The Product Manager <> Product Ops Relationship

  1. Product Manager, meet Product Ops
  2. What is Product Ops?
  3. The Cost Paid for Flexibility: Overlapping Responsibilities
  4. Divide and Conquer: Proposed Division of Responsibility
  5. Disambiguating Shared Areas of Responsibility
  6. Final thoughts

Product Manager, meet Product Ops

The product manager will typically be the owner of the product and all its deliverables. Anyone who has ever worked as, worked with, or read about a product manager can tell you that they typically are responsible for all aspects of the product development — from roadmapping to the roll-out. And that’s true. Especially in small and mid-size companies, product managers can and should own all aspects of their product development, or partner with analysts/operations where appropriate.

What is Product Ops?

Product operations is still a relatively new role, but one that many expect to grow in popularity and relevance in the near future. Although product ops roles may manifest themselves differently on different teams within the same company or across companies, the purpose of the role is typically to enable product teams to achieve better outcomes. This article by Blake Bassett does a great job at laying out what the role is and the key tasks and competencies associated — but this isn’t the topic I’ll dive deeply into in this article. I would summarize to say that product operations typically focuses on …

  1. Ensuring the highest product quality, through bug triaging, dogfooding, product audits, and data analysis.
  2. Acting as the driver of change management, by ensuring ops strategy is informed of and aligned to product strategy, by driving and leading roll-outs including developing strike-teams where appropriate, and by regularly communicating updates and feature expectations.
  3. Informing product roadmapping/strategy, by accumulating user pain points, generating hypothesis across product teams and features, and by facilitating feedback amongst core stakeholders within and across product teams

The Cost Paid for Flexibility: Overlapping Responsibilities

Anyone who has worked in a product operations role, however, will tell you that the role is more ambiguous than most. Ambiguity is priceless for product ops in that it gives us the ability to flex as needed, ensuring the highest team quality and velocity at all times. This flexibility enables us to not only fill in for the roles on our immediate product teams as necessary (e.g. data analyst, product manager), but also to take on roles/responsibilities that may not have been foreseen (e.g. strike-team leader). I for one, wouldn’t trade the ambiguity for the world.

Divide and Conquer: Proposed Division of Responsibility

As a rule of thumb, product ops prioritizes the urgent so that product managers can prioritize the important. Of course, no one should be prioritizing the less important and, as the Eisenhower Matrix taught us, urgent and important tasks should still be done first while less urgent, less important tasks should not be done at all.

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Jason Girouard

Jason Girouard

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In Chicago, from Massachusetts, working in product development