Dec 11, 2017 by Nandhakumar S

Till recently, a question that has been doing the rounds is “Who is a Product Manager?” Is it a role that fits into the organization structure with predetermined role and responsibilities? How technically proficient should a Product Manager be? Does the role lean more towards ‘Development’ or towards ‘Marketing’. Today, we have crossed this bridge with a fair amount of clarity.

1. Product managers generally need to work cross-functionally with development, marketing, and support to lead teams from a product’s conception through launch.

2. A modern day product manager goes beyond tracking the backlog, overseeing the progress of teams, and reviewing product roadmap. The role also involves gathering customer feedback, analyzing data and trends, and creating demos and tutorial content for sales teams and customers.

The complexity of this role has been well recognized by the software developers. Unlike in the past when product managers were dependent on spreadsheets, slides and a generic project management software, today there are a whole gamut of tools available to manage the complete range of tasks. In fact, we are literally spoilt for choice.

The question is how would you define your stack of tools? Beyond the consideration of free tools versus paid one ones and the amount of investment the organization can make in using these tools for productivity, the question is how would you categorize the tasks so that you choose the right tool/s?

Brian de Haaff, Co-founder and CEO of Aha!,
Writing for Huffingtonpost.com, looked at seven ways SaaS solutions allow product teams to be happier and work more efficiently:
(1) Set product strategy,
(2) Establish product goals and map them to initiatives,
(3) Plan for sprints and releases and manage dependencies,
(4) Crowd-source customer and colleague ideas,
(5) Define and prioritize features,
(6) Create and share visual product roadmaps, and Integrate with other tools that teams use.
Using this benefits structure as a guide, you can decide on your stack.

In a listing of tools according to a linear exposition of the various functions of product management, the product management guide by Aha! (a leading roadmap software provider led by Brian de Haaff) provides a useful, comprehensive list of 46 tools. This guide divided the tools into the following areas: (a) Product Roadmapping, (b) Project Management, (c) Product Research, (d) Wireframing/Specs, (e) Analytics, (f) User Experience, (g) Landing Pages, (h) Email Marketing, (i) Design & User Interface, and (j) Stock Photos & Videos.

In a similar, but more simple and neat categorization, by function, marketing professional Leeyen Rogers, recommended 11 Must Have Tools for Product Managers. Her categorization – (i) Project Management, (ii) User Research, (iii) Product Documentation, (iv) Metrics & Analytics, (v) Wireframing & Mockups, and (vi) Roadmap Planning. To her credit, she does not arrive at this categorization from a start to finish view of product lifecycle; and rather brilliantly explains the evolving role of the product manager. Her listing of the tools are limited to 2 or 3 tools per category – offering a highly focused guidance.

Sal Cangeloso from Forbes Product & Tech Group, says – “There has been a huge amount of development in team-focused SaaS products, and as a result there is an endless number of choices with only the slightest changes differentiating one from another.” And through his listing, he hoped he might be able to help the new age product managers either starting afresh or making a new beginning in a new organization. His take was that different tools work in more than one category, and hence it is prudent to focus on goals instead of categories.

His listing is divided into: (A) Project Tracking: Small-To- Medium Team, (B) Project Tracking: Medium-To- Large Team, (C) Workflow Visualization And Roadmaps, (D) To-Do Lists And Documentation, and (E) Wireframes And Mockups. He also makes a mention of the more dedicated product management apps, which he does not recommend.

Yet another exceptionally useful listing with detailed descriptions of features of the tools listed – that is specific to Growth Hackers yet has several tools that would enhance the productivity of a product manager – is Chloe Mason Gray’s blog in Kissmetrics. (Chole specializes in digital marketing strategies for startups.)

Which product management tools work for you in staying ahead of the curve? Have you defined a stack, and on what basis? Would be interesting to know. Let us know here.

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