Product management can significantly influence a number of key strategic decisions within a company. Product managers are responsible for an increasingly broad range of responsibilities, incorporating research, strategy, roadmapping, design, and evaluation. To do this, you need the best product management tools available.
As a product manager, you know the score.
Launching a product can be a hugely complicated task, requiring decision-makers to work across an entire organization, on a vast amount of different ideas and projects, bringing them all together in a way that makes sense.
In the past, you probably had to rely on a set of pretty limited product management tools - spreadsheets, presentations, and basic project management software.
But these days, with product management being an increasingly valued and coveted role in the tech world, there are thankfully far more options to play with, and far more innovative tools available. A fully optimized product manager could increase company profits by 34.2%
But with so many product management tools available, it can be difficult to know where to focus your attention.
So, in this article, we've put together a list of essential tools for any product manager looking to kickstart their processes and make a big change in the way their team workflow operates.
These are our categories
Research and Conceptualization
Airtable is a huge name in all manner of project management tools, and with good reason. Not just a jack of all trades, but a master of most as well, Airtable can turn its hand to most tasks that product managers require.
Airtable's innovative mix of spreadsheet and database capability makes it the perfect platform for developing and organizing your research phase, from conceptualization through to UX research. Create templates to keep track of all your research in one place, and help keep your team on track. Or, if you prefer not to create your own, Airtable has a really great pre-made template ready for you to clone and run with.
Mindmeister is an online mind mapping tool, designed to help teams work together to develop and share their ideas in a visual format. It changes the way teams are able to approach brainstorming, note-taking, and even more complex project management tasks.
Mindmeister is remarkably simple to use but gives teams the ability to structure information and improve memory while allowing creativity to take the lead and making collaboration a breeze.
Visualizing complicated problems in the research phase of a project makes finding solutions a far simpler and faster task.
As product managers, you're most likely to find Mindmeister useful for project planning during the research and ideation phase.
At first glance, Coda might just seem like another cloud-based word processing and document sharing app. But look a little closer, and you'll find a disruptive startup that's reimagining productivity (and 40 years of software history!) from scratch.
Coda blends the best parts of all the familiar docs like spreadsheets, presentations, documents, and apps bring data together and then gives you powerful tools for doing things with it.
As a unified workspace, it is perfect for research and collaboration, and as a freeform way of giving docs the functionality of apps, it is perfect for conceptualization too.
Best of all, Coda has tons of community-built templates for almost every use case. We love their Design Starter Kit template which is perfect for crowd-sourcing ideas during the research phase, and their User Feedback Tracker.
For more tools for research and conceptualization, see our Trello board.
At the risk of blowing our own trumpet, we think it's fair to say that airfocus has pretty quickly established itself as one of the slickest and best tools for product strategy and prioritization for product managers out there.
The prioritization system is powerful yet easy to use, and it provides science-approved frameworks to enable teams to do the right things in the right order.
Collaboration becomes simple, visual, and intuitive, and it connects with all the product management tools managers are already using, meaning a seamless workflow.
With lots of pre-made prioritization and roadmapping templates, you can be up and running in a matter of minutes – take a look here for more info.
Airtable provides a solid option for prioritization and strategizing. It gives managers the ability to prioritize and analyze competitor positioning, build customized matrices to visualize priorities, and categorize, filter, and edit priorities making collaboration far more useful.
Airtable's matrix block allows you to automatically create prioritization matrices from existing data, and clearly map out your strategy going forward, making future planning simpler.
With so much potential, it can be a bit complex to get started from scratch with Airtable as a tool for prioritization.
Yup - it's Coda on the list again!
Coda's freeform, flexible approach gives managers incredible freedom to create docs that work perfectly for the specific project they are working on, which makes it a great tool for prioritization and strategy.
Coda's view is that although there are plenty of to-do list style tools out there, for really effective prioritization you need something that is tailored to your own way of working.
Create a doc designed to track and identify tasks and projects, and assign priorities based on deadlines, importance, and opportunities. As a base, you could start with their simple prioritization template, and then adjust it to suit your needs.
airfocus gives product managers the ability to create effective and beautiful roadmaps in minutes, setting out the strategic vision, and practical and achievable paths to achieving it. Unlike most alternatives, airfocus makes sure your roadmaps are based on objective priorities for data-informed decisions.
Building presentation-ready roadmaps are simple and incredibly fast thanks to airfocus' drag and drop functionality, which is vital as a project manager for reporting purposes - it's never been easier to empower non-technical decision-makers to understand what you're prioritizing and why.
airfocus roadmaps are freely adaptable without losing sense, direction, or aesthetics. The roadmaps look like an overarching vision or a simple (and easy-to-understand) set of stories, yet they retain the level of detail that is vital for effective planning. airfocus also offers a wide range of ready-to-go roadmap templates.
