The Blurry Role of Product Operations

The Blurry Role of Product Operations

In the product operations utopia, there exists a clear definition of the role that everybody agrees on. The dream definition is so clear that conveys the true responsibilities of a product ops professional in mere seconds.

But in reality, after you get mystified by several abstract conceptual definitions, you have no way other than reading a diversified list of jobs. These jobs range from working on content strategy and customer education to managing and optimizing the tools and systems used by the product organization, as well as providing strategic advice to product leaders.

Is such a dream definition truly achievable? And more fundamentally, isn't it something wrong about a role that lacks a consensus on its very definition?

The answer, quite simply, is no! I believe the role may need to exist in some companies, but I also believe it is highly unlikely that a universally agreed-upon definition will ever materialize. Here's why:

Product operations, often viewed as a novel role, has historically been fulfilled by product leaders within their respective organizations. However, as organizations grow, taking care of these responsibilities can take away from time that could be spent on strategic work.

Therefore, produps can be seen as a means to alleviate some of the product leaders' responsibilities. Yet, this very reality explains the ambiguity and complexity surrounding product operations. The role of product ops is inherently ambiguous, as it stems from product management, which revolves around managing ambiguity and complexity.

A product manager must consider any obstacles or risks that hinder the delivery of value to customers and the business. Similarly, a product operations professional tackles any barriers obstructing efficient product management within a larger organization. While this may appear to define product ops, it also clarifies why the precise scope of product operations' responsibilities is not easily defined.

Additionally, the expectations placed on product operations depend on the organization's stage and stakeholder expectations. This introduces another layer of complexity to what produps individuals actually do within organizations.

In summary, the multifaceted nature of product operations arises from the need to extract certain responsibilities from product managers and adapt them to a larger organizational context. However, the inherent ambiguity, intricacy, and contextual nuances prevent a universal consensus on the definition of product operations.