The Product Operations Product Stack

The role of product operations may be relatively new on the product scene. But one consistent thread is the major role they play in managing the product stack of tools.

Not only are they power users of these enabling technologies, but they typically wield a lot of influence when determining which types of tools—and specific products—appear in and remain part of the product stack. This is one of the key decision points product team leaders often delegate to product operations. In turn, they use their horizontal connections and big-picture, long-range view to determine needs and prioritize purchases and implementations.

Whether these tools maximize labor and resource optimization, accelerate the socialization of key data and insights, or improve communication and alignment, they all fall within the purview of product operations and their mission to facilitate smooth processes and remove roadblocks to growth. While requirements vary, most product operations teams include some variation of the following in their stack.

User Tracking and Analysis Tools

Product operations provide the value-added to having knowledge of how customers interact with a product. Product teams don’t want to make important prioritization decisions based on a few customer support calls.

To understand how customers interact with a product, you need a larger sample size and consistent data collection. This is where tools like Amplitude and Pendo come in. These product analytics tools track what every user does with your products, creating deep, data-driven insights into which features are most popular, workflow patterns, bottlenecks, stumbling blocks, and more.

With this level of instrumentation and visibility, business analysts on the product operations team can unearth valuable nuggets of information that prove invaluable to product teams looking to optimize the user experience. These findings can also inform which areas of the product deserve further investment. For example, the product team may want to add more functionality to the product. They may want to create more training and in-app communication.

The data provides an unimpeachable view of real-world activity. It creates authority and trust for the product team when considering these insights and potential actions with other stakeholders.

Check out our webinar: Do We Even Need Product Ops?


Portfolio Management Tools

When companies have multiple products in their portfolio, decision-making, scheduling, and strategic alignment become exponentially more difficult. With so many priorities jockeying for attention and resources, organizations need structure and process to keep the chaos in check.

Tools like Dragonboat make the life of a product operations manager much easier and, by extension, improve a lot of related processes as well. These tools connect strategy to execution, such as tracking progress against OKRs and linking relevant activities.

They can also simplify stakeholder alignment, tracking each party’s concerns and areas of interest so up-to-date status presentations can be quickly generated and shared. They also include tools for prioritization and scoring, enabling product operations to add even more value to this essential step, as well as offering a central repository for collecting and tracking requests.

Additionally, these tools connect with product development issue tracking software, providing a better, more comprehensive view into how tasks are progressing through the product development cycle or any risks driven by behind-schedule dependencies.

Prototyping Tools

Product operations seldom take the lead in coming up with new product ideas. However, they do share the responsibility for building consensus and generating buy-in for new initiatives from stakeholders. One way to ensure everyone is on the same page is by using prototypes to bring ideas to life.

With a prototyping or wireframe design tool in the product operations arsenal, the team can whip up a mockup of possible product enhancements and new features. Using these visual aids, the team ensures that stakeholders understand what they’re signing off on.

They also come in handy when product development is scoping out projects. These prototypes both remove unnecessary ambiguities and potentially uncover unforeseen consequences or design flaws very early in the process.

Survey Tools

For product teams looking for quantitative data about current customers and/or prospects, surveys represent the best chance to gather a lot of intelligence from a broad swath of subjects. Product operations use these tools to understand the market. They employ them for internal surveys as well to identify any gaps in the services they provide to their colleagues.

Most professional-grade surveying tools offer a variety of question types and formats. They do a lot of the heavy lifting on the analysis side as well. Some may even support cohorting within the tool versus having to export the data and manipulate it elsewhere.

Customer Research

While surveys are great for quantitative data gathering, more qualitative insights require more in-depth research. If you’re holding customer interviews virtually, Zoom or Go-to-Meeting allow you to record the session.

If you’re holding usability sessions or merely observing customers use the product themselves, session replay or heatmapping tools such as FullStory or Hotjar are useful as well. You can also use a research organization and aggregation platform like Dovetail to automate transcription and analysis, create affinity mapping, highlight reels, and more.

Revenue & Accounting Tools

It’s hard to gauge a product’s success without visibility into revenue and corresponding profit margins. That’s why product operations also need access to revenue-related data from the corporate accounting system. Incorporating these tools into the product operations stack makes those connections seamless and automatic. Moreover, it allows analysts to take deeper dives into the numbers.

Product operations may also want access to the CRM and other sales tools. This gives them a sense of the sales pipelines and which types of prospects convert.

Much of this information may also be tied to KPIs such as annual or monthly recurring revenue, lifetime value, and churn. Product operations need that data to generate reports and status updates on business performance related to those goals and objectives.

Data Dashboards

Using all the great tools mentioned above, product operations have no shortage of data. But for teams tasked with monitoring KPIs and other metrics that matter, up-to-date status, and visual reporting are key.

Tools such as Tableau allow product operations to create stunning and compelling dashboards, slicing and dicing the data and presenting it in richly detailed charts and graphs. After some initial heavy lifting to get things set up and connected, product operations can then churn out whatever analysis and corresponding visuals are needed to update the team and help stakeholders make informed decisions.

Roadmapping Tools

Last, but most definitely not least, comes roadmapping. While product operations won’t create too many product roadmaps, there’s ample need for other types of roadmaps.

Product operations might be tasked with creating an overall roadmap for the entire portfolio, for internal tools and projects, or even for a product launch. Regardless of the use case, a visual roadmapping tool like ProductPlan makes building and maintaining an accurate, up-to-date roadmap a snap.

ProductPlan’s integrations with other tools increase roadmap accuracy and reduce how much time must be devoted to maintenance. Stakeholders can always access the latest versions and you can set up automatic updates to keep everyone informed.
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