software and is a SaaS company, is building through SaaS, it usually starts from a data perspective of oh my God, we’re growing so fast. Where is my data coming from?
So at some point you start to realize you need these functions, and that’s why product opera start catching on, is because we start scaling. And most of these companies who did agile transformations, didn’t have 10,000 product managers 10 years ago. So now that they do, they’re like, oh crap, like what do we do? How do we find out like what’s going on with everybody? And then with your skill up companies, and even the ones that have become larger enterprises, these functions probably exist, but it’s just maybe they were calling them something else.
And we needed a way to standardize it, so it wouldn’t just be like, hey, let’s do that one role that Google has over there that works for all of these other 50,000 companies, but we’re gonna call it something weird over here because it applies to everybody.
Yeah. That makes sense. And so what are some signs that an early stage company is hitting that scale that, that it begins to need it? what are some of the, early creaking noises that you’ll start to see in a company?
Yeah. typically what we start to see is, you are trying to, it, it’s, once you find product market fit, you start scaling and now you have to decide, what do I do? Do I expand into new product lines? Do I go after new markets? What am I gonna go for that? typically that’s where the chief product officer or VP of products, like what’s the data tells me what decision I’m gonna make. And then you can start to see that, hey, I don’t have the tools that I need to figure out, like what everybody’s doing or map wise.
I need the data out of the systems to figure out where we’re performing really well and where we’re not. and that’s the creaky wheels that usually start. It almost always starts with a board presentation, like it, that, that’s where I see it, where it’s like,if you get a great board, I’ve sat on a couple boards and I’ve been in a lot of different board meetings. insight for instance is like incredibly data heavy. So if you showed up to a board meeting there and you were a chief product officer without data, like you just get screamed up by the board, they’d be like, come back when you actually have data.
And then they would go, oh crap, how do I get data? And that’s where we start to have the conversation, right? other boards aren’t as data heavy, but they do wanna see a narrative of, where are we going? And where’s the strategy gonna go? And that’s usually where it starts in the scaling, phases. It’s when your leaders start to realize they don’t have the information they need to be able to concretely tell their story of their strategy, and that’s where we start to plug in.
Yep. And so what would an early product ops hire or hires start to look like? How would you begin filling those gaps?
In those companies, we are usually looking for, data analysts and I’m not talking about like data engineers, I’m talking about, a lot of times it’s former consultants. It’s like people from McKinsey or Bain who understand how to visualize data it and pull it all together out of the systems. But they can put it into reports where you can look at a chart and be like, oh my God, like we were not doing well in that market. What happened? And that’s the type of data you need there.
we used to have two of them on the Produx Labs team, before we, we shut down our consulting, they were fantastic at this. Like anytime we needed to pull together or any CPO, they’d look at this and they go, oh my God, I had no idea. We were pricing ourselves so significantly lower in that market. And if we just changed our pricing and bundling model, we’d be making 10 times the amount of money that we could right now. If you had access to that data as a leader all the time, you can make these decisions so much faster, and that, that’s the point of it.
So one of it may look like that, like a data kind of consultant type person. if you’re starting from a process and tool standpoint, you probably need somebody who really understands product management, but is more operationalized, right? Like they’re more, operational focused, hey wanna enable people. So they’re gonna be able to understand what a good roadmap looks like, good processes look and they can help implement that, design those systems in the organization.
And if you’re starting from like a research perspective, you probably wanna use a researcher, but somebody who thinks more product wise about how do I scale this? Not just, how do I do research? How do I operationalize the things that I you to enable other people to do that too?
Yeah. So it really depends on what kind of problem you’re actually trying to solve for the business?
Yeah. Do you find that most of these product ops divisions are growing up organically then?
Yep. And it usually starts from different problems. Like I know Pendo, when we talked to them, their biggest issue was that sales and product weren’t communicating well together. So when they implemented product operations, they created a way to bring sales and product together to pass the feedback in and help prioritize, surface the roadmaps and go back and forth. So they became the go between to help surface that information to them. And then it grew from there to enable the data, to keep going, and now it’s a pretty big organization.
