A Curated List of Tools and Software for Startup Product Managers in 2019
What are the essential tools and software for product managers at startups in 2019? Update your gear with this tailored guide and make your product management tools shine!
Stories about humble beginnings have become legendary in tech. A couple of geniuses, a garage and an ambitious vision: all it takes to kick-start a digital revolution.
Do you really think this is how most people do it?
Face it, we are not all destined to change the face of tech. Or maybe we are; but most of us work hard, one day at a time. And you are going to appreciate every help you can get. A great team, better management and a cool product will make things easier. But you cannot really choose them. Most of the time, you will be joining existing operations with their own problems and challenges.
However, using the best product management software and tools are things you can choose. Find out which product management tools and software can help you to achieve product excellence at your startup in 2019.
Considerations Before Picking Product Management Tools
First of all, let’s be clear. Budget matters. Product Managers range from remote workers doing support work for various small companies; to PM bosses in huge tech companies with tentacles all over the planet. Clearly, budgeting on both situations is going to be different. You also need to be aware of traditions: you might be at a well-funded startup, but perhaps management is used to employing “freemium” options rather than paying for full services.
Now, since we are discussing costs; make sure that you have top-notch security protocols. How much data are you willing to share with third-parties? A compromising breach is something you probably will not be able to afford if things came to worse. Another vital economic concern is whether the functions you want to fulfill with the product will be delivered within your offices, or in a third-party environment. In fact, who is your audience: external stakeholders; colleagues? What is the kind of team who will be using these tools?
These questions matter because product management software often has different “user” levels. These levels will define access to different areas: some might only be of concern to managers. So keep hierarchies in mind before picking one type of product management tool or another.
Finally: honesty matters. Hold a discussion with your team. What is their skill level? Can they understand “user-unfriendly” interfaces? Or would they rather deal with a slickly designed program? Talk to them, gather opinions and make sure that whatever you pick, it can be used by the team.
Once these issues have been solved, go through the list and pick the product management tool and product management software that suits your needs best.
Best Product Management Tools for Every Need
Sometimes, all you have is a small bulb. Before you get to the full flower, you need to work hard at proving that your product vision can be translated into something real. Due to the increased importance of user design and smooth customer journeys, more and more tools are emerging. Along with methodologies like MoSCoW (Must have, Should have, Could have and Would like), they aim to make your delivery as painless and smooth as possible.
Actually, this popularity has multiplied the number of web-based apps that are available. However, some are slightly dubious in terms of usability. We can recommend Proto.io. In terms of standalone apps, InVision, Balsamiq, Axure RP, Sketch (for Mac only) and Adobe XD are good options. The rule of thumb when picking prototyping tools is their complexity: you might not need all the features of the world to make your project scream “success”.
Roadmapping is a fundamental Product Management exercise. While PMs are known for being adaptable, plotting your path brings to light the kind of stakeholder negotiation skills and data-led planning that make Product Management so effective.
According to the experience of startup PMs that we know, both Roadmunk and Monday lean on the “making things easy side”. AHA is also useful and based on sound theoretical insights into how product managers work. ProductPlan is also good for those who prefer it lighter: it is web-based.
A Product Manager must have a positive and a negative vision. That is, they need to know when to drop something that does not work. This is a very valuable skill: if you work by yourself, you will save time and money; if you work at a place like Google, you will save A LOT of time and money.
Suggested tools include Trello, Feature Upvote (helps the team choose between lines of action!), Airfocus, Craft, Hygger, GridRank, and Productific.
That growing backlog, right? If you want to keep it down, you need a good tool that both visually and in terms of data shows you exactly what you need to do to get back on track.
Any of the product management tools suggested above work for task management. However, keep in mind that certain tools are aligned with particular methodologies. If you do not work with small, Agile teams, for instance; they might not be useful for your team. JIRA is the perfect example. You might need to train your teams so they can work at full speed!
The sprint methodology is used across many disciplines and Product Managers can use tools belonging to other fields. For small and medium-sized startups, tools like Agilean and Binfire are good enough.
For larger operations, Asana offers a lot of functions and Planbox combines spaces for different teams to work on the cloud. All in all, it is all about your priorities. Would you rather invest in a richer, more complex product management application? Or will you support your Sprint with some freemium apps along with more traditional email, data and presentation tools?
A Product Manager is nothing without data. Your intuition could even be based on decades of experience; but, without accurate analytics, you are going nowhere. Product Management tools like Airtable function, on the surface, like a regular spreadsheet. But it can actually expand to become a fully-fledged database.
Google Analytics is a free and basic tool to track your online metrics, but if you want to go into more detail we recommend you Mixpanel, where you can track user interactions and even run A/B tests. Also, Salesforce offers powerful CRM tools which are great for B2B startups.
All in all, a good Excel or Google Sheet can help you a lot if you put some work into data analytics for Product Management.
These tools are meant to facilitate rapid change and adaptation. They are like an “antidote” to your roadmap, a way of taking a left turn to get back on track. PMs need to know about this; most importantly, they need to have the best product management tools to do it.
Both Freshservice and Gensuite help you prevent pitfalls by documenting and tracking risks across the development process. Remed Change Management and Intelligent Service Management are more specialized and offer a wider range of tools. All in all, any good product management roadmap application should also offer enough tools that allow this kind of problem prevention and quickfire reaction. Especially, if it is affecting product delivery, budgets or human resources.
In this day and age, you need to hear the noise out there. First, you need tools to gather, understand and respond to customer feedback. Zendesk is one of the most popular out there; alternatives include Freshdesk (with brand customization) and Userengage (adding CRM). Sadly, there are no good free options: customer management is still very much a premium service.
Next, you need tools to gather information about your products. Alpha Betas, SurveyMonkey, Google Forms and Typeform are useful to ask customers straight away. UXCam is an interesting window into how customers use your products.
Finally, MailChimp and Customer.io offer powerful tools to contact your clients over email. MadMimi works if your aims are more modest; Intercom is just perfect if you want to cover all corners.
Listening to your users is fundamental. Otherwise, you are developing your product in the dark!
- Alpha Betas
- Google Forms
Product Management Software and Tools for Startups in 2019
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. However, its division in categories should make you think about your needs. What are your weak points? Think about them like the places you can pivot from and improve your product management operations. Adding a new tool to your arsenal can do wonders for productivity, communication, and results.
There is no harm in switching and trying between different tools. Never feel that it is too difficult to change: we are in the business of transformation, after all! Of course, if what you need is a better approach to it all, you might need to look into Product Thinking. Or refresh your methodologies.
What are your favorite tools? Let us know!
This article was originally published on The Product School blog. We teach product management, data analytics and coding courses in 16 campuses across the US, UK and Canada and the world. To learn more about our upcoming courses and how to apply, visit our course page.
Have any comments? Tweet us @ProductSchool!