As anyone with experience in the role will agree, a product manager’s work can be incredibly demanding.
The pressure is high and their responsibilities are far-reaching.
Teams grow, product expectations shift, deadlines change again and again.
Product managers are a vital cog in the product development machine, guiding releases toward success and ensuring everyone on the team knows what they are doing, when and why. And that’s not to mention a PMs role in managing stakeholders, satisfying users and achieving solid ROI.
In short: there are plenty of things to juggle at once.
Even the most passionate, dedicated, organized product manager would be forgiven for wanting a way to share some of the weight.
Thankfully, product management tools have transformed the way we work in the past few years — making it easier to plan, prioritize, delegate and communicate across the product development team.
And now we’re into 2020, there’s a massive selection to choose from.
Sadly, though, companies may still be a little reluctant to invest in product management software. Finances can be tight in organizations on all scales, and it’s easy to adopt an “it ain’t broke” attitude.
If you’ve been able to do your job so far, directors might say, what will $50 a month on a new piece of software really do for us?
Put simply: everything.
The right software can help streamline the entire process, taking you through the complete product lifecycle with a management tool for every core task. Specifically, managers can take advantage of product management software designed to help with:
Communicating and collaborating
Creating slick presentations
Here, tools reduce laborious manual processes, increase visibility, offer in-depth analytics, and give product managers more freedom to focus on the critical aspects of their work.
There’s far less risk in being bogged down by the minutiae of days gone by, miscommunications leading to costly errors, products deviating from their original vision/purpose, and failing to solve users’ pain points.
But let’s be clear: there’s a huge range of product management tools out there. And that makes finding the right solutions for yourself or your team a real challenge.
Let’s take a deep dive into the best product management tools in 2020, covering the top options for organizations of all sizes, catering to all demographics.
We’ve broken this down into managers’ main tasks, and recommended the most efficient product management software for each.
By the time you reach the end of this post, you’ll know:
Which tool is right for each main task
How they benefit product managers
How much the leading tools cost
What other product lifecycle management tools they can be integrated with
Which versions are available (free, subscription, etc.)
Ready? Let’s dive in...
Roadmapping is essential in product management.
Creating a strategy for defining a product’s goal, charting key steps of the development process, and articulating ideas form a critical foundation to build upon.
A roadmapping tool empowers product managers with the features they need to organize, guide development teams, and keep products on-track to align with the company’s strategic goal.
Yet changes can be made along the way as required, enabling plans to be seamlessly adjusted and reprioritized without derailing the development process.
airfocus is a cutting-edge roadmapping tool designed to be user-friendly, courtesy of the drag-and-drop structure. Kanban boarding makes visualizing priorities simple, and the Gantt timeline chart can be used to create an interactive roadmap with multiple timeline-view options (week, month, quarter).
With airfocus, product managers can assign items to team-members and share roadmaps with as many users as necessary. Stakeholders, designers, developers, and marketers can all stay up to date with plans and progress, with capacity for unlimited viewers.
Bank-grade encryption keeps data secure at all times for total peace of mind. Plus there are plenty of templates on offer for easy set-up, such as Feature Roadmap Template, Agile Sprint Roadmap and Prioritization Template, and many more.
And therein lies the beauty of what airfocus has to offer, compared to other roadmapping tools: prioritization.
With airfocus, it’s super easy to instantly visualize your must-do activities.
The platform’s in-built algorithm automatically calculates where your priorities should lie, so you know what to work on next for ultimate value.
A free trial is available lasting 14 days and with no need to submit credit card details. The starting price is fairly low at $29 per month for the Starter version, allowing for unlimited workspaces, access to all prioritization features, Kanban roadmaps, but a limitation on users (just one).
The most popular package is the Team, at $49 per month. This gives product managers the option to integrate airfocus with Trello, Asana, Zapier, and Jira.
Bigger and scaling organizations can opt for the Enterprise package, available at custom prices. Users can expect priority support for a higher rate.
Agile product management tools are part of everyday operations for countless organizations, bringing teams together in one platform to minimize wasted time, unnecessary communication, and confusion.
While there are plenty of options on the market, Trello remains a top choice.
Here, managers can build their own boards for teams of all sizes, using a simple drag-and-drop format.
Tasks are added to cards and slotted into different columns (Ideas, To Do, Completed, etc.), with options to make comments, add images, upload attachments, make checklists, add labels, assign due dates, and add members.
This offers teams full, real-time visibility on projects at every stage, and makes organizing tasks really simple. Notifications are easy to set up, to keep all members of a board informed on the latest developments. Replies can be sent via email, too, so there’s no need to keep opening Trello just to add a short response to a card.
A free version of Trello is available, with no time limits to worry about. This includes unlimited personal boards, unlimited cards, unlimited lists, 10 team boards, automation, and basic two-factor authentication security. It’s definitely enough to get started with, but product managers working on larger projects with bigger teams will need to opt for a higher tier.
