Product manager is a generalist role. Product managers contribute in various capacities towards the product delivery. Ranging from capturing ideas to managing and developing them into a product strategy and more. They oversee user research, orchestrate complex processes, and workflows, and help the product keep up with its fast-paced market. They are required to have a broader skill set compared to their developer teammates, but these skill sets also need support in the form of various technology-based tools. There are plenty of tools, product management specific or otherwise, that can ease the workload of product managers.
Why Product Management Tools are Required?
As is the case with any other function, product management requires organised & structured approach to handle various facets of the job. Given the generalist nature of this function, naturally the tools needed cover multiple items in the spectrum. Some of these tools might be used by other functions as well, however the extent of usage varies between this other function & the product management. These tools allow product managers to provide information clearly, prioritise product development, make sense of customer feedback & usage patterns and more. These tools for product management also help in stakeholder collaboration with clear accountability at each step of the workflow.
What should Product Management Tools have
Right from setting up, communicating product vision & long term goals to planning & delivering day to day tasks – that is the wide gamut of activities product management toolkit should support. These tools should enable product managers to collaborate with relevant stakeholders, monitor the product development process & gauge the impact the product delivery has on customer aspirations.
20 Best Tools for Product Management
Here, we are listing out 20 product management tools to help product managers become more efficient & effective in discharging their responsibilities. These tools are divided into following categories (note that these are fluid, meaning a tool can belong to one or more categories):
- Project and task management
- Collaboration and productivity
- Design and wireframing
- Customer feedback and surveys
- User experience testing
- Product strategy and roadmapping
Like we said earlier, these tools are not exclusively for product managers. But they do play an important part in their contributions.
Project and task management
From understanding the customer needs to rolling out the final product, there are plenty of tasks for product managers to execute – and this section of tools can take care of many of those.
Any spreadsheet is a good starting point for product managers, as the simple number manipulations and filtering mechanisms facilitate quick overview and analysis. The advantage that google sheets provide over others is its robust collaboration ability and near-instant saving of changes – version histories can also provide a makeshift way of tracking progress. The collaboration limit of 100 can be a dampener for managers looking after multiple products and interacting with several groups. The cost is on the lower side, too, with essential organization and analysis being free for regular users, while monthly plans for businesses and individuals offer additional value.
Field uses ‘Collect, Explore, Present’ to sort out the lives of product managers. The collection part handles information gathering through feedback, stakeholder interaction, and others. Being one of the better tools for product managers, it provides them with a list of questions based on different frameworks and allows them to create a questionnaire. It also allows product managers to explore data through other maps that rate products on various aspects. Once set, product managers can specify narratives for different audiences and use them accordingly.
Confluence helps product managers store documentation so developers can use them to find ideas and solutions. It also allows for prioritizing and provides templates such as product requirements documents (PRD), meeting notes, quick start guides, and more. Its ability to natively integrate into Jira means product managers can use feedback sessions and issues to create Jira tasks, convert text into an actionable item by highlighting it, etc.
Collaboration and productivity
A product manager’s duties involve interacting with different stakeholders. From idea generation to issue identification, these interactions can vary and require varying degrees of collaboration. The tools below unlock barriers to communication and make the process more productive.
For a note-taking tool, Notion packs in a lot of punch. Product managers can use it to take notes in meetings, organize and label them, and search for what they need with just a few taps/clicks. It also offers different types of messages and provides helpful suggestions on organizing and using them. Adding drop-down menu items, tag notes, and people, managing notes/pages into parent/child structure, and creating templates out of existing notes enables product managers to maintain different types of notes and collaborate with other team members. Notion also lets product managers work with checklists, set deadlines, create product wiki for various information, and more.
Slack keeps communication going in the organization and helps coordinate the daily operations of product managers. From private instant messaging, channels, and group chats to audio notes, slack provides a lot of necessities that a good project manager needs. Slack can help you showcase work, demo products, and in other activities like file sharing and workflow automation.