Trello lets product managers organize their products into boards, and see at a glance what is being worked on, and by whom. The Kanban style of Trello lends itself perfectly to plotting a project or product roadmap, setting up lists and cards to define themes, data, and timeline.
It gives managers the ability to communicate the roadmap internally and externally and to keep track of (and update) the progress as it plays out. The functionality of Trello is pretty simple, and perhaps a little too basic for complex development tasks, but you can add in extra superpowers with their growing list of integrations (Power-Ups).
Asana Portfolios is designed to provide a control center for product managers who are already using Asana, enabling you to monitor and direct everything in your project from concept to completion. Portfolios act as a birds-eye view over a project, setting a team's priorities, and monitoring real-time progress.
It works particularly well as a roadmapping tool because it can be used across multiple Asana projects, allowing a far greater understanding of how each project, and each task, is contributing to a wider strategy. It acts as a single source of truth, and a single source of approval, and streamlines projects immeasurably. As with most home-built roadmapping tools, it's by design limited in functionality to work seamlessly along with it's core product (Asana in this case).
Figma is a powerful cloud-based design software, aimed at replacing standards like Sketch.
Its overarching feature is its collaborative functionality. It gives designers the ability to share wireframes, visually communicate ideas, and get feedback quickly. You don't need downloads or installations, and it works across all browsers, meaning it's never been easier to work together on design projects, even across remote teams.
Pre-made kits make it easy to use even for beginners, and once approved it can convert the wireframes into detailed, high-fidelity components. This is a really excellent tool to loop in designers, stakeholders, and developers throughout the process.
Justinmind is an all-in-one prototyping and wireframing platform for web and mobile apps, designed specifically for teams with less technical expertise. It is totally responsive and easy to use, even on mobile devices.
Wireframes can be defined and shared with users for feedback, and the entire experience can be shared with a click to allow reviews and input from customers. Its drag and drop interface is perfect for users without high-level coding ability or design skills and allows you to create attractive, functional products quickly and with ease.
Invision is a comprehensive digital product design platform, focused on helping teams to create optimal user experiences. Its real power is in its collaboration and communication abilities, as the core of their vision is that communication and collaboration go hand in hand, and are the cornerstone of successful design and project management.
Invision Freehand gives designers a virtual whiteboard to wireframe, plan, design, and give feedback, all in real-time. Excellent integrations mean working seamlessly with the rest of the team is completely possible. Discussing and feeding back immediately on mockups, prototypes and finished projects speeds up the design process immensely.
Trello is consistently rated as one of the best project management tools around, partially due to its simple visual style, and partially due to it being (almost!) completely dummy-proof.
Its use of Kanban boards, lists, and cards lets managers organize and set priorities flexibly. Adding feedback, attaching docs, and inserting links to cards means you can also follow a product feature easily from start to finish.
Trello might not have as many gadgets, gizmos, and features as some of its competitors (although its list of integrations seems to be growing daily), but it is easy to get started with, easy to stay on top of a project, and allows managers to work in their own way.
Read how to become a project management master on the Trello Blog by connecting Trello with the airfocus Power-Up.
Jira is not quite as user friendly as Trello, and can take a while to master, but once you do it can pay off big time. It's designed especially as an agile project management tool, but Jira allows kanban and scrum planning as well, depending on the workflow that works for your team.
Focused on issue tracking, Jira provides out-of-the-box agile reports for tracking metrics and allows managers to record progress, track and report bugs and prioritize effectively too.
If you need a planning tool that's designed for a more technical team, this could be the choice for you.
Asana is another well-known and well-liked agile project management tool, including most features of a roadmapping tool with extra added collaboration, and the ability to turn conversations into objectives and tasks.
Tasks can be set up for individuals and the team, split into sub-tasks, and allocated accordingly. It is easy to navigate, and intuitive, although it doesn't include browser push notifications.
Segment is a customer data management and analytics tool that helps you deal with data from a variety of different sources within a single app. The app connects with hundreds of other integrations, or 'destinations', pulling data from these apps into a single platform. This eliminates the need for multiple tracking pixels and provides clean, clear, and actionable data about your business, your project, and your product.
Unlike much other analytics software, it allows you to own data in raw format, rather than aggregated or schematized. This means data can be reused easily and swiftly for new projects and new launches. It saves engineering and developer time and allows your marketing team to work far more effectively when testing new products and working on it.
Segment takes data from a huge variety of sources, like your apps, email marketing tools, CRMs, and sales platforms, and gives you a hub for all your data to flow through and be analyzed. It allows teams to get a far greater grasp on the mess that data analytics can be, and use their data far more effectively to craft truly personalized user journeys.
