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Research and Conceptualization
Malte CEO of airfocus
Updated on
June 04 2020
13 mins read

Best Product Management Tools - 2020 Update

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

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

Strategy and Prioritization

Roadmapping

Design and Wireframing

Project and Task Management

Analytics

Customer Feedback

To get a clear overview of our recommended best product management tools in 2019, check out our Trello board

Research and Conceptualization

Airtable

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 have a really great pre-made template ready for you to clone and run with.

Mindmeister

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.

Coda

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, brings 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.

Strategy and Prioritization

airfocus

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

Airtable provides a solid option for prioritization and strategising. It gives managers the ability to prioritize and analyze competitor positioning, build customised matrices to visualise priorities, and categorise, 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.

Coda

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. 

For more product management tools for strategy and prioritization, see our Trello board.

Roadmapping

airfocus

Airfocus gives product managers the ability to create effective and beautiful roadmaps in minutes, setting out 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 is 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

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 theme, 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). 

For some inspiration on how others are using Trello for product roadmapping, see here.

Asana Portfolios

Asana Portfolios is designed to provide a control centre for product managers who are already using Asana, enabling you to monitor and direct everything in your project from concept to completion. Portfolios acts 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 it's core product (Asana in this case).

For more tools for roadmapping, see our Trello board.

Design and Wireframing

Figma

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

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

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 means 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. 

For more tools for design and wireframing, see our Trello board.

UPDATE 2020: We've updated our list of best roadmapping software and we created a separate article on the best product roadmap software in 2020.

Project and Task Management

Trello

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

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

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. 

For more tools for project and task management, see our Trello board

Analytics

Segment

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 many 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 . 

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 analysed. 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

Amplitude is a product analytics system that gives companies, teams and managers brilliant insights into their products and their user behaviours, and ultimately improve business outcomes. 

It lets you track product data and metrics, view (and crucially understand) user behaviour, 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 behavioural patterns, and funnels and retention allows you to see if users are being retained, or if they are dropping off. 

Mixpanel

As an analytics tool, Mixpanel offers the granular detail that can be an essential decider in tracking and influencing user activity and behaviour. 

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 allows products to aim for long-term client retention, rather than just swinging for one-off conversions. 

For more tools for analytics, see our Trello board.

Customer Feedback

Intercom

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

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 behaviour. 

BugHerd

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. 

For more tools for customer feedback, see our Trello board.

To sum up...

This list of our favourite and best product management tools for 2019 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, and if you are interested in making your own decision about what the best product management tool of 2019 is, why not check out our Trello board where we've identified a few more options not listed above. 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!

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2020 Update.

It has now been about 13 months since we wrote this article. While not a lot has changed in the product management world, the world out there is for sure not the same. 

Countries are on lockdown, teams are in quarantine and almost all tech companies are going remote for this time period. 

The way we work has changed and 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. 

airfocus

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. 

This year 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. 

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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. 

Notion

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

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.

Xtensio

Xtensio is a collaboration platform where teams can easily create and share living documents. It allows teams to collaborate on presentations, proposals, reports, sales sheets or any online documents in real-time.

The editor works like a web builder so it's easy to add images, videos, tables and other interactive modules. Users can drag and drop, resize, change backgrounds, and specify colors and fonts to match brands. Documents can even be protected as access levels can be controlled.

Calendly

Life is pretty unpredictable right now. 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.

Usually, you need a paid plan to automatically invite attendees to a video-conference call, but Calendly are offering this free of charge until the end of June.

To redeem this, signup for a free account and enable the Zoom integration.

They are also offering free premium plan access to teams working directly on COVID-19 pandemic research, response, or mitigation. 

To redeem, email covidresearch@calendly.com for more information.

Malte CEO of airfocus
Updated on
June 04 2020
Powerful prioritization &
clear roadmaps
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