Design and wireframing
These tools are not made with product management activities in mind – yet they provide enough and more ways for product managers to iron out the wrinkles in the process.
Miro is a virtual whiteboard for product managers and lets them work strategically by enabling them to create tables, flowcharts, mind maps, and more. Miro templates cover many product-related activities, like opportunity solution trees, design sprints, retrospective templates, project canvas, etc.
Figma exploded at the beginning of 2020 because of its nifty collaboration abilities and how it opened up prototyping for everyone. Its comment feature and single link shareability make mockup iterations much faster. Figma frees up version control of design files by putting all of them in one place and letting editors lock and release commenting and editing. It simplifies user interaction testing and design presentations to stakeholders and allows product managers to embed live files into tools for product management like Notion, Jira, and Confluence.
Pitch has a simple pitch: it wants to help teams create better presentations. Pitch helps create product release notes, vision, strategic documents, roadmaps, etc. Product managers rein in multiple teams and guide their efforts in one direction. Product managers can create branded slide decks in minutes and collaboratively to boot. It also integrates natively with stock-image platforms and Google suite (Analytics and Sheets).
Customer feedback and surveys
Without customer input, the survival of product is in jeopardy (no input can also be an input, but that is a different matter altogether). These tools help get those valuable words out so that the product team can improve based on customer needs.
With ‘human’ focused interactions, Typeform makes feedback extremely easy for product managers and product users. This form builder focuses on conversation-style surveys where they are shown one question at a time, which leads to high completion rates and, more importantly, thoughtful responses. The template library of Typeform is quite extensive and features a dedicated product category.
10. Google Docs
The @ tag ‘intelligent chips’ feature of google docs helps product managers to link information from other apps like drive, calendar, or video to a Docs file. Apart from people, meetings and checklists can be tagged too. It works well for text-heavy documents and provides a no-frills way to create documents that can be edited in real-time.
Customers’ data is a valuable source of insights and suggestions, but only if the vendor organization has the right analytics processes. These tools ensure the bases are covered, so the data can be used to generate action items for the product team.
The UXCam is one of the user experience analytics tools for product managers that helps them identify where customers are dropping off, uncover user frustrations, and prioritize features and issues. Its app analytics indicate if user experience, feature prioritization, conversion tracking, and other activities are running smoothly and aim to provide an understanding of conversions. It pinpoints reasons, validates A/B tests, and gives product managers control of the narrative.
While not an analytics tool, Embedder makes Confluence documentation easily accessible for customers. More importantly, from analytics point of view – it shows patterns around user searches & identifies most searched terms & their frequencies. This helps product managers fine tune the support documentation/knowledge base and fix UX issues. Product managers can insert widgets and access Confluence content anywhere across the web with the Embedder app. The tool can integrate with any web or mobile app via a widget, be it floating, pop-up or inline.
FullStory captures and analyses both quantitative and qualitative data and helps you improve the product experience for users. Its secure data capture processes, comprehensive product analytics reports, and other functionalities let product managers make improvements as and when necessary. Its open API has resulted in a growing catalog of integrations that connects to additional tools and provides a comprehensive data picture.
User experience testing
User experience decides the success or failure of a software product, and product managers can identify weak points with the help of these tools. They help understand user needs, get their opinion and other related information, and more.
Pendo is a product adoption platform that combines analytics and feedback management. It adopts a data-driven approach that is also user-centric and provides tools for product management like roadmapping. Product teams can utilize the results of surveys and user research to improve overall customer experience by creating custom guides for smoother onboarding or capturing feature requests and prioritizing them.
Split is a product management tool that enables feature flagging and makes it easy to take feedback. It allows more flexibility and agility in testing, simplifies the running of A/B tests, and provides a hassle-free way to retire features that perform below expectations. From calculating the impact of features released based on assigned metrics and goals to simplifying testing by creating experiments for every feature built, it helps product managers rapidly prototype and test their hypotheses.
