Product Operations vs. Product Operations

Hugo Froes
4 min readMay 31


There’s no doubt looking at the google trends below that there is a growing interest in Product Operations. (Data from the last 5 years.

In terms of Product Operations related roles, there are thousand of roles. A quick search on Linked shows 73 873 Product Operations related roles in the US alone.

Similar to many other product roles that have gained traction, it seems like the shiny “new” thing and many communities and work groups are trying to define it. There are varying opinions and arguments.

That is NOT what we’re going to talk about today.

I actually want to talk about Product Operations as the working model for a product Organisation rather than the role of a specialist in Product Operations.

I wanted to step away from all the semantics and confusion around the role to focus a bit on the machine that is a product organisation.

Going back to basics

When we talk about product development, the focus is the process to develop the product and the product in itself.

When we talk about product operations, we do a deep dive on the side of HOW we build the product and all the connected “systems” that keep that side of the product working.

And in many cases, the basics are clear and there is some kind of product development process, which is to say, there is a way to take an idea/opportunity and work towards putting it live.

When we’re talking about a small team or startup, that whole process is usually simple and easily adjustable when needed, with very few moving parts or external influences.

However, as products grow and scale, many more factors are added to the mix.

The operations of the product organisation now have processes and systems to handle people and their development, controlling finances, customer interactions and so much more.

Even if we focus purely on the group working on the product and leave the rest to other teams, it means we still have to handle stakeholders, prioritisation, investors, budget.

At this stage, even something like experimentation that seemed so simple at first, now becomes much more complex because there are various underlying systems, dependencies or parallel experiments to contend with.

The maturity of the product organisation is very strongly dependent on how you handle these operational challenges. How you maintain speed and agility, while scaling the team to huge sizes. How you make your decisions based on the right information. How you hire the right people, efficiently and effective.

It’s harder than it looks

What folks forget to mention is how hard achieving optimal product operations is.

There are a dozens if not hundreds of books giving advice on how to achieve the excellence. There is no shortage of frameworks or principals and a new one pops up every day.

But what they don’t tell you and what everyone avoids telling you is that they are all potential solutions and potential directions you can take the operations of your product.

The hard part is figuring out which option is best for your organisation, culture and team structure. What’s even harder is understanding where you have to make changes to achieve better results than blind implementation will achieve.

The truth is that it takes experience and the willingness to make mistakes and learn from them, to actually do a good job. Many assume because they know the theory that they are fully equipped for the challenge.

Don’t despair

I want to be clear. It’s not an easy task and many product leaders won’t be up to the task, but it’s not all bleak.

I’ve found that the product leaders who managed to achieve the best results are those that have strong convictions but are receptive to learning new perspectives.

People who are able to make the hard decisions when needed, but also empower their teams to make decisions and do their work.

A good product leader also builds the right team around them. A group that is diverse, with complimentary profiles, but also challenging profiles, but incentives healthy discussions and constructive feedback.

And probably the most important trait, being humble to admit when things aren’t going well or asking for help when they aren’t sure how to approach the challenge.

Of course, I’m going to squeeze in that you have professionals who’s sole focus is this operational part of the product and can having them on your team can actually help. Especially in bigger organisations where product leaders already have so much on their plate. But that’s all I’ll say in this edition about that 😉.


  • The role of product operations exists and is creating its own debate.
  • Product operations is more than just a role. It’s an integral part of the organisation.
  • Product operations is about the functioning of the product organisation and how they approach building the product.
  • Product operations is complex and can grow to have moving parts
  • It’s not easy and not all are equipped to get it right.
  • A good leader however builds better product operations in collaboration with their team.
  • Because of its complexity, especially in big orgs, there is often a reason to have dedicated people looking at this area of the organisation.

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Hugo Froes

// Leading Product Operations at OLX Motors EU // Helping to make better products — Co-founder of @uxdiscuss with @whitingx