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Optimizing Product Operations through Cross-Functional Alignment and Efficiency

As a Product Operations leader, your key responsibility is to streamline operations and foster cross-functional collaboration. This can be challenging in larger organizations where aligning teams with different objectives is a struggle. However, adopting a customer-centric approach helps overcome these challenges by aligning your business strategy with stakeholder needs. In this blog post, we’ll explore how a customer-centric approach drives streamlined operations and successful cross-functional collaboration.

When leading highly cross-functional projects, it’s important to be aware of the size and complexity of the organization and the product(s) involved, as well as the specific challenges faced by the organization. For example, I once faced a challenge leading a highly cross-functional project across senior leadership, legal, and HR to quickly generate and evaluate design options for a future state of a long-running program. 


This program had a lot of visibility to stakeholders internally and externally, and there was sensitivity around potential reputational and legal risks if not managed effectively. To address this challenge, I conducted a comprehensive analysis of the existing program using sprint and prioritization frameworks, which gave me an extensive knowledge of cross-functional team dynamics across HR, legal, finance, and engineering. From there, I was able to propose a strategy that aligned with our overall business objectives and influenced leadership alignment, accelerating progress towards a solution.


Once a decision was made, the next step was to showcase the vision to relevant stakeholders to gain buy-in and alignment. This requires leveraging the resources available to you, such as budget, staffing, and tools. As a Product Operations leader, it’s important to bring teams together by working closely with cross-functional teams. This includes designing incentive structures with clear value exchanges to ensure alignment on the strategy, and defining measurable goals based on desired business outcomes.


The last stage is implementation, which can be challenging without the right resources and tools. As a Product Operations leader, your role is to enable teams to execute across the desired business goals. This could include developing policies and procedures to help lead teams through business transformation or creating a communication strategy to manage the narrative and bring internal and external stakeholders along. Ultimately, the goal is to strike the right balance between providing value to your stakeholders while achieving your business objectives. In the case of this example, through aligning on the desired business goals, the team was able to achieve 30% improvement in efficiency while also mitigating reputational, legal and business risks.


In conclusion, cross-functional collaboration is crucial for any Product Operations leader, and a customer-centric approach is key to achieving successful collaboration. By understanding stakeholder needs and preferences, proposing a strategy that aligns with business objectives, showcasing the vision to stakeholders, and enabling teams to execute, you can streamline product operations and achieve desired business outcomes.

We Need A Portfolio Program Manager Not Just Scrum Masters

A dedicated scrum master is essential for new Agile teams. They are the glue that holds everyone together, ensuring that members adhere to best practices and agreed processes. Much like glue, it will take some time to set. Once everyone understands the makings of a good scrum – from planning to tracking – they are on their way to becoming a well-oiled, self-organizing team.

At this point, the scrum master will no longer require a full-time role because everything works for the most part. So now what? Now, is the time for an up-leveling because

Enabling an Agile engineering team is just the start of an Agile company.

Agile execution via scrum helps build quickly and iteratively. However, it does not automatically enable higher-level alignment of our strategies towards our goals (OKRs). Additionally, it does not enable cross-team cross roadmap collaboration to build synergies or iron out dependencies.

To unlock greater agility, companies need to also practice responsive portfolio program management. Responsive PPM dynamically connects objectives, initiatives, and resources with Agile execution. It also calls for people with the right skills to help move the organization forward.

The Responsive Version of Program and Portfolio Management

Traditional program management focuses on large, cross-functional, and complex programs with many projects. Moreover, the traditional portfolio management focuses on planning, budgeting, and tracking a suite of programs. Both are mostly practiced in large organizations with complex structures.

In small to mid-sized companies, your entire product roadmap is a portfolio.

Many fast-moving companies today may have only a few, if any, large programs. However, they usually have many smaller moving pieces carried out by one or more agile teams. As the agile teams are continuously iterating on product enhancements, there is a missing “glue” to connect them together. This is a recipe for chaos. Promised features go undelivered, support teams are left in the dark, and everyone is sending urgent feature requests filling up the roadmap pipeline.

Solving this takes portfolio management skills.

What Portfolio Program Managers Do

In a nutshell, portfolio program managers ensure the best-desired outcome for an organization over a relevant time period, within the constraints of resources. Scrum master leads scrum cadences while portfolio program managers lead quarterly (or month/ bi-monthly) portfolio roadmap cadence. Their duties can be summed into three key areas:

  1. Quarterly Strategic Planning for Portfolio Allocation
  2. Roadmap Delivery and Trade-Off
  3. Progress Communication

A portfolio program manager works with key stakeholders to create a clear and holistic process for defining priorities responsive to the time-frame. They also lead trade-off discussions between the product areas or teams using portfolio principles to allocate the right resources towards various objectives and initiatives.

Lastly, after deciding the product features and initiatives to undertake, they transition delivery to the agile teams knowing the key-elements of the plan are in place for the team to execute.

Then they track the progress and outcomes, and keep the stakeholders informed.

When changes inevitably happen – for example, when a new high priority feature request comes to the team – portfolio program managers lead roadmap trade-off discussions to minimize the impact on in-flight features while still accommodating new requests in a way that best achieves the company’s desired goals.

In Responsive PPM, We Believe All Factors Are Dynamic

This is precisely where a portfolio program manager comes in to connect the moving pieces in a holistic and dynamic way.

This transition from being a scrum master to a portfolio program manager represents both professional growth for the individual and also a strategically impactful role to every organization.

Responsive PPM

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