Screenjar lets product managers create unique links for customers, from which they can record & upload videos of their screens without any installation. With minimal clicks, the customer can share their insights/complains & help product managers see from the customer’s point of view. Screenjar has deeper integrations with popular helpdesk and live chat solutions. It makes the error reporting process frictionless and can be used by even non-tech-savvy customers.
Customer communication should be a key focus area, especially when the customer is new to your product. Helping customers get started should be a seamless process. These tools allow product managers to create (or use existing) touch points in various user journeys – from ensuring friendly language to simplifying the feedback process.
Release notes are an untapped exercise for customer & stakeholder communication. With targeted & valuable content, you can increase engagement with your product. Automated release notes for Jira take away the tedious, manual stuff and bring in efficiency with the power of automation. To trigger the generation of release notes, rules can be set – so that relevant people or groups of people get the information they need in a way they can quickly digest. Be it an email to the higher-ups, a pdf for client review, or an email chain among colleagues – ARN can generate reports based on any rule set. Even webhooks are available for integration with the DevOps tool chain.
Grammarly is not a product manager-specific tool per se – but it does alleviate constant worries of writing the wrong thing in your communication. It integrates with most writing tools and gives suggestions right there – no need to go to another app or a browser window to check if the language is correct. The tips on correctness and writing style are the app’s upgrades, along with the usual grammar and spelling.
Product strategy and roadmapping
Communicating the product direction with stakeholders & gathering their feedback is one of the high stakes activities product managers are involved in. These tools help product managers create visual presentation of product roadmaps & make them a hub for customer & other stakeholder interaction.
Teams that have a need for basic product roadmapping tool, almost always rely on Trello. Because it brings a lot more than colors to a product manager’s screen. With Kanban like presentation, creating a product roadmap & sharing it with the world is a cakewalk for product managers. It also has a thriving community that builds templates, and anybody can use them and adapt them as per their needs.
Roadmap portal allows product managers to create a compelling product roadmap on top of their Jira Service Management. It helps prevent the repetitive & duplicate requests coming in from the customers by building a roadmap out of what already exists in the service project. Roadmaps can be set to be accessed different variations such as public, private, and restricted – all this, while keeping all your data within the Jira service management. Roadmap Portal uses JQL & thus allows for automation of the entire product roadmap activities.
Common features of the Product Management Tools
Irrespective of the tools you choose for your Product management function, they all have some common underlying traits. These include:
- Collaboration – Majority of these tools will have an element of collaboration where it will make sense for the entire team to participate in the product development.
- Planning – In one way or the other, these tools make it easy for product managers to plan the product development execution.
- Communication – This is a logical extension of the Collaboration trait. Product management tools invariably have a communication component to them.
- Data collection – Some of these tools will help product managers with data collection ranging from product usage patterns to software development velocity & more.
- Analysis – Almost all of the product management tools will have an analysis angle wherein they will help you interpret the data in an actionable fashion.
How to pick the best Product Management Tool
Like it or not, there is not a single best Product management tool that exists. Given the wide range of responsibilities, it is inevitable for product managers to use multiple tools to achieve the end goal. However, it is still important to identify the needs first & then go look for tools available in the market. Being clear about what is needed now will likely result in quick & accurate selection of the right tool. As your product management organisation matures, the tools may or may not keep up with your needs. There are various metrics for product managers to measure the success and impact of the product. And thus, the best tool or tools will change based on what you need and when you need it.
Product managers and teams usually utilize what is available for various tasks (spreadsheets, presentation software, note-taking tools), not just because of lack of budget but lack of understanding too. Sometimes the learning curve is deemed too steep even without trying out the tool, and it might not be done consciously either – the existing workload limits what teams and managers can accomplish. By actively adopting tools and processes that fit in their workflow, organizations can support the growth of their product teams and foster a culture of learning and constant improvement.