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How to Become a Product Manager

What Tools Do Product Managers Use?

Ready to start your career in Product? Find out more about BrainStation's Product Management Course

A Product Manager will need to use a number of tools, including:

  • Industry analysis tools
  • Roadmapping and flowcharting software
  • User survey and analysis tools
  • Project management tools
  • Collaboration and team messaging tools

What Are Product Management Tools?

Given the extremely wide range of areas Product Managers participate in or oversee, it shouldn’t surprise you that they’re expected to be familiar with a long list of digital tools. Many of the tools Product Managers rely on are practically ubiquitous in the modern office, while others are more specific to the development process, or even to product management itself, and are intended to aid with specific stages of the product management process.

Let’s take a closer look at some common product management tools.

Industry Analysis Tools

One of the most important ways a Product Manager contributes to a company’s overall business plan is with their insights on which products to create and which features to highlight. To do this, they first need to have a good sense of what’s going on in the industry. This usually begins with industry reports from research firms like Gartner or Sirius Decisions, who collect the kinds of data crucial to building a business plan.

Roadmapping and Flowcharting Tools

The next step in any product’s development is to lay out a clear plan for how the process will unfold. While it’s possible to draft your plan in a spreadsheet or word processor, this creates more problems than it solves. Instead, there are native applications like ProductPlan, designed for building out flexible and easy-to-share roadmaps that include built-in features for version control issues, visualization, and interactivity, helping to better convey the plan to the entire team.

As you move into the process of planning the product itself, flowcharting tools like Microsoft Visio and OmniGraffle enable Product Managers to diagram and rapid-prototype the user journey, identifying all the points of contact between customer and brand along the way. These can be an invaluable tool in the UX design process as they provide both an overview of the entire customer journey and specifics of the individual interactions along the way.

User Analysis and Feedback Tools

We’ve said that the user’s experience of a product is one of the Product Manager’s key focuses. Gaining a clear understanding of the customer, their needs, and their experience using the product involves intensive research at virtually every stage of product management.

Some customer survey tools, like Google Surveys, SurveyMonkey, Pollfish, and Typeform, give test users an easy, web-based forum to submit their input in response to specific questions—which features they use most, for example, or would most like to see added in the future. But while these can often point you in the right direction to start, they’re not sufficient alone, as they’re limited by the questions you ask and by how well customers understand their own habits.

To learn things about your users that they don’t know about themselves—and so can’t report—there are product analysis tools like Pendo, Mixpanel, or Amplitude. These help Product Managers collect data on the user experience by tracking users’ actual behavior on their sites or using their software. Often, data recorded this way can reveal insights about user behavior that even users weren’t aware of. Additional tools such as FullStory and Hotjar allow Product Managers to recreate test users’ actions and even build engagement heat maps to visualize the areas where users are lingering longest.

Sometimes, users do have valuable insights about how they use a product, perhaps even in ways the Developers never intended, and speaking directly with them can be the best way to hear about them. As you move into the later stages of user testing and feedback gathering, virtual conferencing tools like Zoom or GoToMeeting let you not only converse directly with customers or test users to hear their feedback firsthand, but also to record these conversations for later review.

Project Tracking and Management Tools

There are a few different tools available for project tracking and management—Jira, Microsoft Project, Pivotal Tracker, and Trello among them—but they all share an ability to help Product Managers keep track of different tasks and their statuses, share information with team members, and monitor issues for resolution. Essentially, these project management programs help you stick to the roadmap you’ve developed.

Within product development specifically, programs like LaunchDarkly and Split.io give you the option to effectively A/B test new features, activating or deactivating them once code is live, or simply to experiment with new ideas. This is also useful for managing feature launches, or even pulling a launched feature for retooling.

Collaboration Tools

Last but not least are the tools Product Managers rely on to help run a (potentially large) team of people, often spread across multiple departments, and even working in different locations. For team messaging, platforms like Slack and Confluence can be indispensable, while collaborative files frequently live in places like Evernote, Google Drive, and Dropbox. And of course no team leadership would be complete without the occasional presentation; don’t be surprised if, as Product Manager, you’re called on to use PowerPoint or Keynote to deliver ideas to team members or other stakeholders.

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