Product Operations with Anabela Cesário
What is Product Operations practice and how it can help you solve your product problems?
Today I have the pleasure to talk to Anabela Cesario, a Product Ops Leader and a Chief of Staff to the Chief Product Officer in Outsystems.
Anabela bootstrapped the Product Operations in Outsystems, creating the practice from zero. And today we will talk all about Product Operations, what it is, what they do and what’s the difference between Product Operations and Product Management or Engineering Operations.
Chief of Staff
Before we go into the topic of Product Operations I would like to understand what is the role of a Chief of Staff to the CPO. As it sounds intriguing.
The Chief of Staff is the right hand of the executive they work for. And the responsibilities of this person come from the key responsibilities of the executive, in Anabela’s case the Chief Product Officer.
Her goal in the role is to extend and maximize the efficiency of the Product Management team. And it boils down to three main focuses.
The first one is assisting in product strategy definition, deployment, and monitoring. Anything that helps to align the product strategy with the overall company strategy.
The second one is to help create a sustainable and healthy team management system. Everything around team organization, team motivation, training, and people development. And also how we collaborate with other areas like Engineering, Product Marketing, etc.
The third one is the overall ability to execute and monitor progress on the team’s main initiatives.
It is a very interesting role, and you can learn a lot from it. Especially as you are exposed to all the company business and the C-level important decisions.
Product Operations as a natural transition
The need for Product Operations came from the company‘s hyper-growth stage. They needed to double the size of the company and needed an enablement area to support that growth.
Anabela didn’t know how that works so she took it as a challenge. As an ex-Product Manager, she decided to treat product Ops as a product. Therefore, she started a discovery phase to understand what were the main problems the company was facing.
In one month Anabela and her team spoke with sixty stakeholders and raised seventy-six main concerns.
The foundations for product excellence
The goal of Product Ops is to lay the foundation for product excellence. It means standardizing the processes, the tools, and the communication.
Product Managers are the customers of the Product Operations team. They work to serve PMs and the stakeholders are all the other company areas like Engineering, Architects, Customer Success, etc.
How big must the company be to develop this practice?
I ask Anabela, how big must the company be to develop this practice. She responds that it is a justified investment in big product-led companies and especially for companies in a hyper-growth stage.
If you have a small company and a limited number of positions you can hire, you might want to dedicate a part of a PM role to this practice and start thinking about small improvements. It is important to have someone dedicated to this role from day one. Looking at the data, and listening to colleagues’ struggles. Building what we call a foundation for product excellence.
Product Ops and Agile Coaching
How do Product Ops make sure they collaborate with Agile Coaching as opposed to stepping over each other’s toes and perhaps duplicating the initiatives?
Part of what Prod Ops do is overlapping with Agile Coaching, finding the problems and looking for solutions to them. Unlike Agile Coaches, the Product Ops have the tools and the team to support the implementation of the solution.
Becoming a change agent
How do you introduce the changes when you want to propose a solution to a given problem? Anabela says she does two factors here.
- The first one is that Anabela and her team interview people on a recurrent basis — twice a year. Therefore if a change needs to be made to a process, usually it comes from that prioritized list created from the interviews. This way people understand the need for change and they see it as a solution to one of their problems. So this first step is to make the change for something that people care about and is important to them.
- The second one is the way you conduct the change management process. In the case of introducing a new tool for Product Management like for example the Product Board, you need to justify its choice. In this case, they listed the main use cases for selecting this tool. Based on those they selected a tool and created a Proof of Concept. For that, they worked with a PM champion who helped design a simple process.
The process goes:
- Understand the need
- Deploy the solution
- Work with the champion
- Start the roll-out
- Get the adoption
- Make continuous improvements
The important thing in the adoption phase is to keep the process simple and keep improving it according to the feedback received from the customers. In this case, the PMs.
We also talk a lot about the way you can prioritize initiatives on a high company level. How it is done, what tools they use in OutSystems, and who takes part in the company-level prioritization process. For more information about this watch our video or listen to the podcast: