ProductOps + DesignOps = The Perfect Scaling Engine

On December 15, 2022, Cubyts hosted the fourth webinar in a series of informative webinars focused on demonstrating the significance of DesignOps. Over the years, Product Operations have matured to the point where it has become the staple driving force behind the product development process.

Webinar with Farid Sabitov

On December 15, 2022, Cubyts hosted the fourth webinar in a series of informative webinars focused on demonstrating the significance of DesignOps.

Over the years, Product Operations have matured to the point where it has become the staple driving force behind the product development process.

More recently, however, there has been an increasing shift in the focus of end users from functionality to form – ie, the design and user experience of a product has become critical factors when the end user makes the purchasing decision.

And thus, the field of design operations was born – focused on maximizing a business’s design resources and enabling design teams to collaborate better and drive the ideation and creation of a new product.

So how exactly does the equation work between ProductOps and DesignOps? That’s what we aimed to decipher in our conversation with Farid Sabitov.

Farid is a DesignOps Consultant with 12+ years of experience working in B2B and B2C industries in both SMBs and Fortune 500 enterprise-size organizations. He has a hands-on experience in finance, e-commerce, legal, healthcare, insurance, and gaming domains, with an ardent passion for ProductOps, building communities, and creating scalable systems.

Here are the key takeaways from this session.

What is ProductOps and how does it fit into product development? How did this role evolve over time? When is the right time to set up ProductOps in an organization?

ProductOps is still in its infancy. As an industry, there has been a lot of hype in the market, with everyone talking about ProductOps.

We’ve seen that DesignOps has already been in the market for the last like five or six years, with a large hype cycle that was addressed with Rosenfeld media. Mant DesignOps influencers, stock leaders, and design practitioners have understood its importance, and we know what to expect from DesignOps to an extent.

ProductOps is still in the very beginning stages of its hype cycle. As for what it is, ProductOps is very similar to DesignOps in that it focuses on the way product managers approach their work. It addresses:

  • How product managers can accelerate their workflow,
  • How to recruit user research participants,
  • How to connect strategy and execution in an efficient manner,
  • How to add tools into existing toolsets that can accelerate the way product developers can work, and
  • How to evolve an organization’s product maturity, to name a few.

If we take a good look, all Ops functions including DesignOps and ProductOps focus on the how

Sometimes, product managers don’t have time to think about the ‘how’. They have a focused strategy and understanding of what they need to build, but how to go about is often deprioritized. ProductOps focuses on that missing element, by highlighting how product managers and product teams can go about achieving the results.

It improves all facets of the product workflow, such as creating a better competitive research system or analysis, or undertaking competitive intelligence, in such a way that it is available for other product teams to leverage the knowledge.

ProductOps is not a necessity for SMBs. They’re more suited for Enterprise level organizations with multiple product teams.

If an organization has two or three product teams, ProductOps is not a necessity because the product director already focuses on the strategy and how they work. There are usually enough resources to cover all the challenges that show up. 

ProductOps becomes a necessity when an organization has more than 7 product managers and product teams, where each one is doing their own task in their own way, be it customer engagement, competitive research, or product roadmapping. 

When we look at large teams at scale, there is a way to connect the dots internally and create a more advanced knowledge management platform, and that’s where ProductOps comes in. 

What does it take to build a strong ProductOps foundation in terms of mindset, roles, and people?

Every discipline, when evolving, thinks about how to create a center of excellence by bringing together all the practices and portfolios that have been shown to work well. 

Also known as competency, these centers are where we think about aspects such as our employee growth, their career path, and whether or not we understand the skill matrix that is required on every step of the maturity ladder, for instance.

There are so many challenges that people face at a large organization. The center of excellence is responsible for the evolution of workflows, training, change management within the organization, whether or not the right people have access to the right tools, and so on. 

ProductOps doesn’t just adhere to product management. It also looks into how effectively product managers work with other teams and disciplines.

Is there a certain skill set that becomes more useful than the rest when moving into ProductOps? What is the evolution of this role in the industry?

Farid is currently working on creating maturity levels for ProductOps and he used that as an example to tackle this question.

For instance, the first level of ProductOps is administrative work. How we could accelerate onboarding? How can we improve team compositions?

At this level, you just need to make sure that the engine works flawlessly, but not much else happens.

When you move to higher levels, you aren’t just an administrator. You are more of a coordinator. You are the person who creates scalable systems for the product development lifecycle.

At this stage, it is important to have a background in product development to enter into the ProductOps space. You need to have an understanding of product management, how to accelerate it and how to perform tasks better. 

If you want to take the Ops role, you need to have a good understanding on an IC level first. You need to be an individual contributor, working with your hands, and feeling the pain and the challenges. 

When you enter the Ops space after that, you become the person who knows how to do things faster and better, and how to increase overall quality within the team. You are essentially the one who changes the way your organization works.

In short, just as you need experience in design to enter DesignOps, you need experience in product development and management to effectively partake in a ProductOps role.

Farid’s understanding of the archetype of a great Ops person goes as follows:

  • They are champions of change.
  • They have an in-depth grasp of how to use their toolsets in the most efficient way.
  • They follow system thinking on how things work.
  • They have experience working with multiple teams and practices.
  • They are always curious to try new approaches and systems.
  • They are thought leaders, having conducted multiple training sessions within their organization.

One of the most important skills that ProductOps or DesignOps or any other Ops role must have is being connected with people. Conduct training sessions, workshops, surveys, or interviews. Speak with people to understand their problems and see what’s working for them.

If the same challenges exist across teams, the Ops role can help scale them by creating playbooks or organizing internal training programs.

What are the similarities between DesignOps and ProductOps?

One of the main similarities between the two is how we interact with customers, how we view the market, and how we communicate internally. Everything related to customer insights management and user research are common aspects that connect DesignOps and ProductOps. 

In the design field, we follow a practice where we need to speak with customers first as part of the design thinking ideology. We need to understand how the market works and what our competitors are doing before anything else. That is the same with ProductOps as well, with this approach overlaying the two disciplines.

How can DesignOps and ProductOps correlate with each other to create great products?

Having worked with multiple teams that undertook DesignOps and ProductOps, Farid noticed that both of these operations are derivatives of the design and product departments. They work as their own departments, with the Ops role being the main point of contact for everyone involved.

Historically, the Ops function has evolved as a practice from the discipline.

The best strategy to employ is to create a round table of all Ops folks because they are focusing on the same thing. This establishes a shared initiative, where multiple ideas and insights can be combined to work together as a whole. 

This collaborative approach of all Ops roles working together is important to evolve the entire organization. And this applies to all Ops functions, be it RevenueOps, SalesOps, or the like. 

To wrap up,

Farid and Shashank went through a lot more than what is included in this article, including aspects such as tools that Farid leverages to conduct ProductOps, how the rise of AI-generated assets affects Ops functions, how standardization fits into how companies execute today and so much more. 

All-in-all, it was a wonderful experience to have a seasoned veteran among us to help us understand the facets of ProductOps and DesignOps, and how to effectively combine the two to create a flawless scaling engine for your organization.

If you’d like to watch the full session, click the link and enjoy the show: ProductOps + DesignOps = The Perfect Scaling Engine.