Product All-Star: 5 questions with Evan Hollohan
June 21, 2024

Product All-Star: 5 questions with Evan Hollohan

by Aha!

Building products is an adventure. That is what makes it the best job in the world. But this role is not for everyone — true product success requires decisive action, continuous effort, and the relentless pursuit of value.

We have the honor of being connected to companies and product experts who go boldly and bravely. And we are asking folks to share their knowledge with you in the hopes it will inspire you in your own product career.

Evan Hollohan is the director of product operations at Kantar, the world's leading marketing data and analytics company. Located in Calgary, Canada, Evan divides his work across a few pillars: strengthening the product team’s understanding of its users, aligning teams around common goals, operationalizing systems and tools, and empowering product builders with data to help deliver user and business value.

When he is not working, you can find Evan outside. Whether he is skiing, cycling, or simply enjoying the view, his heart is in the mountains.

How did you get involved in product operations?

"I started as an implementation consultant at a scale-up technology company that specialized in payroll and HR systems, and I quickly transitioned to the client success team. As a new team member, I helped shift the model to prioritize customer advocacy and retention. We wanted to treat our customers like the hero in the story. This work helped me realize how much I enjoy problem-solving and customer collaboration.

Then, I shifted to a role in strategy and operations where part of my job involved collaboration and bringing our teams closer together. Through this, I discovered a passion for working with product management and technology teams, and it ultimately led me down a product operations path.

In my first product operations role, I was on a mission to help our teams work more effectively together to bring great products to our customers even faster. I stepped into an interim product manager role and learned firsthand how challenging the job can be. To this day, I have deep empathy and understanding for product teams, and that's why I really enjoy helping them resolve roadblocks and make their work easier.

This landed me in my current role at Kantar as the director of product operations. I get the privilege of working with — and learning from — a team of highly skilled product builders.”

What traits are most important in product operations?

"Three things come to mind for me. The first is thinking broadly about who your customers are. Although your focus is on product management, your influence extends beyond the product and technology teams. Product operations helps form an image of who the product team is to the rest of the business. We often facilitate work between product managers and other cross-functional teams — breaking down communication barriers and establishing a standardized way of working.

"Product teams are our customers. But we also need to consider all the cross-functional teams they collaborate with, making those internal teams our customers, too."

The second is realizing that although each product team builds different products, they often try to solve similar operational problems. So when we help one team define a process, we look through the lens of creating a scalable and systematic solution. We work to form a best practice, evolve that, and stay open-minded about changing it. Then, our team can have a multiplier effect by supporting several teams at scale.

And finally, when it comes to delivering a message, it's critical to think hard about anchoring that information and making it as user-friendly and accessible as possible. At Kantar, for example, I developed a playbook that explains and standardizes the usage of Aha! software across our insights groups. It contains bite-sized, well-organized documentation that meets every user where they are. Teams are empowered to find answers in a self-serve way. This has reduced frustration and tooling challenges, and it allows teams to focus on what they do best: building products and solving customer problems."

How do you rally the team around a new process or a shared framework?

"Product operations is not transactional. It has to be a partnership."

"When I moved into my first product operations role earlier in my career, I had an established reputation and pre-built relationships. That wasn't the case at Kantar. I needed help understanding the business, teams, and ways of working.

I did a lot of listening at first. I spent time understanding where the pain points were across teams and looked for ways to build trust and really help them. I provided space for people to speak and, in turn, shared product knowledge — working to keep everyone informed and confident in their contributions.

"Treating internal teams as customers means ensuring they have a place to share their feedback and stay informed throughout the product development lifecycle."

As much as you might want to, you cannot just jump in and start laying down operational tracks. Build relationships, establish trust, and give teams space to share feedback. That is how you make a solid start toward getting buy-in on using a shared set of best practices."

How do you approach complex challenges?

"There will always be challenges in product operations — especially when coming into a new organization or team. There is typically a pre-set list of challenges or issues teams deal with, and they turn to you for answers. It can be a daunting feeling.

We distill challenges into more manageable parts and instead frame them as opportunities. We also use our actual product development process in our work. Meaning, we first focus on understanding the problem. We then capture ideas around a potential solution, collaborate with stakeholders to make sure what we decide to build meets their needs, and then continue iterating on the end solution to make it even better over time.

"When dealing with a complex challenge, remember to celebrate the progress."

In product operations, it's not about big releases, but rather agile change management. So when we have a win as a team (such as reducing cycle time, eliminating a redundant system, or making a process more efficient for everyone), we celebrate that."

What excites you most about the role?

"I'm fortunate to work in a global role with a brilliant team that solves really challenging issues. As a business, Kantar is an indispensable partner to some of the biggest brands out there, so seeing the ripple effect our work has across the organization and with our customers is exciting.

Our work is now directly aligned with our product strategy. It's truly inspiring to reflect at the end of the year and realize that we've not only helped set the priorities as a team, but also accomplished them."

Read more of the Product All-Star series.

Know an inspiring product builder? Nominate them to be featured in an upcoming post. They simply need to be doing quality work and using Aha! software.



Aha! is the world's #1 product development software. We help more than 1 million product builders bring their strategy to life. Our suite of tools includes Aha! Roadmaps, Aha! Ideas, Aha! Whiteboards, Aha! Knowledge, and Aha! Develop.

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