Same thing happened in Uber. So the head of product operations at Uber, he, his role was created, because they had all of these local Uber departments all over the world. So it’d be like Uber in India and Uber over here. And he was created as a way, his role was created as a way to help get the requirements and what people needed from different, parts of the world back to central Uber who created the software and try to prioritize and figure out what do we need and how do we actually standardize that. So they’re information gathering usually to fill in one role, but then you start standardizing it and, spreading it out to really encompass how do we operationalize all these things.
Okay. Excellent. Excellent. And so what about product people who are curious of about this, product ops role? should they think about maybe moving into it? Are the skills transferable or is product ops really just there to enable them to do pure play product management?
Yeah. it is, I think that some of the skills are definitely transferable. Like you need a product mindset going into this so that you can say, like, how do I build great software and systems to enable value to the product team? but you don’t have to be a product manager to be a product person. And I’ve talked to a lot of VPs of product ops and, directors of product operations. And they’re thinking like, where do I go from here? And you can go back into product management. I think it’d be very easy you to do that ’cause you’re building product management systems for the rest of the organization.
But you can also be like a chief operating officer. a lot of the way that you put this infrastructure in there reflects in the way that organizations run operations throughout it. So a lot of different career paths, I think from product operations, you can stay in product operations. I know some really large banks right now are hiring for like top tier roles and paying a ton of money for this role to come in and like help do these things. So it’s a very viable career path and it’s needed and I think it’s gonna be needed more and more at scale.
but yeah, I think anybody who’s got an operational type background can take that with the product management skills. If you can mirror those things together, you’d be great at this.
Excellent. And so what kind of, training is there available for specifically product ops right now?
Yeah. there’s not a ton of things out there. We are doing a, product ops 101, workshop that Denise and I, Denise is my co-author in the book that I’ve been running through Produx Labs. and we do have a 102 that we’ll be, we’ve expanded into, we gotta run one of those. But, we run that every month or so, which really just introduces you to this and gets you up to speed on where you need to go. so that’s the only training that I know of right now.
The other thing I would try to break down, what is the problem you’re solving in the organization right from this. And that’s what we try to introduce you to in this 101 is is it a data problem? Okay. So when you start with a data problem, what you’re basically gonna wanna do is figure out like, what’s the story you need to tell to which audiences. And then you’re probably gonna need to acquire data skills to get things out of systems, data analysis skills to be able to model things and figure out what the charts should look like and those types of, roles.
So we’ll get more specific depending on where you wanna concentrate in the product operations role. But I think it’s really interesting to, start from a perspective of like, where, what’s the problem I need to solve first and then dive in deeper to each one of those areas.
Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. and so once you’re actually in product ops, what does the, what sort of career paths do you see coming out of that? What does the future look like for somebody going into product ops?
Yeah, I think it, it’s pretty open. and I don’t think we know yet, like I’ve been talking to a lot of people who’ve been doing this for, the last six, seven years and they’re, they are trying to figure out what do they do next. some of them are going to larger organizations, taking on more complex, product operations roles and they, it’s a very viable career path for them. They started at a smaller company, they scaled really far and now they’re gonna go do it over, 100,000 people, massive scale. which is really cool to think about.
So like this, isn’t just a small role that you do on one team and you just go to another team, it’s something that you can just keep scaling. I’ve seen other ones transition back into product management. so they spent a lot of time doing a lot of, especially a lot of people who were new to product management and got into product ops first before being a product manager, they were able to learn how product management worked and why it was important. And since they were doing all that data and that value, they became product managers.
So like my, one of our analysts, went on to be a product manager and then a director of product at one of the organizations that we worked with. so he, and he was able to jump in and thrive in it because he understood all the questions that needed to be asked from modeling all of that data. so there’s that piece, you can go on and run user research teams. I think it’s pretty open. And like I said, too, I could see somebody really, if they wanted to move into the C-suite with this, chief product officer or even chief operating officer, how to standardize this across organizations.
