Marty Cagan “Straight Talk on Product Ops”

Posted: Jan 23, 2022 in Guides, Product Management
Tags: , ,

Marty Cagan, Partner at Silicon Valley Group gave a “Straight Talk on Product Ops” at the Lean Product Meetup in January followed by a fireside chat and Q&A.

Over 303 other product folk attended the live session wanting to hear from Marty about product ops.

Notes from the session:

  • So many companies define Product Ops differently
  • Some of the most toxic ones are taking off in some companies, important to raise the impacts so then it’s a conscious decision
  • “Product Ops operates differently at every company” – Product School, this statement is not that helpful, it’s different in every company, but some companies have similarities
  • We can’t even agree to decide what the common role of Product Manager is in the industry, so not surprised we’re in this situation with Product Ops
  • Like Dev Ops, Design Ops, people have thought cool we’re going to provide product managers with real tools to help Product get products into production quicker

More than 50 companies got in touch with their definition of how they use product ops:

  1. The Reincarnated PMO Model – product ops facilitate planning activities, they gatekeep all of the product requests – most damaging, not all that common
  2. The Two-in-a-Box PM Model – handles the day to day tasks involved with development – it’s like getting product executives to do the day to day tasks – 2nd most serious problem, splitting the product manager role from connecting customers, other areas of the business and engineers, last thing you want to do is cut that person in half, innovation goes right down, slicing the job in half is disempowered, more damaging than helpful
  3. The Delegated Product Leader Model – Product Ops ensures our PM’s learn the necessary skills and techniques needed to connect the dots between the activities of the various product teams – like a personal coach to the product managers, this is something the VP of product (head of product) should do 1:1 coaching from an experienced product leader
  4. The Production Operations Rebranding Model – Product Ops job starts when the product /feature launches making sure that things run smoothly, they’re helping more around customer service, more like customer success ops, not really focused on product, this definition isn’t a problem
  5. The Product Marketing Manager Rebranding Model – Product Ops covers two main activities: synthesizing ongoing customer feedback from sales, services and support (GTM strategy incl. beta and early release programs). This is due to politics if product marketing doesn’t have headcount but needs all this done. This method is a good thing and feels it is a good modern definition of Product Ops.
  6. The Force Multiplier Model – best one, really empowering product teams with Qual & Quant insights, product tools eg. roadmaping and best practices, would be better moved to this new Product ops team than buried in UX team – the problem is that companies are staffing this role definition with junior people, should be more like principle product manager level. So the structure should be:

CPO:

  • Product Management
  • Product Design
  • Product Ops – to empower product teams with Qual & Quant insights, tools and best practices

Nothing new in Product Ops from the different definitions, whilst The Force Multiplier Model isn’t new it’s well packaged and it came from Melissa from Escape the Build Trap. Solves the issue where UX have insights that no one does anything about. Puts the qual/quant insights squarely in product across all product managers – a more visible place where it has real value.

The two dangerous forces behind so many weak organizations:

  1. Scaling via Process rather than Leaders through people – SAFe is a good example of this
  2. Splitting the Product Manager Job – see 2nd definition above as an example, the product manager should focus on value and viability for the customer and not get involved in QA, design etc, there are people to handle this and the business should resource appropriately

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