In this talk from ProductTank Oslo, Janna Bastow focused on practical advice: What tools should you use as a product manager, and how do you use them?
As a product manager you have different areas that all need their own set of tools, such as design, customer success, analytics, product and overall efficiency. Good tools will have integrations with each other, helping you get an overall view, manage your development and make good decisions. The reality many PMs are facing is tools lack integration, features you don’t really need, a high cost, and low usability. When the best we can hope for is a compromise between those factors, many teams end up building their own tools to suit their specific needs.
Luckily, Janna Bastow from ProdPad gave us a practical guide to the existing tools that she herself uses (or has used), with tips on which to use for different product management tasks:
These tools aren’t intended to turn you into a design master, or to let you replace your UX specialist – they’re intended to help you quickly test ideas and designs, and create meaningful mock-ups that you can build valuable conversations around.
- A real, physical notebook with a dot grid, for sketching
- Adobe Photoshop
- Html/css prototyping skills (and the “inspect element” option in your browser)
Helping your customers get the most out of your product isn’t always an easy task. When you first start out, you can probably manage with a shared inbox across the whole team, and a rota for who’s responsible for answering emails. However, if your product is successful, you’ll quickly find you need some specific tools to help you do a great job at customer success.
- Appcues – in app message inbox, great for user onboarding
- Frontleaf (recently acquired by Zuora) – customer insights
- Drip – for persona specific emails,
One of the sharp insights Janna shared in her talk was the distinction between a product backlog and a dev backlog. Specifically, the product backlog is where all the ideas and feature suggestions and bugs that need fixing should go to be assessed, tracked, and prioritised. Anything that the product team decide is worth acting on should then go the dev backlog.
To that end, ProdPad, Janna’s own tool, helps you with idea-gathering, feedback management, portfolio management, roadmapping and spec’ing.
There’s no specific place that these tools fit in the toolbox – they’re just the tools that Janna has found to be consistently useful in making her life easier, and which have become her “defaults”
Whether you already have tools in place, or you’re just getting to the point where you think you need something purpose-built to make your life easier, check out some of Janna’s recommendations and see if there’s anything that could help you build better products!