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Product Direction - Product Operations

Product Operations Overview

What is Product Operations?

Product operations is an emerging function meant to support the scaling of product-led organizations with as little friction as possible. The role and focus of product operations can vary depending on business maturity, customer needs and the product itself. A good product operations function will define, communicate, and improve practices that can be standardized, such as tools, planning, team gatherings, and training. A great product operations function will sit at the intersection of product management, UX/design, and engineering to enable cross-functional teams to consistently, flexibly and creatively deliver outcomes to customers/users via strong feedback loops and process automation. An excellent product operations function will create and implement systems to continually drive partnership between product management and teams across the business, inclusive of marketing, sales and customer success, resulting in accelerated feedback loops, collection/exposure of critical data and improvement of feature adoption.

What is Product Operations at GitLab?

At GitLab, Product Operations strives for the good, the great and the excellent! We are in a unique position to not only define and lead what this newly emerging function can do for software companies, but to apply the strategies and tactics in the context of a highly technical, open core product with an all-remote, global team. This means that our definition of Product Operations won't just be ours. It'll be informed by millions of users, thousands of businesses, and hundreds of cultures, enabling us to build a truly diverse and inclusive product system that drives efficiency and results without the traditional boundaries that restrain most product development methodologies.

Vision: A world class product system, that GitLab and all of GitLab’s customers and users can benefit from.

Mission: Empower GitLab to be truly product-led and customer-centered, by iterating on Agile/Lean best practices with a remote-first mindset, one MR at a time.

Principles

Challenges

Finding the right balance of synchronous versus asynchronous collaboration as an all-remote team. GitLab has a unique culture of combined independence and ownership as a fully remote organization. We've carved the path for successful remote work with our transparent handbook first approach, which has also propelled a highly productive asynchronous team with an everyone can contribute mindset. However, as GitLab has gone from fewer than 350 to over 1200 employees, we've seen some of our asynchronous processes fail serve us at scale.

At scale, leaning too much toward asynchronous results in opportunity gaps to collaborate on optimal outcomes within and across teams, and even operational chaos. Too much synchronous communication creates the overly burdened "red tape" operational inefficiencies that traditional companies suffer from across large teams and various time zones. So as we grow our team and our userbase, we have to continue adjusting the levers to establish the right convergence and divergence points, for product development teams and across the business.

Creating and maintaining a psychologically safe space as we grow our headcount. To date, GitLab has succeeded with a culture that is reasonably flat and values that promote level agnostic collaboration and contributions across the organization regardless of functional role. We've embraced a bias toward action, raising MRs to make micro improvements that can be quickly improved, revised or even removed, minimizing the fear of failure.

As we grow larger teams to support bigger enterprise customers, especially as an all remote team, it becomes more challenging to build human to human relationships within in and across teams to building trust and safety. And because every change we introduce into our system or into our product can have significant positive and negative impacts on thousands of our users, with real revenue ramification for larger customers, functional roles get more defined and the stakes become higher. This opens the door to hierarchy driven systems, competitively motivated behavior and fear based decision making, which don't promote risk-taking, voicing alternative opinions and creativity, which are the types of behavior that lead to innovative breakthroughs.

There is no one formula for this challenge, which all maturing organizations face. We'll have to continually lean into opportunities to build empathy amongst our teams by building frameworks to provide resources that foster positive emotions of curiosity, confidence, and inspiration.

Providing access to actionable product usage data for GitLab product development teams As GitLab's userbase grows, collecting quantitative data to identify patterns and trends while leveraging qualitative data to better understand the reason behind those patterns and trends will be key to delivering meaningful impact to customers. However, GitLab is committed to user data privacy and respects user-requested boundaries on data collection. Alternatives to product usage data, such as user surveys and testing can help fill some of the gaps but are not as scalable or unbiased. And while leveraging product usage data from SaaS users can yield meaningful insights for Self-managed users as well, it's not always an apples to apples comparison. We need to continually work on finding the balance between user privacy and providing the product teams access to the business intelligence they need to deliver meaningful impact to customers. Concurrently, we need to minimize the complexity and manual nature of effort needed by product development teams to access the most meaningful data available to them in the system by prioritizing instrumentation and providing standardized dashboards for teams to leverage and customize.

Opportunities

Remote teams have the ability to to move fast, in both parallel and non-parallel workflows, achieving optimal efficiency.

As an open core product, what we build for ourselves at GitLab, can be productized for our customers and improved upon by our users.

Product Operations Areas of Focus

Operationalizing Outcome Driven Products

Recently completed

GitLab Official Milestone creation/close process

Automate Release Post to include new feature count

Scaling the release post

Pilot: Draft release post blog content blocks in Issues and Epics

Product Development Flow as a Framework

13.5 Focus

Currently working on

Improve and Consolidate Gitlab release notes

Unresolved/Unknown release post item generator errors

Research: Drafting and reviewing release post item content blocks in feature issues rather than MRs

Product Development Flow as a Framework

13.6 Focus, Preview Page

Issue Prioritization Framework

What's next

Product Development Flow as a Framework

13.7 Focus

Automate Release Post Blog to include new feature count

Product Development Timeline: Sweep for alignment with upgraded Product Development Flow

Building Qualitative & Quantitative Feedback Loops

Recently completed

Gitlab PNPS: Q1 2020 Responder Outreach

PNPS Collection & Analysis - Q2 Email Surveys

Post Purchase Survey Pilot

Post Purchase Survey Pilot Analysis Q2

Currently working on

Gitlab PNPS: Q2 2020 Responder Outreach

PNPS Collection & Analysis - Q3 Email Survey - SaaS

Post Purchase Survey Iteration 2

Expose Tech Debt and UX Debt in DevOps stage and group dashboards

Utilization data for our various release pages

What's next

Improve feedback loops between Product and Sales/Support/CS

Collaborate with TAMs to better understand post purchase product success/failure points

Gitlab PNPS: Q3 2020 Responder Outreach

PNPS Collection - Q4 Email Survey - SaaS

Scaling Product Knowledge

Recently completed

Train EMs/PMs on iteration & integrate into onboarding

Product Handbook: Structure content to better support how PMs do their job

Currently working on

How EMs, PMs, PDs and TWs collaborate to create feature documentation to the handbook

Post Product Handbook Content Re-org Refinements

What's next

Product Handbook: Consolidate written content to minimze read times and clarify required knowledge

Product Handbook: Sweep content for opporutnities to visualize

Product Handbook; Optimize with internal/external video references

Review and Update Product manager onboarding

Product Operations Resources

Links to PNPS slides

Links to PPS slides

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