Having great tools to help your team be as productive as possible doesn't have to be costly and the difference it can make to your processes is huge.
There are many tools you can add and try out as you go along, but here I am going to concentrate on the core tools that are an absolute must for a product manager to make a quality product.
For me these break into the following categories:
- A good home for your backlog
- A tool for some easy sketching & wireframing
- A place to make and share your documents
- Some useable analytics & user testing
- An awesome place to chat with your team
Finding the right tools for your company size and set up is important. These are my recommendations based on seeing really positive impact of these tools for companies I have helped:
1. A good home for your backlog
Your project management tool needs to fulfil a few basic requirements:
- It must allow you to easily prioritize your user stories
- If you are using scrum, it must allow you to add points, track velocity, create sprints etc
- It is vital it allows full transparency and that your stakeholder/client can view your backlog easily
I am a huge fan of Pivotal Tracker as it's simple to use with quick set up, fully agile ready and economically very reasonable.
Jira is the most commonly used and the agile setup can be fine, although personally I think it is much more suited to larger companies as set up can take a while and it doesn't come cheap.
For very simple Kanban style backlogs, Trello can be a great option. I like Trello for pre-backlog work, brainstorming ideas that you can easily move between lists.
2. A tool for some easy sketching & wireframing
There are so many out there and a lot of this is personal preference.
I like Balsamiq for initial sketches, as it's quicker to use than pen and paper, has great libraries of extra icons and is visually super clear to the stakeholder/client that it is sketch.
Once I am working on smarter wireframes I like Sketch.
If I am working on existing designs I often use Google Slides to just add updates, comments and smal visual changes within a presentation. It can be a really quick and easy way to communicate important visual information and works really well within an agile framework.
3. A place to make and share your documents
Google Drive is a no brainer. A place to hold your folders of quarterly presentations, inception brainstorms, design and UX drafts etc is so valuable. Being able to work together on one document with your team or client is a wonderful thing that I now thankfully get to take for granted.
4. Some useable analytics & user testing
I'd like to think if you have been a reader of my previous posts, you know my passion for data! Having an analytics tool doesn't just stop there though. It has to be a tool that is easy to use, simple for you or your devs to add new tracking and a place that you and your team happily visit daily.
I love MixPanel, but there are so many great tools out there, feel free to play around to find the right tools for your company. Segment is a great way to combine and switch on new tools.
For user testing there is also a wealth of ways to go about that too. As a starter it is definitely an idea to use a good survey tool such as SurveyMonkey to collate some info from your users at important stages.
5. An awesome place to chat with your team
There is only one right choice here: Slack. Set up a channel for your project and team, ensure you integrate your PM tool, your Google Calendar, Google docs plus other services you use and you are good to go. You won't lose important historical conversations anymore and you have an easy flow of communication without disturbing the flow of work of your devs.
As the product manager, keep an eye on what tools are working well for you and your team: Are you using them daily, is onboarding new staff to their workings lengthy or arduous, are you hearing any mutterings in the team of any tools they are hating having to use? - These are good things to keep a check on to ensure your tools are there to help smooth the path to making a great product for your users.