Product management seldom requests big-ticket items from the management team. Sure, there’s the one-off request for a new addition to the product stack or travel for a product management conference. Eventually, the product management team may realize it needs to level up and add product operations to its organization. But how do you pitch product operations to the executive team?
Lay the Groundwork
Product operations add innumerable benefits to the product team and the overall organization. However, few outside of the team may realize those benefits or know how to pitch product operations to executives. Making a strong case for investing in product operations begins by opening their eyes to what’s missing from the mix.
Data analysis & visibility
Executives love their numbers and charts. Yet, without a dedicated product operations resource, those requests for such reports often fall onto employees with other responsibilities. While product managers rarely respond to such requests with “that’s not my job.” Product managers have every right to explain that the team doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide them.
However, with no one on the payroll who owns these tasks and responsibilities, it inevitably ends up as another task.
Predictability & process
Executives generally don’t like surprises. Yet, in the fast-paced world of product development, they often receive updates and inquiries on an ad hoc basis. Executives often find themselves bombarded with requests, updates, and problems without a gatekeeper.
Without clear processes defined, documented, and enforced, this problem only worsens as the company grows. However, aligning around a product strategy allows the organization to tame this chaotic state. This way, only truly critical issues reach the top.
Executives receive various updates, reports, presentations, and other artifacts. While standardization may exist within a given team, various sources contributing information to management can vary.
This input diversity makes comparisons much more difficult. Moreover, there is an increased chance of misinterpretation or conflicting data and conclusions being presented by different teams. Getting everyone aligned and using the same methods, templates, and language makes it easier for executives to synthesize the information.
Explain the Idea & Define the Concept
If you’re reading this, then most likely, your company doesn’t already have a product operations role. Or your executive team is probably unfamiliar with the term or the function of the position.
Thus you must define product operations for the executive team. The explanation should heavily emphasize the inter-departmental connections and communication they facilitate. Moreover, you can discuss how they make every other team more efficient. This multiplier effect can’t be touched upon enough. You should highlight that product operations’ benefits extend beyond the product management team.
By covering the range and scope of product operations’ responsibilities, management can then start visualizing how this function could overlay on top of the current setup and begin imagining the possibilities. From better tool management and stack optimization to streamlined data analysis generating actionable insights faster than ever, product operations is a force multiplier for the entire product portfolio.
The call to pitch product operations
Don’t forget to dive into the differences between product management and product operations. It’s essential that even though product operations reports to the product management leadership, it’s seen as a distinct discipline requiring staff with a different set of skills. Otherwise, you risk the management team telling you that the idea sounds fine, but you should just reassign an existing product team member to do the job.
This conclusion is problematic on two fronts. First, chances are no one on the product management side of the house is qualified to do the work of product operations, nor do they want to take their career in that direction. Second, by creating a distinct role and reporting structure, the stage is better for scaling up the product operations team over time as its usage increases and the company grows.
Highlight the Advantages
Now that the executive team knows what product operations do, it’s time to connect the dots. Spell out the specific perks product operations bring to the table, focusing on pain points the executive team already knows about.
For example, bringing in product operations staff enables more and faster experiments. This accelerates the product development timeline, leading to more effective utilization of the company’s limited technical resources.
Product operations also improve the customer experience, which any customer-centric organization should value. The entire customer journey gets ongoing attention and enhancements by conducting more user interviews, improving the feedback loop, and turning those inputs into insights.
Tool and software rationalization is another benefit product operations bring. By staying on top of who’s using what, extraneous software licenses and underutilized SaaS seats can be cut, lowering operating expenses.
The specifics will differ from one organization to the next, but illustrating how product operations help the company do more with less is always appealing to the skeptics in the crowd.
Before the executive team huddles up for their decision, you’ll have a chance to make a final case for why the organization needs product operations. This final plea should include a few key points:
- Product operations staff are not “assistants” for product managers—Although product operations report to the product team and provides many services that support product managers, they’re not just following orders and getting coffee. Plus, their impact benefits stakeholders and teams across the company.
- Product operations is the future—While not yet commonplace today, most product-led and customer-led organizations will eventually incorporate product operations into their organizations. Why not stay ahead of the curve instead of playing catch-up in a few years?
- Product operations make executives’ jobs easier—More data, increased velocity, standardized operating procedure, consistent deliverables, and greater transparency and communication benefit everyone from the top on down.
- Product operations create additional career paths and growth opportunities for current and future staff—With record-low unemployment, companies can’t afford to lose top talent. Product operations provides another area for smart, hardworking employees to excel and a pipeline for future leaders in product, project/program management, and beyond.
So, don’t be shy about asking for what your team and company need, even if they don’t realize it yet. Make product operations a priority to streamline the organization and deliver value and growth faster than ever!