Business Class amounts to $9.99 per user per month — so there’s plenty of potential for this to get very expensive over time. That’s why access should probably be limited to those who genuinely need to be connected, though the increase in cost brings a wealth of extra features over the free version.
Priority support, custom backgrounds/stickers, unlimited team boards, team board templates, calendar view, map view, 100+ app integrations, full-team automation, limitless rules, 1,000 command runs per team, advanced admin permissions, and much more all come as standard with the Business Class version of Trello.
Finally, the Enterprise package is $20.83 per user per month based on 100 users, though the price drops significantly for larger teams. For example, signing around 500 users up (unlikely) would cut the price down to $16. The Enterprise version of Trello offers product managers a higher standard of security, unlimited command runs, and public board management.
In most cases, though, the Business Class package should be more than enough to keep product managers organized and connected to different departments, at a much more competitive monthly rate.
Trello can be integrated with more than 100 apps (as mentioned above), including airfocus, across multiple areas: Analytics & Reporting, Automation, Developer Tools, HR & Operations, Product & Design, and more. This maximizes convenience and company-wide productivity, increasing visibility for employees in all departments.
Communication is fundamental for effective product management, but relying on email can be slow and frustrating.
People may not have their inboxes open and/or leave notifications off, so messages can be missed for hours if not days. That creates a real danger of delays, disruptions, and major mistakes.
This is why Slack is such a smart option. This communication tool brings conversations together in one place with full-team visibility, and makes finding information in any discussion easy (no matter how old, thanks to a searchable archive).
Slack helps product managers focus on priority conversations more than email ever can.
Channels help users stay organized, with channels for any project, product, team, or topic. Anyone assigned to a specific channel can stay updated on progress and access the latest data. Everyone is aligned and clear on jobs done.
Channels may be made public or private, depending on the level of discretion required. The simple interface makes switching between channels easy, and direct messages allow for one-to-one communication at the touch of a button.
No more overlong email conversations. No more worrying about messages being forwarded to people they shouldn’t be, either by accident or design. Just tighter control, visibility, and flexibility to manage communication more effectively.
Integrated file sharing means images, PDFs, videos, and most other file types can be added to messages. Product managers can view the latest work and provide real-time feedback through Slack, and keep referring back to messages more conveniently than with email.
Furthermore, video and voice calls are available, with optional screen-sharing to visualize ideas or demonstrate processes.
All in all, Slack is a terrific product management tool that facilitates fast, simple, no-fuss communication across teams on all scales. So, how much will it set you back?
Good news: Slack has a free version, though it is limited.
The free version delivers 10K searchable messages, 10 apps and integrations, one-to-one video calls, and two-factor authentication. But that’s it.
Upgrading to the standard package costs $6.25 per person annually (it’s $7.50 for monthly payments). This buys you an unlimited messaging archive, unlimited apps, group calls and screen sharing, as well as guest accounts and shared channels. It’s a much better deal all round.
Plus is a version of Slack for bigger organizations, and costs $14.10 per person per month. This adds 99.99% guaranteed uptime SLA (a definite bonus), corporate exports on all messages, and more.
Finally, Enterprise Grid is for much bigger organizations, but pricing is custom. This buys unlimited workspaces, data loss prevention, designated customer-success teams, and HIPAA-compliant message and file collaboration.
Making presentations is, for better or worse, essential in product management.
Everything from outlining ideas and concepts for stakeholders, to demonstrating late-stage product functions to potential distributors, all demands quality presentations.
Keynote is one of the most popular presentation tools on the market for product managers — and for good reason.
This Apple software is designed to take the stress and hard work out of building high-quality presentations, offering plenty of innovative features to make yours unique.
Keynote can be used with Apple Pencil on iPads to draw eye-catching sketches, either ahead of or during a presentation. This is a spectacular feature to take advantage of when asked to explain a concept or function in greater detail: just draw a diagram to cut through the jargon and make the point clearer.
Real-time collaboration is facilitated, too, enabling product managers to work alongside different colleagues and departments at any time. This functions across iPhone, iPad, PC, or Macs for unbeatable convenience — unifying teams everywhere.
And while you might think Apple products are a must to use Keynote, Keynote documents can actually be saved as PowerPoint files, too. And it’s reversible: PowerPoint files can be imported and edited in Keynote directly, with most popular features from PowerPoint supported.
This cross-platform functionality expands the number of people able to take advantage of Keynote, so product managers can collaborate and present work to colleagues/stakeholders across countless devices.
New to presentations? Keynote is designed to be accessible for even the greenest novices, thanks to its clean interface and choice of themes. All presentations can be enhanced with a professional flourish and clarity with minimal effort, which saves product managers valuable time.
Entertainment value is hard to come by in presentations, but any little touches you add make a real difference, and can keep audiences engaged. Keynote allows you to add animations and transitions easily, with more than 30 options available.
