As Optimizely has grown over the past two years, through acquisition and organically, our product organization has grown 300%. With this growth, we created new groups, added new roles and reorganized to build an infrastructure to support product and services production.
How does all of this get managed? We needed leadership to build the product team to a more “grown-up” organization, keeping to the high standard of product output our customers and partners are used to.
During this evolution, we realized that, to keep progressing, we cannot lose focus on the critical collaboration across departments and functions including product, engineering, product marketing, design and more. This resulted in the formation of my current role, Global VP of Product Operations. As a trusted advisor to our chief product officer, Justin Anovick, my goal is to help the product team operate in the most efficient and effective way through improved communication, collaboration, streamlined processes and programs measured through high quality results.
I’m six months into this challenge and loving it! The qualities and characteristics needed to manage product operations fit well with my experience and personality. What I love most is the ability to identify and drive change that benefits our entire organization, resulting in better solutions for our customers and partners.
Identifying what needs to improve is easy… the change and improvements are the tough part. I started with three areas that needed immediate attention – I call them the three “C’s”:
In order to operate efficiently, you need to have consistency with your meetings, templates, processes, deliverables, and resources. Your team needs to know that certain things are going to happen a certain way at a certain time. This helps everyone keep to deadlines and expectations.
A few key outcomes of this are:
- Revised, repurposed and rescheduled meetings that help us plan and execute product strategy.
- Product Release and Roadmap templates, regular cadence for releases, and clear ownership.
- Regular cadence and repeatable processes across product clouds for all departments.
My goals were to improve teamwork within the product organization; and to connect teams and work streams that otherwise would remain autonomous. Our improved collaboration started with two main interactions: I had one-on-one meetings with each member of the product leadership team to understand their challenges and ideas; I also connected all leads across departments including: product management, product strategy, design, product marketing, and engineering to work together to prioritize ideas and execution. These meetings continue monthly to introduce new concepts, understand challenges and suggestions coming from the teams.
Collaboration was enhanced by implementing a few resources to help teams, including:
- Cross-departmental, cloud (product)-specific team lists – this has been very helpful in understanding who is working on a product or module from ideation through execution, including PM Owners, Documentation managers, engineering leads, etc.
- Collecting feedback and aligning resources through forms. This is a simple process that allows users to quickly submit information and get a quick response, instead of emailing and waiting for answers.
Communication can always be improved and is essential to keeping people informed and engaged. Communication needs to be as transparent as possible and bi-directional. A few areas where we have focused on improvements include:
- Standardizing on a single communication vehicle: Microsoft Teams. We use Teams for all company communication – to find information, collaborate on projects, chat, and more. It is necessary to build the muscle within your organization to consistently use the vehicle you choose to prioritize. If people are not using this consistently or prioritizing communication through this vehicle, it will not have an impact.
- Distributing a company-wide newsletter from the product team, which we’ve titled, “Product Matters.” This monthly newsletter consolidates all the important information that we have shared throughout the month, from each group within the product team, and is distributed to everyone in the company.
- Enhancing and improving our team meetings to drive value through information, education, recognition, and team bonding.
- Providing a one-stop-shop to find all things related to the product team. I rebuilt our Product Portal so that anyone in the organization can easily find information and resources.
Along with these initiatives, I also have the pleasure to work on strategic programs and projects. One of these very important programs that we re-launched in April are our customer advisory boards (CABs). The objective of the CABs is to enable Optimizely to gain strategic, market-based, and user-based feedback and guidance on product from key customers. We introduced four product cloud CABs with very positive feedback from initial meetings.
I am very proud of the work we have done as a cross-departmental team. We have seen how the improvements have driven change and efficiencies – resulting in Optimizely’s ability to get product ideas and enhancements out to customers and partners in a faster and more effective way. However, there is still work to do! Some of the projects I am currently working on include:
- Data-driven reporting to enable decision-making on roadmap resources and initiatives.
- Expansion of operations to the engineering team to use similar best practices and processes.
- Product team hiring and onboarding.
Yes, we are hiring! If you’re interested in joining a first-in-class product organization, check out our job openings here and reach out to me.