Amplitude is a product analytics system that gives companies, teams, and managers brilliant insights into their products and their user behaviors, and ultimately improve business outcomes.
It lets you track product data and metrics, view (and crucially understand) user behavior, get instantaneous insights into releases and what is and isn't working, and improve conversion and retention throughout the process.
Amplitude's segmentation slices your data to see trends and behavioral patterns, and funnels and retention allow you to see if users are being retained, or if they are dropping off.
As an analytics tool, Mixpanel offers the granular detail that can be an essential decider in tracking and influencing user activity and behavior.
While something like Google Analytics might be better at getting data on website traffic, page views, and the like, Mixpanel looks at how real users behave online and gives teams the ability to target them individually or as a group. Mixpanel's analytics and data allow products to aim for long-term client retention, rather than just swinging for one-off conversions.
Intercom does all sorts of customer interaction tasks extremely well. It provides excellent data from customers, alongside real-time metrics. However, its biggest selling point is customer acquisition and retention, using AI and chatbots to engage and convert potential clients, automated emails to turn signups into customers, and a superb customer support service.
It is a comprehensive platform for developing, engaging, and acquiring users, retaining and supporting them in the long term, and providing you with genuinely useful feedback and data on how real people are interacting with your products. With Intercom, you can provide the right message to users at the right time, which is shown to have a huge lift on converting returning visitors.
Drift bills itself as a "conversational marketing platform", and it certainly scores highly on client engagement, customer support, and efficiently and effectively capturing leads.
It has a clean interface, and its fully customizable chatbot functionality means that traffic to your website has a far higher chance of generating leads and conversions.
Drift essentially becomes a personal assistant for your site, your product, and your team, and again gives really solid insights into real-time user behavior.
Bugherd isn't strictly about collecting client feedback or engaging with customers, but rather about acting on issues, reports, and concerns coming directly from users. It is a visual feedback tool, essentially allowing you to attach virtual sticky notes to any issues and bugs flagged up, and send them directly to developers.
As it is all based around point-and-click, it is incredibly easy to use and opens bug tracking up to non-technical team members, clients, and testers. It sends complete data and information on the issue from a simple click of the mouse and tracks everything that needs to be done to address the problem.
This list of our favorite and best product management tools is designed to take you all the way from researching a concept to testing, getting feedback, and generating leads. There are, of course, a vast number of tools out there which we've not been able to cover, but we will keep an eye and keep updating our lists, so you can make the best choices for your team. We'd love to hear from you if you think something is missing here.
All that's left to say is good luck with your next product launch - we hope that with a few of these tools it will be a smooth path to a smashing success!
The way we do work is certainly changing. Remote work is becoming more and more common, and this requires tools that can adapt to this new style of working.
Teams have to adapt to new working conditions, new strategies, changing markets, and proactively embrace the future of work.
In this article update, I want to quickly show you the tools we’ve adopted to cope with the changes and a few tools that would make sense for your product team.
Let’s start with the obvious.
While it might sound a bit biased since we’ve created airfocus, the tool was created with remote teams in mind. We want airfocus to work just as well in a remote environment as it does in more traditional work environments.
Since 2020, we’ve added features specifically for aiding remote collaboration, prioritization, and team decision making.
The most useful feature that we’ve been using regularly is Priority Poker.
Making team decisions while working in an office can be difficult, so doing it while working remotely is no joke. Priority Poker is the tool that brings teams together on one platform where they can vote on new projects, initiatives, and effectively prioritize their roadmaps.
Using priority poker you involve the relevant team members and stakeholders in the prioritization process. This enables a streamlined approach to meetings with clear discussion topics. Priority Poker gives your team a platform to provide input anonymously (or not) which can lead to valuable discoveries even in a remote setting.
While airfocus can help you with decision making, prioritization and roadmapping, Notion is the perfect tool for day-to-day planning and document sharing.
The best thing about Notion is its flexibility and the ability to have documents inside other documents. This enables you to keep your workspace tidy and manage your tasks easily.
Miro has been our go-to tool for online whiteboarding and visualizing marketing funnels.
Miro is an online collaborative whiteboard platform, designed to foster co-working via a shared space for remote teams.
Miro offers a product roadmap template allowing teams to create a product timeline and guide the development process.
The tool also provides intuitive visual collaboration and remote whiteboarding which can be incredibly useful and effective for dispersed teams.
Life is pretty unpredictable, as we learned from the pandemic and the years that followed. So it’s pretty common for people to be canceling meetings and rescheduling at the last minute.
Be proactive and make it easy for your attendees to reschedule, without you needing to send dozens of emails to find a convenient time. With Calendly, you list the dates and times you are available and connect your calendar.
Calendly has a free basic plan, and paid plans for automation, customization and alignment with your team.