Product Operations: How Do We Know if it is Even Working

Product operations may be the new kid on the block for product teams, but they’re becoming a much more common fixture. According to our 2022 survey, 32% of all companies now have a product operations person or team on their staff, trending even higher for larger organizations. Moreover, our survey concluded that improving communication between the product team and stakeholders topped the list of responsibilities at 58%.

Increasing the efficiency of the product team followed as a close second with 52%, and then enabling internal teams with product education at 43%. Owning and managing the product stack, owning and managing product analytics, and creating customer feedback loops rounded out the top six responsibilities, all checking in at 42%.

Now that product ops are more commonplace and established; they’re likely to receive the same scrutiny other groups within the company face. Namely, what are they doing, and is it making a positive difference?

Setting the Stage for Product Operations Success

Before hiring for a product operations role, find metrics to target that allows you to determine the impact of the role. In this case, it’s identifying how things were going before product operations came on the scene.

For example, surveying your product team, stakeholders, and other relevant staff about the areas where the hire can contribute will provide you with the data you’ll need for future comparisons.

However, this method can gauge success after product operations join the gang. Use the same type of survey to ask colleagues what things were like before product operations began. This won’t be as accurate, but it’s better than nothing and provides insight.

The other key ingredient in seeding success for product operations is to ensure everyone in the organization understands its purpose and what responsibilities product ops are taking on. This shared, common understanding properly sets expectations and hopefully preempts any feather-ruffling that might occur when product operations staff get to work.

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Assessing Success

Measuring product ops’ success at meeting these goals requires qualitative and quantitative analysis. Let’s look at each and think about how to decipher the true impact of product operations in each area and how they help the product team scale.

Improving communication

Stakeholder alignment is a massive challenge for any organization, so it’s no surprise this is the top responsibility for product operations. Keeping everyone in sync, up-to-date, and on the same page is a tough job that only gets harder when the number of players involved grows. But according to our survey, 50% of companies with a production operations function feel “very” or “extremely” aligned with their organizations, which all begins with communication.

Product operations succeed in this role if stakeholders remain informed more frequently and use the methods, cadence, and level of detail they prefer/require. The team can document that standardized, personalized communication now happens and gauge stakeholder satisfaction via a survey or simply asking around now and then.

Product team efficiency

Ask a product manager at 5 pm what they did all day, and you’ll get a different answer every day of the week. It’s a job encompassing many different tasks with priorities driven by several external and internal factors.

You could attempt to measure increases in product team efficiency by having each product team member utilize time trackers to document where they spend their time, using that information to track progress toward more time spent on higher-value tasks. But if that seems too demanding, you can once again survey the team or ask them if they think they’re now spending less time on extraneous activities.

This, of course, requires a preexisting understanding of what the product team deems high value versus low value. But the primary evaluation should focus on whether the product team now has enough time (or more than enough) to handle their core responsibilities. In our survey, 58% of companies with product operations said they experience greater autonomy in their decision-making.

For a less subjective measure, the team could also track how long it takes them to complete key deliverables and whether they’re now hitting their internal deadlines and targets more often.

Product education

This aspect of product operations is a little more measurable as the team can see how many training sessions were completed, how many staff members were trained through a product launch training program, and how often the product operations team updates everyone.

However, the other side of the coin requires more qualitative analysis. Assessing the quality of education requires measuring employees’ ongoing product knowledge and satisfaction with the educational materials and their deliverables.

Additionally, surveying different departments and seeing how they rate their level of education and if they want more, less, or something different in this area also factors into how well product operations are doing with this responsibility.

Product stack

Ensuring everyone has the right tools to do their jobs and collaborate is another product operations combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis. Product ops can be judged on whether they have a tool in the product stack for each function the larger organization has prioritized.

They can also track if there are enough seats and what each tool’s usage and engagement metrics look like. Simply buying and installing a new product isn’t enough; the extended team needs to use it. Product operations role allows them to establish workflows and processes with these new tools.

Additionally, colleagues can be surveyed to see if they’re satisfied with the existing product stack or if deficiencies remain due to missing components in the stack, sub-par products needing replacements or upgrades, or a lack of training and education.

Product analytics

Internal customers getting the requested information is an excellent place to assess product operations’ contribution in this area. Delivering product analytics data at a reliable, steady clip that’s easy to digest and access is table stakes.

But beyond that, product operations should also uncover additional insights valuable to the rest of the organization. Surveying stakeholders to see if they’re getting useful, actionable product intelligence or seeing those findings develop into items on the product roadmap or changes in the customer experience indicates the team’s success in this capacity.

Customer feedback loops

Ensuring customer feedback gets collected, aggregated, routed to the right people, and ultimately acted upon if warranted is a challenging task in any organization. Product operations’ horizontal, holistic focus should significantly improve this area.

For starters, they can help create transparent processes that document and socialize for each input channel, customer service, sales calls, or social media. Each piece of feedback getting logged, tracked, and resolved—even if the final decision is inaction—gives every idea a fair shake and prevents important nuggets of feedback from falling through the cracks or living forever in limbo.

Metrics for volume, turnaround time, closing the loop with customers, and impact on the product roadmap should be tracked over time. Ideally, volume increases, timelines shrink, and customer satisfaction improves.

You’ll know it when it happens

While there are many objective ways to measure product operations, assessing its success ultimately depends on whether the rest of the organization sees the benefit of the function. Some improvements may happen quickly, while others show more gradual progress that may be unnoticeable in the day-to-day hubbub of the business.

This again heightens the importance of establishing a pre-product ops baseline, so there’s something to compare things to. Product operations take stock of the status quo before enacting any significant changes.

But over time, the most significant indicator that product operations work is that the team can’t imagine life without it, as its value permeates the entire product development process, streamlining, facilitating, and educating up and down the org chart.

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