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8 Aug 2023

Why Every Industry Should Consider Using a Product Management Tool

Product Management
CONTENTS

In the post-World War II era in Japan, Toyota was facing significant challenges in its manufacturing processes. At that time, the company was struggling with a number of inefficiencies including:

  • Inventory overstock: Toyota faced the issue of excessive inventory levels, resulting in increased storage costs and tying up capital that could be invested elsewhere.

  • Unpredictable production: The traditional manufacturing system led to unpredictable production schedules, causing delays, disruptions, and bottlenecks in the production line.

  • Lack of communication and collaboration: There was a lack of effective communication and collaboration between different stages of the production process, leading to misalignment and coordination issues.

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Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer and future architect of the Toyota Production System, recognized the need for a system that could address these challenges and improve their manufacturing processes.

And with that, Kanban was born.

The inspiration for Kanban came from observing the efficiency of supermarkets. Ohno noticed how supermarkets restock their shelves based on customer demand rather than relying on fixed production schedules. This led him to develop the idea of using visual signals to trigger production based on actual consumption.

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Product management tools are often associated with SaaS companies, where agile development and iterative processes are the norm. However, this common assumption overlooks the fact that many of the product management practices have originated from other industries. Cross-pollination of ideas between industries leads to the birth of groundbreaking solutions. Over the years, the product management teams have merged their learnings from various industries together into widely used frameworks like:

  • Concurrent Engineering → Automotive industry

  • Lean Development → Automotive industry

  • Obsolescence Management → Electronics industry

  • Design for Manufacturability → Aerospace industry

In this article, we will explore how these other industries can now turn up and ask for some payback.

Automotive industry

What do product management tools have to offer for other industries?

In today's fast-paced and competitive enterprise landscape, effective tools are crucial regardless of the sector. These tools can offer a myriad of advantages, streamlining processes, and improving collaboration, leading to successful product development and a competitive edge. 

Aligning work with organizational goals & objectives 

According to one study, roughly 37% of projects fail as a result of poorly defined project objectives and milestones. Success in your own projects becomes questionable if you fail to establish distinct and well-defined goals and objectives for your team to pursue. All product management tools have an underlying mantra of rallying the team around common goals and objectives.

Whether it be tools for creating OKRs or Roadmaps, by leveraging the systematic methodologies inherent in these tools, businesses can align their internal teams and external stakeholders, ensuring a coherent understanding of objectives and priorities. This, in turn, facilitates the creation of comprehensive roadmaps that delineate the trajectory towards achieving long-term goals.

(Here is a list of 9 best roadmapping tools with their pricing, demos and pros and cons)

In addition to setting goals, there is also a strong emphasis on continuously measuring progress. As part of these tools, you can set milestones and define success criteria to determine if the team is making progress towards the goals or falling short. The ability to track progress, adapt to market shifts, and make data-driven decisions can be pivotal to efficiently navigate uncertainties, capitalize on opportunities, and drive innovation towards realizing the collective vision.

Ensuring cross-functional communication & collaboration

Product management tools help facilitate and optimize the end-to-end product (any product, be it software, hardware, or consumable products) development lifecycle. These tools act as a centralized hub where teams can collaborate, share information, manage stakeholders, and make data-driven decisions. The primary purpose of these tools is to empower product managers and cross-functional teams to efficiently develop and deliver products that meet customer needs and drive business growth.

These tools facilitate seamless communication and collaboration between various teams, including product development, marketing, sales, customer support, and more. By breaking down silos and ensuring everyone is on the same page, companies can accelerate product development cycles and deliver high-quality products in a more efficient manner.

Collecting customer feedback

Product management tools offer a systematic approach for collecting and analyzing customer feedback, proving valuable across industries. By providing a centralized platform to gather feedback, whether through surveys, reviews, or direct interactions, businesses can uncover crucial insights into customer preferences, pain points, and emerging trends. This data-driven approach can allow product development teams in industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and more to adapt their products and services to better meet customer needs. The result is enhanced customer satisfaction, improved product innovation, and a stronger competitive edge, regardless of the sector in which these tools are employed.

customer feedback

Prioritization & resource allocation

"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities."Stephen Covey.

In industries beyond software, product management tools can streamline decision-making processes by facilitating the evaluation of various factors, such as customer demands, market trends, and resource constraints. Leveraging popular prioritization techniques like the RICE, MoSCoW, the Kano model, and Cost-Benefit Analysis, businesses can effectively allocate resources to projects or features that align with their strategic goals and deliver maximum value. This systematic approach ensures that limited resources are channeled towards initiatives that resonate most with customers and drive growth, irrespective of the industry, making these tools indispensable for achieving success and staying competitive.

Data-driven decision making

At the core of modern business success lies the ability to make informed decisions based on concrete insights rather than intuition alone. In this context, product management tools offer a robust framework for data-driven decision-making across various industries. These tools facilitate the collection, analysis, and interpretation of vast amounts of relevant data, enabling organizations to derive meaningful patterns and trends. By leveraging these insights, companies can accurately gauge customer preferences, market dynamics, and emerging trends, thereby honing their strategies to cater to evolving demands. This approach fosters a more responsive and agile approach to decision-making, as businesses can pivot quickly based on real-time data feedback. 

Whether optimizing supply chains in manufacturing or tailoring healthcare services to patient needs, the integration of product management tools empowers industries to align their offerings with empirical evidence, leading to more effective, efficient, and customer-centric outcomes.

Here is a list of 36 top product management tools compared. It includes their pros and cons, pricing, demos and standout features for you to be able to make an informed decision.

How to make it work?

Learning from diverse industries transforms challenges into opportunities for innovation. The best solutions often come from adapting proven strategies from unexpected places. However, not all product management tools will seamlessly apply in all industries. But, a modular tool, like airfocus, can be fine tuned to cater to the specific needs of diverse industries. Customization in such tools involves tailoring the features, workflows, and integrations to align with industry-specific requirements, terminology, and compliance standards. 

One of the key aspects of customization is the ability to configure the tool's interface and terminology to resonate with industry jargon. This ensures that users, whether they're engineers, healthcare professionals, or financial experts, can intuitively engage with the tool. 

Workflow customization is another pivotal aspect. Different industries follow distinct workflows, and a tool that can be tailored to mirror these processes will go on to enhance efficiency and collaboration. For instance, project approval processes in construction can be automated, ensuring that industry-specific protocols are adhered to.

Additionally, integrations with industry-specific software and systems further enhance the tool's adaptability. For instance, integration with inventory management software in retail or Design tools in engineering can streamline processes and data exchange.

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Conclusion

The adaptability of a modular product management tool lies in its ability to morph into an industry-agnostic solution. By offering customizable features, integrations, terminologies, and workflows, these tools empower diverse sectors to optimize their operations, foster innovation, and meet the unique challenges and opportunities posed by their respective industries as they embark on their digital transformation journeys.

Sami Rehman

Sami Rehman

Product Manager
Sami has led several products in the logistics industry, from ideation to go-to-market strategy to rollout and support. He comes from a very diverse background, having started his career as a Machine Learning researcher.He has supported pre-sales engagements in product strategy and development with clients like WeWork, Staples, Restoration Hardware, and Emaar....more
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