Yeah, absolutely. Iit feels like it’s a new space that is, as interesting. And as open as product management was when I entered the space, 15 years ago, there’s so many opportunities out there. And it’s, it’s ripe to be defined by the people who are getting into it right now to set that career path for themselves.
Really interesting space. And, somebody else has asked a question here, Ariel’s asked, does a PMO position, is that a good starting point to move into product ops?
I’m not a 100% sure, it has, it depends on what it looks like in your organization, that’s what I would say. like I said before, the PMO position sometimes, we’re charged with actually making budgeting decisions, right? Like you’d go to the PMO and they would decide whether or not you got funded in some organizations. That’s not what product ops is about, they don’t make any funding decisions. They just transparently bring your funding back. a lot of what we look at data wise in product operations is capacity planning.
if your PMO is helping with capacity planning and budgeting but not making those decisions, that could be really powerful to understand, especially if you move into a large organization. one of the big things that I teach in the CPO Accelerator is that to be like a thriving product leader, you really need to deeply understand the financials of your organization. that means understanding OPEX and CapEx and, your profit and loss systems in your revenue and how we get value as a company. If your PMO office is doing anything like that and budgeting, and that gives you exposure to financials, that’s gonna be incredibly helpful.
And it’ll probably set you up a little bit more than, some other product counterparts who haven’t add the exposure to the financials that you see in the system. But I think that’s, I think it really just depend on what that office looks like in your organization. Is it just tracking projects? It’s probably not gonna be as important. If it’s really getting in there and monitoring, the capacity planning and the projects and the budgeting and the financials and giving you exposure to C-suite, that could be really valuable experience.
Yeah. And actually there’s something that’s, that I’m finding really eyeopening about this,the product ops role is the, exposure to the business side, the financial side of the business. Because, we often talk about how the product manager’s in that intersection of, tech, the UX, the user side, and,business. But oftentimes, product managers are very focused on the user, very focused on the tech, the solution, and often not as strong on the business side.
They’re not really thinking about, how this is commercially viable or, how the business is valued, what the difference is between CapEx and OPEX and how the business, uh, how the product ultimately will help the business itself get valued. Those aren’t necessarily things that sit in a product manager’s background or that they necessarily have access to. And so having a role who access that conduit, who provides that information, and allows them to focus on the areas that they’ve got those strengths in, could be really powerful.
Yep. That is the biggest issue I see, like people ask, why don’t we have more chief product officers? Or why is it so hard for product management to leap into this C-suite? and that’s why I started as CPO Accelerator as well, because, so many product managers who’ve grown out of, team level product management, don’t understand the business side of it as strongly, and like what drives a company. And when you’re an executive, your conversations are not about what features go on the roadmap, it’s about, what markets you’re entering, how you’re gonna expand geographically.
And then if we do these things right, that are prioritized on the roadmap, how much more recurring AR are we gonna get? How is that gonna increase our valuation? How does that actually reduce our cost over here? What is our EBITDA actually looking at it? And if you don’t understand how to speak that language, it’s the fastest way I’ve seen anybody get kicked outta the C-suite. and that’s where I see a lot of, product leaders struggle in executive roles. Like they get promoted to chief product officer, they don’t start thinking about it as a business move.
And when they, they don’t hire product ops to help them get the data they need for these things. So what do they do? They turn immediately to standardizing processes and they get really into talking about Agile and they get talking about product processes and user research and all those things are really important. But your CEO, I guarantee you, does not care. If they’re asking you questions about Agile, it’s because they don’t have the information they need to be able to do their job, and they don’t know where to get it.
