A comprehensive guide to a product manager’s tech stack

Isabelle Kohout
Atlassian Product Craft Blog
10 min readSep 20, 2022

by Izzy Kohout & Gabriel Raubenheimer

Photo by Sanjeev Mohindra on Unsplash

In the tech world, there’s no shortage of talk about developers’ ‘tech stack’. We hear that company X is on Java, Python and C++. Company Y is on PHP and react.

But what exactly is a tech stack, and why is it important?

At a high level, a tech stack is a list of technologies used to build and run a company’s applications and services. But a tech stack is more than just a list. A tech stack is a strategic decision. It can influence a ton of important factors, including how teams work together, how tradeoffs are made, how well the product meets the customer’s needs, and how the company evolves and scales in the future.

Thinking about how influential these tools can be got us thinking: what’s the tech stack of a product manager? What are the critical tools that enable us to be as effective as possible in building great products?

These will, of course, look different team to team, company to company, and even PM to PM (it’s certainly not the case that every PM at Atlassian works in the way we’ll describe). However, we’re sharing some of the tools that we personally use to be as effective as possible throughout the discovery → delivery → impact cycle.

To provide some structure, we’ll look at some of the key stages of shipping a product, and the tools used in each of those stages. Those are:

  • Creating and Sharing Product Strategy
  • Understanding Users and Identifying Opportunities
  • Capturing & Prioritising Ideas
  • Communicating Findings
  • Workshopping Opportunities and Solutions
  • Curating a Roadmap
  • Defining & Measuring Success

Let’s get into it!

Creating and Sharing Product Strategy

💡 Product/s: Confluence, Keynote. (Similar products: Notion, Coda)

Every great product starts with a vision & strategy. This means setting a clear and effective path to your product’s future, and crafting compelling narratives that inspire people to walk it with you.

Setting strategy is almost always collaborative at Atlassian — great ideas are rarely the result of a single individual. As a result, Confluence (Atlassian’s collaborative documentation product) is a staple for our strategic docs & presentations.

Writing is often a great forcing function for developing and interrogating one’s thinking so Confluence is used for everything; from capturing the initial scrappy thinking, to sharing this with the team, collecting feedback, and iterating until something clear and compelling is formed. Confluence allows us to develop that initial thinking in private and its collaboration features means that it’s easy to share with our teammates for feedback when needed.

Once it’s developed, it’s important to communicate the strategy effectively to your team and stakeholders. You want to synthesise the key themes, and get them out of your head and into the heads of those around you via a great story. For a lot of internal presentations, we use Confluence’s Presenter Mode. Atlassian has a strong writing culture — we find it helps us be sharp and clear in our thinking — and Confluence allows people to comment in real time during a presentation (without interrupting the speaker’s flow!), which is very helpful.

Confluence’s Presenter Mode makes sharing easy

Keynote comes in handy for more visual presentations. It’s an advanced slide-building tool that we use to make presentations. It has some great animation features, and easily integrates with our branding packs to create clean slides that tell a compelling story. This is perfect for presentations when you need to make a big impact in a short amount of time.

Understanding Users & Identifying Opportunities

💡 Product/s: Dovetail, Amplitude, Redash

The most important thing we can do as product managers is build up a great understanding of our users. Knowing what our users care about, the problems they’re facing, and how they use our product helps us identify new opportunities for what to build, when. To paint this picture, we want a mix of quantitative and qualitative inputs.

Dovetail is a great product for capturing, classifying and synthesising insights from user interviews. It acts as a virtual interview repository that allows us to search through interview transcripts and organise the mass of unstructured data into meaningful themes. The ability to easily tag and categorise important words, pain points and themes makes it easy to digest and share key insights with our team. This ability to share insights directly with our teams has been particularly amazing for us — our teams love the direct connection to the people that use our products, and it helps them make better, user-centric decisions.

Image from https://dovetailapp.com/products/markup

We use the analytics tools Amplitude and Redash to get a pulse on key metrics like retention, engagement, and adoption, as well as more granular usage data such as where and when users are clicking, or how long they’re taking to complete certain tasks in the product. This provides the quantitative lens to identify opportunities for improvement in the product alongside our qualitative analysis.

Image from https://amplitude.com/amplitude-analytics

Having quantitative and qualitative sources of customer feedback on hand lets us better identify opportunities to improve our products — we find that they give us very different but equally important insights.

Capturing & Prioritising Ideas

💡 Product/s: Jira Product Discovery (Similar products: Aha, Productboard)

Product managers are continually taking a wide range of inputs — user feedback, strategy, market trends — and turning them into well articulated, high impact opportunities. We capture, organise, share and collaborate on a large variety of ideas, with a large variety of people.

We use Jira Product Discovery as a living repository of ideas and opportunities. We can capture ideas directly in the tool, or through a handy browser extension, which means it’s constantly being added to. It lets us organise and evaluate these ideas however is most helpful; for example, by target user, urgency or reach.

Image from https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/product-discovery

We find idea generation and prioritisation vastly more effective when it’s collaborative, and Jira Product Discovery provides a shared space for PMs, designers, engineers and others to collaborate on this process. Everyone brings a unique and valuable perspective, which translates to richer, better developed ideas. This is another tool that’s brought our engineering teams much closer to product decisions, to the benefit of everyone involved!