Audio clips can be integrated, too, whether you want to narrate images, walk stakeholders through features, or add appropriate clips from movies.
Best of all, Keynote is free.
If you haven’t already got Keynote in your PM toolkit, download it right now.
Want to record a meeting with stakeholders for future reference? Running a product simulation and need to capture the user experience and click path?
Screen recording is a fantastic way to store interactions of any length, across text, audio, and video. Conversations can bring up critical data, guidance, and user pain points that inform product development down the line.
And without recording these chats, said information can be lost, leading to repetition and delays.
Zoom is a cloud-based platform for enterprise video communications. Product managers can leverage it for conference calls, video chats, webinars, training, brainstorming sessions, and virtually any other form of interaction you can think of.
Zoom’s screen recording facility can be used for almost anything.
For example, you may want to demonstrate a product’s development and give marketers, stakeholders, or members of the press a taste of what’s to come.
You can record tutorials that show off various features or host real-time virtual meetings instead, connecting to users across the globe.
This is much more effective than simply sending text documents to build anticipation for a product’s release.
Zoom can also be integrated with a number of popular apps, including Slack, HubSpot, GitHub, and dozens more. So sharing your screen recording couldn’t be easier.
Zoom Basic is free-of-charge and allows you to host meetings with up to 100 participants, enjoy unlimited one-to-one chats, an unlimited number of meetings, HD video, desktop sharing, instant meetings, and much more. It’s an impressive suite, and should suit most product managers — of course, screen recording comes as standard.
The Pro Zoom package is $15.50 per month, and ups the meeting duration limit from 40 minutes to 24 hours. Admin feature controls, reporting, custom personal meeting ID, 1GB of MP4 or M4A recording, and user management are all included.
The Business package is priced at $20.69 per month, and adds space for up to 300 participants, admin dashboards, vanity URLs, company branding, cloud recording transcripts (excellent for referring back to past meetings), and dedicated phone support.
Finally, Zoom’s Enterprise version is something of a behemoth. There’s room for 500 participants (1,000 if you take Enterprise Plus), a dedicated customer success manager, executive business reviews, and unlimited cloud storage.
Defining and understanding target audiences is vital for effective product management.
If you don’t know who you’re designing for and what they want, how can you possibly deliver the right product to them?
To do this, you have to gather intelligence from your audience. And one way to do this is by distributing surveys through a platform like Typeform.
Typeform is a terrific tool dedicated to getting to know customers through different types of interaction. You can build contact forms, quizzes, customer feedback forms, and more, with optional media such as GIFs, pictures, and videos.
This enables you to create engaging surveys that pop out of the screen, as opposed to the bland text-based style so many brands stick to.
You can customize your own Welcome Screen to capture users’ attention and establish purpose in a friendly, clear way.
All changes are shown in real-time courtesy of the Live Preview feature, and the analytics function provides valuable insights into user behavior.
Typeforms can be embedded into your website, and there are more than 500 integrations available (including Trello, Slack, Airtable, and more). Choose from plenty of templates covering all manner of goals, such as lead generation and demographic surveys.
The Essentials version of Typeform is priced at $36 per month, and offers a custom thank-you screen, 1,000 responses, multiple app integrations, and more.
Professional is at the same rate but only when billed yearly (this jumps to $51.80 at a monthly charge).
Extras include 5,000 responses per month, personalization with Hidden Fields, conversion tracking (excellent for gauging engagement), 2GB storage for uploaded files, unlimited questions, and payment facilities.
And last but not least: the Premium package. Available at around $71 per month, this allows up to 10,000 responses, 4GB storage for file uploads, an option to remove the Typeform branding, and team collaboration.
We’ve already discussed airfocus as a roadmapping tool, but it’s a great solution for prioritization too.
The platform’s native algorithms take the hard work out of prioritizing tasks manually: they calculate priorities and map them out visually for faster, more convenient strategizing. The tool presents you with a simple, clear chart for product managers’ own reference, and for sharing with other departments.
This leads to better-informed, more objective choices — reducing risk along the way.
airfocus integrates with Zapier, Trello, and other agile product management tools to streamline your workflow.
The Priority Poker feature makes prioritization more collaborative and fun, allowing you to invite others to rate items and give their opinions on priorities quickly.
Any user invited to take part can do so via their smartphone at any time.
As mentioned earlier, multiple packages are available with airfocus: Starter, Team, and Enterprise. Pricing ranges from $29 per month and $49 per month to custom rates, though you can take advantage of a free trial to see how airfocus’s prioritization features improve your product management workflow.
The best product management tools liberate you from time-consuming, non-essential tasks, so you can focus on achieving your priority goals.
Study the different packages available to ensure your choices align with your organization’s budget, sign up for a few free trials, and feel the workload lifting almost immediately!