So they’re just turning to it and going, maybe Agile can help me with this, but if you’re going back to them instead and saying hey, here’s the product roadmap for the, now next leader that we got going on here, now is gonna unlock this amount of revenue for us. And these initiatives are gonna reduce this cost. Then we’re gonna move into this side over here, which is gonna expand us into these markets which has a total TAM, SAM X, Y, and Z, that we prioritize. And then later, we’re gonna look at this over here, which should be able to expand us geographically across this continent, right?
that’s the conversation you need to have at the C-suite and that’s what this data kind of enables. but that’s how we should be thinking as product leaders, it’s not just stewards of the feature in the product, but stewards of the business. And you need to be able to step into the C role like that.
Yeah, absolutely. I got in a debate about this with somebody on Twitter, a few weeks ago, a couple months ago now. It was something along the lines of, pointing out that we should to be focused on outcomes, right? We shouldn’t be driven by customers or data. We should be driven by ultimately, outcomes. And somebody said, oh, you mean user outcomes though? I said, no, not user outcomes, business outcomes. Now, of course, any good business worth its fit should understand that business outcomes are generally aligned with user outcomes.
don’t have users, you don’t have customers, then you don’t have a business. But, ultimately at the end of the day, your job here is to make sure that the business is viable and that, we all have jobs at the end of the day. and, know, I think it’s really important that product people really understand what it is that their product is there to deliver. Yes, it’s there to provide delight to the customers and solve their problems, but it’s a means to the end so that they, that they can transact and the business can ultimately get something out of it so that it can sustain itself.
Yeah. And I get a lot of questions too when I teach this type of stuff about, when I talk about, and if you’re escaping the build trap, I talk about levels of strategy and how strategic intents are really organized around like business challenges you’re going after. And people go, why are we not prioritizing customer challenges there? And I’m like, we are, but we’re narrowing. Like customer challenges can be like this big, like they may have all the challenges in the world.
But what we’re doing is slicing them down into what could we feasibly solve as a business that also helps us grow? And you have to marry those two ends of it. and I think that’s important to understand, like sometimes we get so focused on the customer side of it that we forget about the business side of it as product people. And that’s really important to bring back into this. And I think, especially with people coming, a lot of product managers came to this discipline out of agile training, out of becoming a product owner.
And it’s [inaudible 00:54:32], now you’re a product manager. and we don’t talk about the business side as much in those types of trainings. So really deeply understanding that, bringing it back, it shouldn’t be a swinging pendulum where we’re like all the way business, all the way customer, like we just need to be firmly in the middle there.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a question here from Victor. How would you pitch the idea of product ops to a CEO who doesn’t yet know that this is what the company needs?
Yeah, I think it starts with a problem. Like any place that I would be proposing an idea, right? Or if, when I was consulting to, or when I help people with their problems, I start from tell me what hurts, just like a doctor, right? what, what’s hurting right now? What’s breaking? and I guarantee you, a CEO is probably trying to figure out the transparency of what’s going on right now? what is everybody working on? And then how does that ladder up into, our portfolio? Like how are we reaching our goals?
They deeply care about, are we gonna reach our are goals? are we on track to reach our goals? What are our goals? And product ops helps with that, right? It helps ladder up the strategy in what’s going on, through the systems to show progress towards what you set and then that allows them to change courses. So that’s how I would start with what you need to see is are we making progress towards the things that we said were gonna do this year? and from an outcome perspective, not do we check off boxes, right?
are we actually gonna hit our targets? Are we well set for that? product ops can help you with that. If we start with this one function, let’s just hire one person, start to bring some transparency into our data and how it ladders up into our strategy, this can get us there. And that’s really where, I would start with the executive team and I will say that is a question I get. Every single CEO I talk to and I talk to tons of them all week, they’re just like, I just wanna know if we’re on track to reach our goals.
And I wanna know now so that I can change our stuff if we’re not, right? I wanna be able to make decisions. And that is absolutely key. So I’d start from understanding what their problem is and then showing how product ops can actually help with it.
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And,Kelly asked, do you recommend that product ops focus on a single goal, focus on only more one of those pillars or should they be trying to support all of it?
