WTF is ProdOps, and why should I care?

Dean Peters
4 min readOct 19, 2019


The new buzz word in #prodMgmt is #prodOps. It’s a real thing. I want to share my views before it gets overly commoditized.

ProdOps is short for Product Operations. But what does that actually mean? Is it some re-packaged and monetized mishmash of DevOps + MarTech + RevOps + SalesOps + Pragmatic Marketing? Is it a slick product marketing play to commercialize BLM and CI/CD into yet another framework certification factory?

Well, having a decade and a half in product preceded by a similar amount of time in engineering, I can say with absolute confidence that the answer is “It Depends.

And while I’d like to rant about what I’ve learned from recently obtaining a certificate for a well known Agile framework, I want this blog post to serve as a conversation starter for how we — as a community of practice — want to own the definition of ProdOps before it’s trademarked, copyrighted, and commercialized.

Helpful Examples

When it comes to defining product operations, I think we can look to an older sibling definition in the form of DevOps. JezHumble suggested DevOps as “… a cross-disciplinary community of practice dedicated to the study of building, evolving and operating rapidly-changing resilient systems at scale.”

  • So this tells us our definition needs to be people of product talking about the practice of product.

I also think we have a cousin description in the form of Lean Startup, which is described as… a methodology for developing businesses and products that aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable …

  • From this, our definition needs to incorporate the concept of rapid value delivery.

And sometimes unfairly treated as the ugly stepchild, ‘Design Thinking’ is well paraphrased by Nigel Cross as “… processes such as context analysis, problem finding and framing, ideation and solution generating, creative thinking, sketching and drawing, modeling and prototyping, testing and evaluating.

  • Finally, we need to ensure our definition addresses the need for rapid validation of ideas and hypotheses.

The Definition of ProdOps

5th Iteration 08Dec20

“#ProdOps is the ‘man behind the curtain’ stuff that has to get done to shape products from bets to business model; including experimentation integration into CI/CD, early adopter care’n’feeding, customer onboarding , & ROI reporting.”

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

4th Iteration 20Oct20

Product Operations, a.k.a. ProdOps, is the ‘man behind the curtain’ work that has to get done to shape products from their inception as the bets that eventually fuel the business model. This includes the integration of experimentation platforms into an organization's CI/CD pipeline, care and feeding of early adopter programs, to data-informed decision making on prioritizing the right things of value.

3rd Iteration — 19Dec19

Also TBA — I’m gonna get really cranky with the product community if we haven’t worked together to refine this thing by this time.

2nd Iteration — 19Nov19

TBA — Let’s see where our study and your contributions to this conversation leads us. We’ll likely “clean-up” the language a bit too :)

1st Iteration — 18Oct19

There are other areas of software delivery disciplines we can observe and learn from. However, I think I’ve set the table enough to lean out with this experimental conversation starter:

ProdOps is the shit People of Product need to rapidly validate ideas about value delivery so that they’re no longer simply delivering valueless shit more rapidly.

I know, pretty salty, we’ll clean that up later. But first, I’m trying to get a dialog started while there is still time for the product community to define the definition. And do so in much the same way Jez Humble and David Farley guided us in what is now a decade of continuous delivery excellence.

Action Items

What’s next? Personally, I intend to blog much more on this topic over the next few weeks. My next post will most certainly be on the cultural mindset needed to make this magic happen. I also think I’ll reach out to one of our local ProductCamp and ProductTank RTP meetup organizers and volunteer to lead a local brainstorming session on this topic.

For Product Management service providers? Hey, can we get a ProdOps Day rolling here in Raleigh some time in late March when Spring makes this place incredibly beautiful? Yeah, I’m looking at you Pendo, UserVoice, GitLabs, Docker, CloudBees, and Splunk/SignalFX. Y’all have a presence here, so let’s take advantage of it via some sponsorship.

For y’all out there reading this? Comments here or on Twitter on this topic are more than welcome. So get busy, be opinionated, and keep it fun!

Additional Reading

TCB thanks for the image.



Dean Peters

Agile product manager, recovering programmer, servant leader, former pro opera singer, husband & dad. Opinions & ideas expressed here are solely my own.