Does Product Operations involve Delivery Management?

published on 03 April 2024

As organisations continue to evolve towards product-centric operating models, there is an increasing need for dedicated capabilities to support product teams in operating effectively. Two emerging disciplines that play important complementary roles are Delivery Management and Product Operations (Product Ops).

Delivery Management is focussed on enabling product teams to effectively deliver value to customers through coaching, facilitation, and impediment removal. As described in the book Delivery Management by Jonny Williams, the core purpose is "enablement above anything else. It enables teams to deliver value."

Individuals applying Delivery Management work closely with product teams, acting as servant-leaders to foster a culture of self-organisation and continuous improvement. They help create the right environments and ways of working for teams to iteratively build and deliver products that solve customer problems.

Product Ops takes more of an operational focus in optimising product creation. Their responsibilities typically span tools, data, experimentation management, cross-functional alignment, and advising product leadership. While Delivery Management enables value delivery execution, Product Ops aims to increase efficiencies, break down silos, and leverage product insights across the organisation.

A key distinction is that Delivery Management is team-embedded, working hand-in-hand with the value creators (although they do work with leadership in order to further empower teams). Product Ops takes more of a horizontally-oriented role, establishing processes, systems and good practices that standardise how product teams operate.

When implemented effectively, Delivery Management and Product Ops are highly complementary functions:

• Individuals applying Delivery Management can leverage Product Ops for data/insights to coach teams

• Product Ops can help remove operational impediments identified by teams using Delivery Management

• Jointly they can drive adoption of tools and foster relationships to optimise delivery

While companies don't necessarily need both capabilities, together they create a powerful combination for scaling product delivery. Delivery Management empowers high-performing teams, while Product Ops creates efficiencies through operational rigour.

Many organisations have fostered a Product Ops capability by bringing together Delivery Management practitioners in communities of practice. This can result in outcomes that are broadly similar to the application of Product Operations. However, in other contexts it can be useful for a Product Ops team to consider how they may be able to leverage Delivery Management.

One of the core aspects of Delivery Management is the ability to remove impediments that block teams from delivering value (including their own inability to remove impediments). While teams should feel empowered to do this proactively, Product Ops can leverage their operational standpoint to remove blockers that impact multiple teams. They can identify and help to remove cross-functional impediments, blockers in tool usage, data access issues, and other operational constraints.

Facilitation is another key aspect of Delivery Management that enables better team collaboration and decision-making. Product Ops can apply facilitation techniques when driving multi-team alignment, requirements gathering, roadmap planning, and other activities that require input across distinct teams and stakeholders.

While coaching in Delivery Management is frequently applied within the product team itself, leadership coaching can also be important in order to support broader team effectiveness. Product Ops could adopt this approach in order to coach teams and leaders on how to best utilise operational systems, tools, metrics, and processes related to the product delivery lifecycle. This could include coaching on experimentation practices, use of product analytics tools, or in the presentation of customer success data.

A prominent goal of Delivery Management is fostering continuous improvement within product teams. Product Ops could embrace this mindset as well, consistently evaluating how to enhance operational processes, tools, and data instrumentation to better support product delivery.

While Product Ops and Delivery Management are distinct, there is a natural overlap in the principles and approaches found in both to optimise the end-to-end product lifecycle. Product Ops teams should be encouraged to evaluate which Delivery Management practices might be relevant to apply in their operational context across multiple teams.

As companies become more product-driven, investing in capabilities like these is crucial for building the muscle to deliver outstanding product experiences, solve customer problems, and meet user needs.


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