Tools for Product Management

As product managers, we interface with a handful or even hundreds of programs, apps and tools to manage our work every day, so we’d like to recommend our Top 5 tools every product manager should have in their arsenal. I’m hopeful this topic will generate interest and discussion and turn into an ongoing series of posts and friendly debates.

The challenge here is that the  “tools” for product management mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. We should all be using common sense to cover the basics; and talk to the market and customers on a frequent basis.

Depending on the size and scale of your product management function, you may have access (and budget) for enterprise-scale systems to better align yourself and your cross-functional teams. For this post, here are our top five tactical tools that will help you do your job better or faster, or both.

1. Microsoft Office
Whether we like it or not, the number one tool is Microsoft Office (or alternative). Equipped with Outlook/Exchange for email, Excel for data, Word for documentation and PowerPoint for presentations, not a day goes by that you don’t interact with some piece of MS Office. At some level, you’re forced to work with Office, whether it’s due to email or word processing.

You try your best to collaborate through email, use Word to build reports, outline new products, and draft traditional deliverables (i.e., PRDs, MRDs and SRDs). For better or worse, you use Excel to organize the chaos—the list of requirements, ideas, enhancement requests, dates and deliverables. And, at some point, you discuss vision, roadmaps and get executives, management, and department heads on board with an exciting PowerPoint presentation.

In other words, MS Office is the nexus of product management; information, work and data converge and map the stages and gates from idea to launch. In a true agile environment, hopefully there is less emphasis on these traditional ways of doing things.

2. Evernote
As its name implies, Evernote is great for taking notes, or snapping a picture of a whiteboard. Its simplicity is what makes it great for product mangers…well, that and its portability with an app for virtually every smartphone and device. Evernote facilitates note taking and collaboration by allowing you to capture a meeting’s worth of work on your phone or tablet, and have it waiting for you back at the office. Making this small, but important piece of the product cycle makes this tool a winner in our books.

There are quite a few other tools in this segment as well. Google Keep is another alternative and can work wonders if you use all things Google.

3. Dropbox

The pioneer in cloud storage, Dropbox is the easiest and simplest way to share all the things you’re creating in MS Office and send them to your team without worrying about email limits. Gone are the server-clogging email days. Dropbox is virtually limitless and quickly stores and shares your largest files. Google Drive is also great if you’ve adopted all things Google, and Microsoft’s OneDrive (formerly Skydrive) for Windows 8 adopters.

4. Internal Wikis

An internal wiki is great because it’s not only an effective path to collaboration, but it’s also essentially free and very simple to use. Of course, you need a server, but there is minimal maintenance. Internal wikis are great for connecting with your team across the globe in different time zones across functions, including development, sales and marketing.

5. Surveymonkey

Surveymonkey is a great because it gets the job done. It’s simple and has some limitations, it’s stable, has enough options to build questions and collect data, and it works. It’s the quickest path to the finished product when it comes to feedback and validation. As a data collection tool, it shines even though there are challenges when it comes to outputs and analytics.

Egress recently worked with a number of companies to survey their customers, which normally takes a lot of time and manpower. However, we were able to survey target audiences quickly with a combination of online surveys and phone interviews.

While online surveys have their sweet spot, nothing can replace talking to and/or visiting your customers. Who have you called today?

These are my top 5 tools for product managers. What do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment.