Structuring for Scale: The Importance of Product Operations
I joined VIOOH at the start of the pandemic last year. This was an odd time to start a new job. Everything was changing out in the world, but also everything was changing at VIOOH. Just like the OOH industry, the company was experiencing accelerated digital change. And this meant we needed to expand and grow – even Covid-19 was not going to slow down our progress.
I was given the opportunity in my role to help the business revolutionise the out of home industry and to help it take advantage of the accelerated digital transformation being experienced worldwide. But I was faced with a big challenge... How do you grow and evolve a product team in the face of this continual change?
Generally speaking, how quickly the team needs to change is aligned to the product and marketplace evolution. Combined with Covid-19 and working from home, this has made adapting teams to align with technological growth even more challenging than ever. We had to transform the identity of our team and get used to new ways of working, and deliver this as quickly as possible, while keeping pace with the change, client requirements and business needs.
At the start of last year, the product management team at VIOOH was in its early stages of inception and for the most part, the product function was composed of solutions consultants who would drive through complex product implementations required in the different markets. As VIOOH had been expanding rapidly, this team was over-stretched and the structure was focused on a service-led approach rather than a strategic product-led approach. Now, in 2021, the product department at VIOOH has gone through significant evolution and growth. And I wanted to share some of this journey and my learnings with you, the reader.
My mission was to build on VIOOH’s strategic product vision and to ensure that the expanding product team was aligned and moving in the right direction. This included the strategic product development, but also the key implementations we had to manage with media owner and DSP partners, and the ongoing training and other operational product processes such as change requests and upgrades etc.. We didn’t just need to develop a best-in-class product, we needed to drive its adoption and to scale it.
Working with the VP of Product to grow the teams, I carved out new roles, responsibilities and specialisms. Beginning with bringing in more product managers to oversee the different strategic product areas (primarily programmatic, direct sales, data and optimisation), but also supporting these product managers with a team of specialists across business analysis and product design.
Whilst this covered the product development function, we also needed a number of other vertical specialisms to deliver the next stage of VIOOH’s evolution. We needed product deployment managers - client-facing specialists who were experts in technical project management and solutions engineering. We needed a product training team and product marketers who were able to help guide our partners and clients on the journey. And we needed product strategists to define, validate and drive forward our long-term product vision.
This new structure meant we had all the right people in the right roles but it meant we had grown significantly, and with that growth in personnel comes growth in complexity. There were now a lot of moving parts, a lot of people in new roles, and of course plenty of stakeholders across the business and externally to keep happy.
And it was for this reason that we added the final ingredient to the mix and the concept of product operations was born at VIOOH. This was an entirely new team who were tasked with making sure everything worked as smoothly as possible. The product operations team is the glue or connecting tissue between all the different teams and departments, spanning across the entire business. I grouped the team into the key product areas, mirroring the product management team and tasked them with driving forward the operational processes within the product department and with internal and external stakeholders. I focused them on making sure our methodologies were fit for purpose and things worked as efficiently as possible. Helping to drive knowledge sharing, requirements gathering, communications and putting data and data-centric decision-making at the heart of our product development processes.
In only one year, I’m pleased with how far our product department has come. We now have a large cohesive team with experts across many different disciplines: product management, product design, product operations, product training, product marketing, product strategy and product deployment.
In the face of huge external and global challenges, we have brought together some of the best experts in the industry to create a highly effective and efficient product function. As a collective, we’re able to make the ship go faster and deliver quickly for clients – and have already achieved several key milestones this year. There is always room for improvement and we won’t rest on our laurels – but we’ve made a great start and I’m very optimistic about the future of DOOH and VIOOH’s contribution to it.
We’re looking for even more talented product people – across a range of roles. If you’d like to join my team at VIOOH, please do get in touch.
Jon Block is Chief Product Officer at VIOOH. For more information visit: viooh.com