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Introducing the Product Ops Alliance

As organizations move from a single product to multiple products, product managers, and product teams, they find the processes of the past simply do not scale. Each product team seems to be following their own processes. As a result, artifacts such as business cases, roadmaps, and stories vary wildly between teams, due to different backgrounds, experiences, and education

Just as DevOps was created to standardize the core development processes across an organization, the product ops role was created for product people. Align the teams with consistent artifacts and methods, and coordinate the right glue work for product teams. More and more people are getting the product ops title but are implementing this role differently in each company.

A core problem is that there isn’t a standard body of knowledge to draw from. In response the Product Ops Alliance was created to help product ops people set up their practice, grow it, and make sure it is hitting the right needs.

In July 2021, we brought a group of Product Operations leaders together to talk about Product Operations and see if there was an opportunity for peer engagement.

There were two areas the group identified as opportunities:

  • Ongoing engagement with Product Ops true peers. Sharing your challenges with people who truly understand you and your challenges. Feeling like you have found your true peers.
  • Thought leadership for Product Operations by Product Operations. Many people write and talk about product operations, but most of them are not Product Ops leaders.

With those two ideas in mind, the Product Ops Alliance was founded.

What is Product Ops

So to start, let’s define what we mean by Product Ops.

As co-founder of the Product Ops Alliance, Chris Butler described the role of product ops as product managing the product management experience (PM’ing the PM). Product Ops focuses on identifying and solving problems for product management, particularly removing friction in product management processes. It is about aligning the incentives of glue work with a particular person’s role rather than it being for anyone to pick up when they have time. It is also about adjusting or removing processes when they no longer meet the needs they were originally designed for.

The Product Ops Alliance defines the role this way::

Product Ops is responsible for continually evolving, optimizing, scaling, and supporting product management to enable better outcomes for the company, the product team, and each product professional.

Our conversations and discussions have led to the idea that this series of statements may, dare we say, evolve into a manifesto.

Pillars of Product Ops

The Product Ops Alliance strives to create a language that allows us to talk about the breadth of the work. Where are product professionals spending most of their time and where should they?

We have identified five pillars of Product Ops:

PEOPLE — We have the right people, with the right skills, in the right positions. [50% or our founding members say this is in their remit / 50% say some of this is in their remit]

PROCESS — We have straightforward and well-defined processes that help guide product decisions and enable the organization. [60% / 40%]

INSIGHT — We curate access to insights and data (internally and externally) that help guide the right product decisions. [30% / 50%]

TOOLS — We have the right tools and technology to allow the product team to be effective and productive. [70% / 30%]

STAKEHOLDERS — We have alignment in process, deliverables, and expectations across the organization. [60% / 40%]

We also found that 70% of founding members have all or some responsibility for Program/Project Management. There was unanimous agreement that while most of them had some responsibility for Program/Project Management, it is a separate and distinct role from Product Ops.

Who Needs Product Ops

Our founding members range from a startup with ten total product professionals in their product org to multi-billion-dollar companies with product orgs of hundreds and even thousands of people. .

Their companies are private-equity roll-ups, VC-funded startups, large consulting organizations, and large public companies.

We believe that any product org with more than a handful of product managers needs some level of Product Ops — for consistency in roadmaps, requirements, and business planning.

And we have found that most product leaders with teams of 5 or more are already doing some level of Product Ops.Just like product teams without product managers, someone is doing the work; Giving the role a name and a charter identifies the work so it doesn’t slip between the cracks.

When should a product leader create Product Ops as a stand-alone resource?

Organizations should create a Product Ops function as soon as they become aware of inconsistencies from product to product. These inefficiencies could be solely within the product team or could more broadly include efficiency in the stakeholders of design, development, marketing, finance, and those who would benefit from consistency in process and documentation.

Get Engaged in the Product Ops Alliance

With some definition around the opportunity, we are excited to announce the Product Ops Alliance formally and invite other Product Ops Leaders to engage and participate in our work.

How can you get involved?

Join our working groups to discuss key topics in People, Process, Stakeholders, Insights, and Starting/Scaling Product Ops, with three calls to action.

  1. Complete our Product Ops Benchmarking Survey to help identify a little more about you, your company and product organization, and where you would like to get engaged. The working groups are a great place to meet your peers, learn what they are doing, and help create Product Ops thought leadership. You can take the survey here and will share the aggregate results with all respondents.
  2. Check out our “manifesto” with our Product Ops definition and remit pillars and share your thoughts and comments here. Help us define and grow the practice of Product Ops.
  3. And, start engaging with your true peers in the Product Ops Alliance cohort in the Product Growth Leaders Community. You can read up on what we have done so far, see thought leadership from and curated by our founding members, and more here.

We are excited about the future of Product Ops, and hope you choose to engage with the Product Ops Alliance to build a trusted network of true peers, and participate in helping define and evolve the practice of Product Ops.

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Chris Butler

Chris Butler

Chaotic good product manager, Head of Product Operations @ Cognizant