Well,I’d say start small with what you need and then gradually introduce it. So that’s why I said sometimes we start with just one data person, one product ops analyst, like a data person. And then as you need more, grow more. I wouldn’t try to go, implement every single one of those things, start with what’s earning and what’s gonna prevent your company from moving forward first, introduce that. And then as you get more mature, introduce the rest of it and then just keep going. And especially if you’re a small team, it may be one person to start, maybe two people, and then you just go from there.
Yeah. And Lucy has a good question about motivation here. So she says that creating the product processes is one part. Do you have any advice on motivating people to actually adopt new processes? for example, asking people to move away from like a road mapping process, so they know and love and starting to do it the standardized way.
Yeah. one thing is that, like all the stuff that you’re doing as product ops should be, in the name of the chief product officers. So it starts from that, right? Like leadership’s heavily involved in this. You’re not really design things on your own and influencing, so like they should be evangelizing what you do. And if they’re not, that’s being a bad leader, right? Like they need to evangelize what you’re actually doing. two, I think showing them why we’re doing it is important.
So I’ve seen a lot of teams switch from tool to tool, like JIRA today, Trello tomorrow, all this stuff, and they don’t explain why. It’s like, why? what are you getting out of it? And if you actually told them, hey, we are actually all road mapping this way instead of the old way or whatever way you used to be doing, because one, it’ll cut down on 40 hours of meeting a month for you. I bet you, people would use your roadmap. like you tell them that and then also, because it’s gonna give us more transparency and alignment, you’ll be able to show dependencies faster this way.
And then you won’t be like, eight weeks down a new project and then find out somebody else is involved. Like these types of things really resonate with people. So influencing people to use these new tools or these new processes is the same way that you would influence people, in the, the the rest of the organization, as a product manager, which is understand their goals, understand the value that it is to them and start putting it into that context for them, about how it’s gonna help them.
Excellent. Yep. so Stacia asked, she’d love to hear you discuss the difference between someone leading product ops and someone working as a group product manager.
Yeah. Like a group product manager is typically a manager of product managers. And a lot of, some of this work used to default on them, but what you should be doing as a group product manager is actually setting strategy at what I call the product initiative levels. So one, you should be coaching your teams. and I’m not, like some product ops can help standardize processes, but they still need coaching from a day to day basis. So you should be coaching your teams, helping your product managers.
Two, getting the data, creating circulating that up to your boss, to your people around you, right? should you be pulling data yourself all day? No, that’s where like product docs actually comes in and helps create dashboards for you. But most group product managers, what they should be doing, not that they all do this, and I find that this is hard to explain because I don’t think a lot of people who are new to being a group product manager actually understand what the role is these days.
Is to set that of strategy in the middle. So they are basically going, what are the new initiatives we need to go after? What are the really big customer problems that are gonna help us achieve our strategic intents as a business? And they’re going out and they’re experimenting, they’re validating, they’re doing a bunch of research around this and they’re proving that these are the next things that we need to go after as a business. And that’s why product ops is important to them. because if you are doing that, you usually don’t have time for the rest of it, right? You don’t have time to do all the roadmaps and implement all this stuff and go across it.
And also if you are one group product manager, let’s say there’s only one group product manager in the whole organization, like sure, you’re probably gonna be creating the roadmaps for your five product managers. Let’s go, talk about a company that has 1000 group product managers, and everybody’s gonna do all the product ops themselves. that’s inefficient, that’s just so inefficient. Like, why are we not using standardized ways of working across all these group product managers so that as a company, we can get the data out of our systems and track it?
So it doesn’t take away the coaching, it and take away the, like managing of your people. what it does is it just frees you up to the strategic work you should be doing. And I see a lot of people try to gravitate towards the grunt work because they don’t understand how to do the strategic work. So it’s one, this is gonna free you up, you need to go learn how to do that. But that’s the essential role of what a group product manager actually does.
Yeah. That makes sense. And Kelly asked here, do you have any advice on whether product ops should be centralized function or decentralized? Is it embedded in pods or crews or, part of its own sort of, mega group?
