There's lots being written about Product Operations these days, but what does it all mean?
In the words of Melissa Perri "Product Operations is the discipline of helping your Product Management function scale well. Surrounding the team with all of the essential inputs to set strategy, prioritize, and streamline ways of working."
I think the use of the word "scale" is key here. We work with a lot of clients who have scaled quickly and either not added enough process which has resulted in products mutating and becoming unmaintainable, or have overdone it and stifled innovation.
The reality is, Product Operations is a balancing act and needs to work for your organisational context. As always, culture first, process second.
Understand the problem you are looking to solve, engage people in the solution and communicate, communicate, communicate.
We don't advocate (at all!) for slamming in frameworks like SAFe or cookie cutting what worked for one organisation into another. Focus on principles while also ensuring there is the right level of transparency to give confidence up, down and beyond the organisation.
Have you got the 5 pillars in place?
1. A Product Vision that defines the aspirational future state of the product organisation and Product Prinicples that inform the nature of the product you are creating.
2. A Product Strategy that charts the course to realises the vision.
3. Shared success measures that help you understand if your strategy is on track.
4. A roadmap that focuses on outcomes with time horizons like now, next, later.
5. Your teams are organised around value, have a clear sense of purpose and are empowered to solve problems.
Are you clear on how you "do things around here?" Is there a shared understanding of how ideas are captured, explored and prioritised?
1. Idea - consistent way to articulate an opportunity and the evidence you need to validate it. Pick a canvas or create your own but ensure you cover the problem statement and hypothesis about how it will help you deliver on your strategic intent.
2. Discovery - fit for purpose approach to validate your assumptions and reduce feasibility, viability and desirability risk. What data do you have or need to get?
3. Experiment - prototype and test with users to validate your concepts, get a sense of the effort to deliver the first slice.
4. Delivery - follow your delivery practices and get working software in the hands of users, capturing their feedback and measuring success against your goals.
5. Iterate toward the outcome!
PLANNING & PRIORITISATION
1. Quarterly Planning - bring the teams together to prioritise the problems to solve. Communicate progress to goals and ensure the strategy still makes sense given customer and market insight.
2. Inform the Exec - playback the priorities and listen to their feedback. Do they have broader context to share that is not yet understood by the teams and will have an impact?
3. Delivery Planning - how will you solve the problems that you have prioritised? Estimate and plan features and non functional requirements, leaving capacity for discovery, iteration and quick wins. Make high integrity commitments where needed.
Your product operations is part of your product, success is dependent on adoption, feedback and continuous improvement.