What is the role of a product operations manager?
A product operations manager supports the teams most closely involved in the daily product development work — product management, engineering, and customer success. Their work empowers this core product team to build more lovable products. This involves streamlining processes, improving cross-functional collaboration, documenting best practices, setting up integrations, and more.
Think of product ops as centering around the "how" — how product teams build. So while a product ops manager does not actually build products, their work helps the product team collaborate, scale, and build better solutions more efficiently. This makes the entire product development process run smoothly.
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In the right type of organization, a dedicated product ops function can bring real value to the business and team. This is especially true for large technology companies with multiple product teams and complex product portfolios.
But not all business benefit from a separate product ops function. At many companies, product managers already do the work of advocating for the product team, thinking deeply about how to improve workflows and team collaboration, streamlining processes, and determining better ways to track overall progress.
That said, if you are interested in focusing on product ops as a career, read on to learn about the key responsibilities, skills you need to succeed, and tips on how to find your first product ops position.
What are the responsibilities of a product operations manager?
At a high level, a product operations manager focuses on increasing efficiency and improving collaboration. This frees product managers (and the broader product team) to focus on building an offering that delivers on the company and product strategy.
The exact responsibilities of a product ops manager vary depending on the type of organization and its product development maturity. But on the whole, a product ops manager concentrates on streamlining internal workflows, processes, and tools throughout each stage of product development — from strategizing and ideating to planning, building, launching, and beyond.
Specifically, this might entail creating templates for documents and meetings, establishing and maintaining an ideas portal to collect feedback, or setting up automated notifications as work progresses. A product ops manager would also be in charge of maintaining (internal) product-related documentation and onboarding new team members. Evaluating the tech stack is another vital responsibility — this ensures that the team has the right tools to collaborate and complete work efficiently.
Learn more about the responsibilities of a product operations manager:
Here are some key areas of focus for product ops managers:
Alignment — make sure the product team communicates and collaborates smoothly with other cross-functional groups
Culture — promote product development best practices and champion a strong product-led culture in the organization
Improvement — establish and iterate upon methods for gathering internal feedback for improving the product development process
Progress — set standards and metrics to track the product team's progress against company and product goals
Velocity — empower the product team to build and deliver the right releases to customers faster
Many product ops managers also facilitate biweekly or monthly product ops meetings with members of the product team. The goal of these sessions is to ensure cross-functional alignment and identify opportunities to improve processes and tools.
What skills do product operations managers need?
In many ways, the skills that great product ops managers have are similar to those of great product managers. Both roles need a deep understanding of the product, cross-functional communication skills, boundless curiosity, and planning and organizing prowess. Fundamentally, both roles require empathy and a passion for solving problems.
But while a product ops manager focuses more on how internal teams collaborate to build a product, a product manager typically focuses on customers and internal teammates. Product ops managers' work is more in the background — they establish and maintain the infrastructure so the product team can achieve their best.
The best product ops managers have a keen eye for improvement and efficiency — constantly looking for ways to streamline internal workflows, standardize processes, and enable the product team to deliver solutions faster. Here are some more skills and traits of successful product ops managers:
Product development tech stack
Product ops best practices
How to find a product operations manager role
The product operations field is rapidly growing in popularity. As more organizations realize the importance of streamlining the product development process, folks who are able to evaluate existing workflows and identify ways to improve are in high demand. According to Glassdoor, product ops managers working remotely are likely to earn anywhere from $80,000 to $129,000 per year.
If you are interested in finding a dedicated product ops manager position, start by narrowing your search by organizational size. Look for large organizations with multiple offerings and product teams — you will likely be able to make the greatest impact at a company that needs this type of operational support to streamline and scale product development.
There is not one linear path for beginning a career in product ops. Some people start as product managers, then decide to focus more on the operational side of building products. Others work as business analysts, program managers, or project managers first. What matters is that you gain a solid understanding of product development before you make the switch to product ops. For example, learn all you can about product team workflows, agile development methodologies, roadmapping, and planning launches. This will give you a broad base of knowledge to pull from in your future role.
No matter what your current position is, you can always volunteer to take on operational and administrative tasks to support your teammates. Identify opportunities to improve processes or automate regular tasks. Make suggestions to help your team and those around you work more efficiently. Even small refinements like templatizing meeting notes or automating notifications can boost productivity over time.
When you are ready to begin your job search, here are some sample interview questions to keep in mind:
What systems and frameworks do you use to maximize efficiency?
Describe your communication style.
How do you build and maintain strong cross-functional relationships?
Tell me about a time you led without authority.
How do you approach documentation for the product team?
What kind of experience do you have with integrations and troubleshooting?
How comfortable are you with managing and analyzing product-related data?
Remember that there is no single "right" way to begin working in product ops. But with the right knowledge, skills, and a mindset centered around improvement and efficiency, you can set yourself up for a fulfilling and successful career.
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