Yeah, we used to actually do both. at Athena, what we would, what we ended up doing was we had a VP of product you reported, a product ops who reported to the CPO. and then the customer insights team lived with the CXO, so that was centralized over there, but we would embed, data analysts at each director of product level. So like they were the person who was responsible for getting all the data in creating the dashboards and figuring out what was going on that way. But they reported up through product ops, but they had team teams that they would actually service around the organization.
So I think it’s a mix. I think it depends on what you need and how much, needs to be implemented and how much needs to be worked, how much needs to be customized per team. It’s probably gonna change which, with every organization, but I think if you keep the goal as how do we free up people to do the work that they need and make sure that this is consistent across the organization, you’ll understand which is the right one to go to.
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And so how do you know if it’s working? Are there any sort of metrics that you’ve used, to test the impact? Or [crosstalk 01:02:37] that to see what, whether that it’s working, whether it’s any good?
Yeah. A big part of it is like time savings, which seems like really basic, but like huge amounts of time savings, for leaders and for, for product people, so that’s one that we would look at. Two, is can we make decisions faster? So we actually look at time to decision making. And before having the data, sometimes it would be three months to decision making. And after actually implementing automatic data systems like this, it’s two hours, it’s huge.
If you could pivot your company in two hours instead of three months, like huge, advantages there, right? So that’s really one of the key metrics, is like time to decision making. Does it reduce the time? And a lot of that can be traced ba- back into like transparency of data and roadmaps and what people are doing and customer insights, right? if you can get better customer insights faster, it saves you time from, tracking down everybody and trying to do that. But two, allows to make decisions faster. So that’s my key metric for product ops is like time to decision making.
That makes a lot of sense. I like that. and so it sounds like there’s a lot of benefits to this, but there’s also, the risk of getting somebody onboarded and hi- making the hiring decision, of course, to start off in this direction. Are there any lower risk ways of testing, whether product ops is right for your business?
Yeah. usually somebody’s doing it right now. So I go around to try to figure out like who, who’s the poor soul who’s doing this, but, thinks they should be doing product management, but is instead, got really mad that your systems were so broken and it’s just doing this off the side of their desk. I’d start there and see how much time that’s taking away from them. so I, like that’s a low risk way. You probably have somebody in your organization who’s doing it.
Two, I’d say just hire one person and see if it makes a difference. I will tell you every single company that we’ve ever implemented this in, nobody has come back to us and said, this is awful. I had one, former colleague who’s doing this at one company. And he said, when he got put into this position, he was really mad. He was like, this is gonna be so useless, I hate this. And then after doing it for six months, he was like, oh my God, I did not realize how valuable this was to the organization.
And he is just so gung ho about his position now. And it’s like, all he ever wants to do for the rest of his life. But he used to be a chief of staff to a chief product officer. And now he runs all product operations across a really large department. and he said our CPO, he’s he will never go work anywhere without this. he will implement it every time, he will have it every time. I have never had, a chief product officer come back and say, this was a bad idea at the end of the day. So it, that’s something to say.
but, you, you also have to do what works for you. it’s just, I’ve seen it work really well, that’s why I get passionate about it. I’ve seen it just solve so many problems that people are trying to solve with so many problems are just frustrated product managers, that’s why I got excited about it. I was so tired of you hearing the same problem out of everybody at all these different companies. Everybody had the same problem, I don’t have time to do my job, doing all this [inaudible 01:05:43] crap, like what, I just wanna do product management, right?
And when we put that in there, or as an executive, I just wanna know what’s going on in my organization, be able to set my strategy without having to do a massive four month push to get data out of our systems. Like these are problems that we talk about every single day. And that’s why I get excited about this team, because they’re a group of people who are excited to solve their problems and they were purposed to solve that problem. It’s not, somebody’s extra 40 hour week job, right? It’s somebody’s 40 hour week job to actually go in there and solve these problems for people.
