Product managers wear many hats. They collaborate with designers, developers, and a variety of stakeholders in their organization. They design prototypes and survey users to inform their roadmaps. And they analyze key performance metrics to make better product decisions.
Fortunately, there are a wealth of product management tools that make this work easier, and, in some cases, enable product managers to things that were virtually impossible before. There are so many tools on the market, that’s it’s almost become overwhelming to find the best tool for a given need.
Drawing from the results of our 2018 Product Management Insights survey, and interviews with several founders and executives of companies that serve product managers, here seven of the best product management tools, and how you can utilize them to build better products.
1. Alpha: On-demand user insights platform
Alpha’s platform enables management teams to make data-driven decisions about products, users, and new markets. On-demand prototyping, audience sourcing, and experimentation in one integrated platform enable you to turn hypotheses into answers within days.
Alpha is incredibly powerful, but also very easy to use. Start by submitting nothing more than plain English questions. You’ll then get reliable feedback from your target users within days. Based on what you learn, you can optimize and refine your concepts with follow-up tests and prototypes.
Here’s how Kimberly Tzeng from Northwestern Mutual uses Alpha:
We’ve been using Alpha, which is a great platform for research that gives us insights within a few days. For example, we were doing a lot of discovery research to figure out what types of consumers come through these websites currently and what types of user journeys they would want, and what types of resources they would want to see on the websites. So doing that has actually helped us inform a lot. Throughout every part of the product management cycle – everywhere from discovery to putting prototypes in front of people – we can actually get insights very quickly, and that will help us find a lot of information before we actually build the product, which will save us a lot of time, and it will make us feel better about we’re building. And when consumers actually resonate with what we’re building – that’s [ultimately] what we’re trying to achieve.”
2. InVision: Prototyping tool
Prototyping is a great way to get actionable feedback on a product or feature before spending time and money building it. Prototyping tools enable product managers—even those without strong design skills—to easily create high-fidelity prototypes that can be presented to users.
InVision is the prototyping tool that is most used by the respondents of our 2018 Product Management Insights Report. With some brief investigation, it’s easy to understand why.
InVision enabled product managers to quickly turn ideas into powerful screen designs, animate transitions, and add micro-interactions that turn static screens into working prototypes. It also has features that make it easy to collaborate with teammates and gather feedback.
InVision offers a free version and a paid version enterprise that includes some extra features. If you have an product or feature idea, and you want test it with your users, but don’t want to invest in building out the complete functionality before validating that users want it, give InVision a try.
3. Mixpanel: Analytics tool
Mixpanel is a user behavior analytics tool for product, marketing, and data teams. It enables you to understand every user’s journey, learn which features increase KPIs, and test ways to improve them.
When we interviewed Suhail Doshi, CEO of Mixpanel, he described how Mixpanel can give anyone the ability to gain the insights that a data scientist can:
One thing that we try to do at Mixpanel is we try to make it possible for people to do what the equivalent of a data scientist may do internally and make that really easy for everyone. So I kind of see data science as like the new rocket science. As a result of that, I just don’t think that everyone has to be a data scientist to be able to get the same insight. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t valuable things for data scientists to do, but we’re in 2018 now. It should be a lot easier.”
4. Amplitude: Analytics tool
Amplitude is real-time product analytics platform that provides behavioral reporting on how users interact with your product and what brings them back.
Justin Bauer, VP of Product at Amplitude, talked about Amplitude’s target persona’s on episode 142 of This is Product Management:
For us, we have three main personas that we’re focused on from a product strategy perspective. The first we call the novice. That’s the new user who’s new to analytics, highly motivated to learn but doesn’t know how to use analytics to build a better product. We have the advocate, who understands how to use analytics and able to kind of give them superpowers. And then we have the enabler, who is the person who helps make sure that adoption of amplitude is successful.”
Amplitudes website highlights three great use cases for its product:
- Identify critical drop off points in your product paths and optimize funnels.
- Double down on flows and features that make your users come back and stay.
- Go beyond sessions and DAUs to learn what creates value for your customers.
5. Basecamp: Project management and communication tool
Basecamp is a project management and communication tool. Jason Fried, Co-Founder and CEO of Basecamp, shared how Basecamp started out as a way for his agency to work more efficiently:
We were sort of started to drop the ball on things. We didn’t really know exactly what needed to get done, I couldn’t tell who was doing what, we were falling behind, things were sort of getting skipped, and it just didn’t feel right. So we started looking for a tool that would allow us to stay on track, know what everybody’s working on, communicate clearly with one another, plus the client, get feedback on the record, make sure everything was documented well, that sort of thing. We couldn’t find anything that we liked, so we ended up building our own internal tool. Enough people started asking us about it that we decided that we should turn it into a product, and so in February of 2004, we launched Basecamp. This thing, this internal thing we made became what’s known today as Basecamp.”
Basecamp enables product teams to manage projects and keep track of to-dos.
In addition to project management, Basecamp enables product teams to communicate asynchronously. Fried describes the benefits of this approach:
We primarily communicate asynchronously, which means nobody has to be available for anybody else at any time. Instead, people are available when they’re available, and conversations happen sort of in a flow in time. You may not get your answers in one hour, but that’s good. It’s okay. You don’t need your answers in one hour, unless you absolutely, truly do, and there are moments when you absolutely, truly do need real-time answers, but most things do not need to happen in real time. It allows people to not be interrupted during the day, and it allows people to be in control of their own schedule.”
6. Keynote: Presentation tool
In Episode 166, Aryel Cianflone, UX Researcher at LinkedIn, discussed the importance of presenting research findings in an easy to understand manner:
Research is only as good as the way that it’s used. So, if you do the best research but no one uses it, no one understands it, then it’s kind of like the tree falling in the forest. Make sure that you are…making information easily accessible for people…because the reality is that we work in tech and it moves really fast, and sometimes you kind of have to work off of summaries.”
Keynote is widely considered to be the best tool for creating presentations. Google Presentations works great too, and it’s easy to use, but Keynote is a bit more powerful. Product managers can use it for sharing research findings, giving product updates to key stakeholders, and making strategy presentations.
Aryel also shared how she structures her research presentations and what insights she includes:
Typically, you have a background on the study. Here were our research objectives, here’s who we spoke to, here’s how many of each of these segments we spoke to. I like to include a high level summary if you have five minutes and you’re reading through, you can go through that summary. But then what I’ll typically do is have insights broken down. I would have [a] high level insight…followed by a paragraph explaining what we observed, and why and how we came to that insight. Then I would probably have a couple quotes, and a product implication.”
7. Slack: Communication tool
In our 2018 Product Management Insights Report, we found that Slack was the 2nd most used communication tool behind only email. Slack is a messaging app that grown massively in recent years because of how easy it is to use compared to alternative methods of communication.
Going beyond messaging, Slack has features that enable you to integrate your other tools, such as Google Drive, and do audio and video calls with screen sharing.
More product management tools
The seven tools covered in this article can make a major impact on your ability to build a successful product. But there are many more great product management tools out there for you. These include Jira, ProdPad, Roadmunk, Trello, Optimizely, SurveyMonkey, Validately, and more. Consider your needs and preferences, and see which tools are best for you and your team!