Over 1,500 of you attended the very first Product Operations Summit, and it became very clear that it’s an incredibly exciting time to be in the rapidly growing function.
Throughout the day, we heard from product ops pros from organizations big and small, with both mature functions and teams of one offering their take on maximizing product-led growth through operations excellence.
We’ve narrowed down a jam-packed day of insights into 5 bitesize takeaways, but if you want to relive the whole thing, grab yourself a PLA membership.
Takeaway #1: Product Ops is rapidly evolving and still being defined
If there was one absolute standout point made throughout the summit, it’s that the function is still being defined.
As with the vast majority of newer, emerging functions, a lot of the discourse was surrounding what exactly Product Operations is.
As an operations role, it was primarily agreed across the board that it is a support function, whose main aim revolves around “allowing Product to be Product.”
This entails optimizing processes throughout the product organization, which allows product managers to spend more time focusing on their role, and the same applies to dev teams, engineering, and even to some extent sales.
Other roles and responsibilities suggested throughout the summit included:
- Helping the product team scale effectively.
- Fine-tuning the chaos of upstream product development practices to allow designers and product managers the space for slow thinking work such as design and strategy.
- Acting as the glue across different stakeholders to streamline efficient delivery of products to meet the need of customers.
Takeaway #2: Product Operations is transcending its original ‘big tech’ birthplace
The oldest product ops functions existed almost exclusively in Silicon Valley-esque companies, with a focus being on streamlining data processing in mature product organizations.
What became very evident at the Summit was that this is no longer the case.
Not only did we have speakers from a range of company sizes, industries, and organizational maturity, but many of those in attendance were also teams of one in smaller businesses.
There was also a notable shift from the idea the product ops only exists in those more mature product organizations.
Asher Jacobson, Product Operations Manager at Virgin Active, explained in his session that the product team itself doesn’t need to have reached some kind of trivial level of maturity for product ops to maximize its value.
In fact, having product ops involved in the business sooner is going to help scale growth faster, meaning they can play an active role in maturing the product org.
Takeaway #3: There are multiple ways into Product Operations
The career journeys on display had a plethora of beginnings and paths into product ops.
Some speakers such as Marielle Velander, Product Operations Lead at Dashlane, came from a User Research background, with others coming from Product Management, Business Operations, Marketing, and again, even Sales!
The reason for this was summarized neatly by Björn Simonson, Senior Product Operations Manager at iZettle, when he was asked how he would structure his organization.
“I’d ideally have a mix of Design Management and an interested ops team. It’s about putting together a group of people interested in the topics and responsibilities, and having the time available to dedicate themselves to it.”
The core skillsets that are desirable to excel in product ops were laid out by Marielle Velander as:
- Facilitation skills, being an enabler in workshops and meetings.
- Analytical skills, having a strong ability to analyze what the problems are.
- Organizational skills, creating efficient structures and clean processes.
Takeaway #4: Product Operations is establishing itself closer to the Product team
Another interesting discussion pertinent to the broader discourse around product ops was where it’s positioned within the company.
As has been established, it often slots in between and around teams such as Product, Dev, Engineering, etc.
However, a couple of interesting case studies arose from a discussion around establishing a product ops function, which was that Product Ops was placed under Customer Care rather than aligning closer with Product.
As an operations role, it of course depends on the type of product as to where the function best fits. The trend appears to be that Product Ops is now firmly under the umbrella of Product, but this was not always the case.
Several attendees highlighted they were under a separate Operations Team entirely, or sat under Customer Care. As the role becomes more established and defined, it could find itself, and possibly should, aligning much closer with the Product Team.
Takeaway #5: Product Operations is making waves
Finally, the discourse and amount of content surrounding product ops is growing exponentially.
With more product ops job titles appearing as more companies adopt the function, the broader implications of product ops becoming key for product-led growth is exciting (at least to us, this is kind of our thing).
Product-Led Growth is constantly evolving as a strategy and mindset. Over the next 12 months, we expect to see a lot more companies investing in Product Ops, and that needs to be incorporated into a successful PLG strategy.
We want to get your opinions on the state of play, which is why we’re curating the State of Product Operations report.
Let us know your thoughts, and we hope you enjoyed the Summit!
And don’t forget, if you want to catch up on allllll the action plus grab yourself a bunch more OnDemand footage, templates, frameworks, and exclusive content, it’s ready and waiting for you in our membership plans.