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s actually really good insight, how much you’ve seen it make a difference in all these different companies. and actually really good, prompt, everybody in the chat, who here thinks that you’re a product manager and you’ve actually been doing product ops this whole time and, need a product ops person or division or something like that. I’m seeing some hands raised and yeses. Yeah. All right. all So this feels like this is a really good, perhaps therapy session for everybody here.
All right. Everybody go out there and get yourself some product ops people. on that note, are there any, we’ve got three people who’ve asked this question. I think it was, yeah, a handful of people of asked this, about tools, any sort of tools that you recommend that help with the product op space?
Yeah. Tons of them. so it depends on what areas you’re actually looking at. Like obviously ProdPad is great for road mapping, and for, a lot of the general product management things that we do. you’re gonna need your, your Amplitudes or your Pendos to get your data out of this systems. love, Dragonboat. I’m an advisor to Dragonboat as well for portfolio management. So what they do is they bubble up the goals at the top, and connect it into JIRA so that you can actually track what’s going that way.
you can also look for, prototyping tools, survey tools, anything that helps you get the customer or insights. there’s also a lot of, customer research platforms out there. Foster, one of the companies I sit on the board of does customer research, in organizations like, core organizations that have like tons and tons of customers out there. Consumer ones, they help gather it, show the different information in quantitative and qualitative insights. So something like could be really helpful.
Somebody just told me about another one that was really fantastic called Dovetail, which helps with, getting, user research and then slicing them into videos and being able to put it all together so that you could see the insights, stuff like that. Yeah, ev- everybody was like, Dovetail’s great, I just heard about it and I was like, oh my God, we were doing this manually forever. I can’t wait to check this out. things like that. And then you’re gonna have like your, let me see, what else, anything to monitor your KPIs.
And, we actually hooked up a bunch of stuff, for automated data systems through things like Tableau, where we plugged into the APIs of HR systems, your Amplitudes, your, your revenue systems and, like your accounting systems and then we created, slices of the data. And that’s what we would typically do if we did this manually, we would dump it all into Excel and do it in data. but we created slices of the data there so that they kept refreshing all the time.
And that’s what I talk about with an automated product ops data system, is like you should be able to plug all these things in and just have that keep refreshing so that you can look at it as a dashboard, as a product leader or a product manager.
Yeah. And I think that all goes to say that there’s such a product stack that any product team is going to have and product ops is just gonna help tie it all together and make sure that there’s actually some cohesion in all of that.
Exactly. Yep. And they’re in charge of that. Like they look at it every day, they make sure it works for you, they’re optimizing it. Just like we optimize products for our customers, they’re optimizing it for us because we’re their customers.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. All right. Great. we’re running outta time here. but, I’ve, taken the, the post that,Melissa put out here, is the, the, book announcement, so productoperations.com. definitely sign up for that, you wanna, be on the list for that. any, insights on, when we’re gonna hear about that or, how that’s going?
probably be published towards the end of this year, we’re still writing it. but it is going much faster than my last book, which took three years. So I’ll tell you that’s a lot better. It’s much easier when you have a co-author. but we will, yeah, we’ll be announcing a lot of stuff on productoperations.com. We have a bunch of interviews with product leaders. the book will have tons of case studies. So every, section’s got a couple case studies from companies that are doing this already, which is fantastic.
I’m really excited about at that part, but we’re gonna be releasing some of those on the way to the book. So if you sign up there, you’ll get notified when we do new videos, do new case studies and, new trainings on that.
Okay, great. Wonderful. And, thanks so much for your time here today and thank you everybody for all your questions and for getting involved. as this was recorded today you will get a, copy of this. You will be able to see it, it’s gonna be up on YouTube, in probably about a week or so. And we also do a transcript, so you’ll be able to see a copy of, everything that’s been, asked.
Somebody asked specifically if there’s a list of all those tools, so the transcript will have that list of tools. So jump in there, you’ll be able to see everything, and, see you here for the next one. We do these product, experts, webinars, every month. see you back here in, April. and once again, thank you so much, Melissa, wonderful to have you join us here. talk to you again soon.
Thanks everybody. Bye.