It’s no secret that product managers wear a lot of hats. They must simultaneously work as strategists, liaisons, analysts, and salespeople…and that’s all before lunch (working lunch, that is). The litany of tasks on a PM’s plate can seem overwhelming at a glance, but the market has responded to these challenges with a number of specialized solutions that many PMs now consider indispensable in their day-to-day.
Matching these solutions to the assorted challenges product managers face can be a little tricky, so we’ve done some digging to compile a handy list of product management tools. To keep it simple, we’ve organized our list along a set of broad objectives that product managers must inevitably negotiate: Analysis, User Research, Roadmapping, Project Management, Design & Development, Behavioral Analytics, and Strategy.
Data Analysis Tools for Product Management
Products can’t move forward without proper data visualization and analysis. Many PMs rely on Excel and Google Sheets due to their wide availability and ease of use. Lots of companies invest in Microsoft Office as a primary toolkit, and rely on Google for their email infrastructure (and therefore receive their Google Drive tools as additional goodies). However, data-heavy organizations might want a more robust, scalable solution like Tableau or Microsoft PowerBI.
User Research Tools for Product Managers
User research can be a mix of analyzing customer data, direct interactions with customers (including face-to-face meetings), and soliciting data from users en masse. Many companies refer to customer data in Salesforce, and swear by its use as a repository for customer traits… but that’s only one part of the story. Survey tools like SurveyMonkey can help PMs gather more qualitative information from their users, while tools like Intercom can facilitate one-to-one chat interactions for additional context. When it comes to studying user-experience and their interactions with your product, UserTesting comes highly recommended due to its robust set of usability-testing functions.
Product Roadmap Visualization Tools for Product Managers
A clear visualization of your product roadmap is crucial to getting the job done right (and on-time). Different product roadmap visualization products have varying approaches to this aspect of product management, so it helps to find the right product that gels with your approach. Aha! is popular with PMs who want a timeline-based interface (which is helpful when managing multiple priorities). Meanwhile, ProdPad focuses its approach around a drag-and-drop system that is organized by priority roadmap items. If budget is an issue, many product teams can get away with using Google Docs to build and manage their visual roadmaps, but if you have the extra cash it may be worth exploring a few of the more specialized products out there.
Project Management Tools for Product Managers
Now we get into the nitty gritty: Project Management. This is one of the first go-to’s for product managers who need to invest in more software. Why? Most PM’s have so much on their plate to keep track of, and can’t afford to let any task slip through the cracks. Asana is a popular option for both enterprise and SMB companies. Because of this, many growing, cross-departmental teams that choose Asana will often stay with it as their business grows. Jira’s project management capabilities are also popular with more developer-centric teams.
Design & Development Tools for Product Managers
Because product management is all about building products, it makes sense for a PM to have a visual mock-up of what exactly they are trying to create. While good ’ole pen-and-paper may suffice for more design-oriented, creative types, many companies have opted for wireframing software to build cleaner software faster. Two clear leaders in the space are Invision and Proto.io. Both platforms are designer-friendly solutions that power iterative interface wireframes, and both have some big names on their customer lists. In Invision’s corner, we have Salesforce, Uber, and Netflix to name a few, while companies like Disney, BBC, and Amazon.com rally behind Proto.io. And one more fun fact: Evernote uses both for its wireframes.
Behavioral Analytics Tools for Product Managers
Hooray! You’ve finally launched your product! After all of the painstaking research, design, re-design, and re-re-design, it’s time to sit back and let your great product solve the market’s problems, right?
WRONG – The real work has just begun, and you need to start tracking *everything.* Every click, every swipe, and every sneeze from the user needs to be logged, and you need to have confidence in your ability to analyze that data. Product Managers love Pendo for its ability to identify what features users are leveraging and how much time they spend using those features. For A/B testing, Optimizely is a popular option that enables product managers to float product and UX trial balloons to segments of their user bases. Meanwhile, Mixpanel has both A/B testing and user behaviour tracking capabilities, but keep in mind that each tool may appeal differently to PMs. Knowledge is power, and it pays to shop around.
Strategic Tools for Product Managers
Now for the shameless self-promotion… we know it sounds hokey, but we really do believe in UserVoice! After all, it’s impossible to develop great products without knowing what to build next and why. UserVoice takes the guesswork out of managing product feedback, and gives you data to strategically determine what features will become priority for your roadmap. Product Managers love us because UserVoice simultaneously captures and analyzes data from internal and external stakeholders, and allows you to justify the next move for your product. With UserVoice, manually managing your feedback loop is a thing of the past. Want to learn more?
While it’s clear that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all tool for every product management objective under the sun, PMs can take some solace in the fact that increasingly sophisticated product management software can take a large portion of work out of the equation. The good news is that the products listed here are not the end-all be-all solutions for each product management objective. After all, you (yes, I’m talking to you) may have the next groundbreaking product idea to help your fellow PMs.