Communicating Findings

💡 Product/s: Confluence, Loom

Another critical job is successfully sharing what we’ve learned. Whether it’s insights about our customers, our strategy, the business or the market — it’s really important to build a shared brain between ourselves, our team and our stakeholders to drive our shared mission.

For this, Confluence makes another appearance. Confluence’s long-form writing style allows us to create a hub of information that pulls together a range of different sources. The collaboration features help us easily solicit input and feedback from our team & stakeholders so we can iterate on and clarify our key learnings as we go.

Loom is another fantastic tool for sharing learnings or quick thoughts. This delightful video-recording product lets us quickly record snippets of ourselves (and our computer screens!) to easily share with others, so they can watch it back in their own time. In a largely remote workforce, recording a quick video of ourselves talking through a concept, a page, or some learnings is easy, clear and we find that it can feel more natural than other forms of async communication.

Image from https://www.loom.com/use-case

Workshopping/Brainstorming Opportunities and Solutions

💡 Product/s: FigJam (similar products: Miro, Mural)

During the solution-ing stage, we often need to involve multiple parties to get to the best outcome for customers and the business. This often means a good ol’ brainstorming session or workshop with the rest of the team to generate ideas, create alignment, and/or make decisions.

There’s a reason whiteboards are so popular for these sorts of exercises. Physical whiteboards are the absolute best — if we’re able to be in-person and stand in front of a real board, we’ll take the opportunity to hash out our thinking IRL.

Digital whiteboards, though, make an excellent substitute for distributed teams. Our product of choice is Figjam, but Miro or Mural also work well. We use these for brainstorming or workshopping with our teams in a virtual meeting room, to get all the brilliant brains we work with solving the same problem.

Image from https://www.figma.com/blog/introducing-figjam/

Curating a Roadmap

💡 Product/s: Jira Product Discovery, Confluence, Google Sheets

The articulation of our strategy and prioritisation of opportunities is a roadmap — a mutually agreed upon synthesis of what value we’re creating, and when. For us, these are usually living documents — as we ship we learn new things from our users, which informs our future roadmap.

These roadmaps are a collaboration and communication tool. We collaborate with our teams to build them in Jira Product Discovery. Our ideas already live here, so a roadmap is simply a sequenced view of our highest priority opportunities. As mentioned above, JPD makes it easy to collaborate on this. JPD is also very helpful for prioritising, making it easy to prioritise opportunities along any number of dimensions.

Image from https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/product-discovery

Google Sheets can be helpful for more freeform quantitative exploration and prioritisation. We can very quickly stack rank opportunities based on RICE or other quantitative frameworks, before translating that stack ranking to our roadmaps.

Communicating a roadmap means different things for different stakeholders. Whilst we tend to create roadmaps in JPD, it’s often useful for leaders or different functions (eg marketing) to see what’s coming up in a single, easy to read page. Confluence is perfect for this — we can simply create tables with links to each roadmap item in JPD. Engineering often wants a more Gantt-like view, with features broken down into milestones and dependencies visible, and Jira Software Advanced Roadmaps can be helpful here.

Image from https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/features/roadmaps

Defining and Measuring Success

💡 Product/s: Amplitude, Redash, Dovetail, User Interviews, Jira Service Management

The features that we build tend to represent a hypothesis — for example, if we make it easier for a user to do X, they are more likely to complete Y task, as measured by metric Z. Once we ship a feature, it’s incredibly important to measure whether we were actually right in our assumption. To do that, we use an analytics tool like Amplitude or Redash, which lets us analyse how particular cohorts of users are interacting with our product with great accuracy. This allows us to validate whether we’ve actually solved the problem we expected to.

Image from https://amplitude.com/blog/funnel-analysis

We also want to hear from customers directly to understand whether the feature is being used the way that we anticipated and is adding the intended value. To do this, we use Dovetail or an interview scheduling platform like User Interviews, which allows us to recruit, screen, schedule and follow up with interviewees, all in one place.

For certain features, we also use Jira Service Management to collect in-product feedback from users in the same place that they’re interacting with said features. This allows us to keep a pulse on how they feel about what we’ve built, and creates a central portal for us to view and respond to submitted feedback, feature requests or suggested improvements.

Final Thoughts

Just as great pots and pans don’t make a good chef, good product management is not defined by its tools. No amount of shiny, fancy apps will turn subpar product work into great product work. However, great tools can definitely help product managers leverage and scale their time, and collaborate effectively to build amazing products — and that’s really the ultimate goal for an PM, right?

The definition of great tools will of course be different for everyone. As we all know, the product management role varies widely, and different tools are better suited to solving particular subsets of PM challenges. We’ve found the combination of the above invaluable in helping us be better PMs; rather than any single tool being a silver bullet, it’s a great example of multiple products working well together to be more than the sum of their parts.

Having a great PM tech stack, regardless of which tools it’s made up of, has made our work more enjoyable, engaging and effective. At least as importantly, it’s done the same for all the people we collaborate with, regardless of their role. These tools have helped us cut down the overhead of collaboration, and allowed us and our teams to focus on the thing that really matters; building great products.

If you’re looking to improve how you and your teams work, we hope they’re helpful for you, too.

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Isabelle Kohout
Atlassian Product Craft Blog

Product @ Atlassian. Tech and book nerd. Writing about product, early career, technology ethics, and everything in between.