11 Product Management Tools and Techniques for Managing the Product Life Cycle
By The Fullstack Academy Team
11 Product Management Tools and Techniques for Managing the Product Life Cycle
Product managers direct each facet of the product life cycle, making sure that the product meets ever-changing customer needs. That means that product managers have a broad range of responsibilities—including analyzing data, developing strategies, recommending features, and planning releases.
Adding to the complexity of their work is that their specific responsibilities can vary according to factors such as industry, company, and type of product.
Fortunately, various product management tools and techniques can simplify processes and ensure that project managers’ work leads to a successful product and satisfied customers. Project management training, including a project management bootcamp, can teach you about the process and the valuable tools that can support it.
Why Are Product Management Tools and Techniques Used?
Products are the goods and services companies provide to meet customer needs. Product management tools and techniques can focus on aspects of developing these products, from collecting ideas for features to gathering user feedback. These tools and techniques can also serve to simplify the product management process overall.
Benefits of Product Management Tools and Techniques
Product management can benefit from tools and processes that promote efficiency and attention to detail. Among the ways these tools can assist product managers are:
- Enhanced collaboration—sharing details about tasks and providing status updates
- Organized tasks and deadlines—alerting teams about upcoming tasks and dates for completion
- Thorough process reviews—ensuring that the work includes all key steps
Product Management Steps That Tools Can Simplify
Product managers can turn to tools that assist them in the many important steps that their work entails. Here are some product management activities that often call on the use of these tools.
Product management tools can assist with collecting information about features that customers want. They can help product managers in reviewing and scheduling features to include in a product or a service and in assigning tasks to team members to implement each of those features.
Identifying Communication Channels
Product managers can use various tools to identify and employ the best methods for keeping product teams in contact with each other. These tools can help people send messages and conduct video calls, often integrating this communication into other product management tools.
Product management tools that clearly identify ideas from teams and customers can help guide discussions about project strategy. This strategy serves as the guide for all activities associated with product development.
Prioritizing Product Features
By using tools to help them, product managers can more easily identify the products that are likely to provide the most value to a company and its customers. They can adjust plans according to customer feedback or experiment with different features, while also ensuring that plans accommodate allocated budgets.
Product management tools can be used to clearly identify the specifications for each project. Readily sharing this information helps keep those working on the product aligned with project goals and targeted features.
Creating Road Maps
Product management road maps help managers stay abreast of progress on the various steps in the process. Information about the status of a task, such as “in progress,” “approaching deadline,” or “done,” can inform project priorities and launch dates.
Tools that assist with building prototypes of a product enable product managers to solicit feedback about plans for features. Digital prototypes, for example, can save companies time and money by allowing for product adjustments before the team finalizes development.
Selecting Success Metrics
By helping collect product team insights and customer feedback, product information management tools can be instrumental in evaluating a product’s success. These metrics can range from leadership approvals to specific product outcomes.
Tools can support product managers in producing surveys, emails, and questionnaires that gather customer feedback. This feedback can guide the development of products and services as well as tweaks to planned features.
Simplified testing is another reason for using product management tools and techniques. These tools can help with gathering, recording, and analyzing customer feedback regarding planned features.
Factors in Selecting Product Management Tools
As product managers select which product management tools and techniques to use, they should think about the size of their company and the stage of the product’s life cycle. For example, smaller organizations may not have the budget for many separate tools, instead opting for tools that offer a larger set of functions. Larger organizations and teams may find that various specialized tools are a better fit.
Other considerations when evaluating a product management tool are:
- User interface. Is the UI easy to understand and use, and what product support is available?
- Functions. Does it help with managing feedback, tasks, and specifications?
- Value. Does its price reflect the value of its functions, and is pricing transparent?
- Integration capabilities. Can it connect and interact with other apps, and are additional features available?
Additionally, depending on the specific functionality they’re seeking, project managers may consider whether a tool offers features such as:
- Templates. Are in-tool templates available to customize for managing a specific product?
- Analytics. Does it provide easily digestible data that allows for quick adjustments to the product?
- Brainstorming tools. Do its features assist in gathering ideas and developing product plans from them?
11 Product Management Tools: A List of Highly Popular Software
The list of product management tools is vast, and many tools can work in concert with each other. Tools that are popular are those targeting tasks such as:
- Sketching business ideas
- Collecting user feedback
- Releasing the product
- Managing team members’ tasks
- Analyzing customer feedback
Here are 11 currently popular tools that can simplify the product management process.
Balsamiq allows users to create wireframes, or outlines, sketching ideas for the style and content of a product onto a digital whiteboard or notepad. The tool facilitates wireframe sharing as well as the collection of feedback; it also includes features for moving elements from one area of the wireframe to another.
Strategyzer, another item on the list of product management tools that are popular, assists with analyzing the value propositions of a proposed product. With the tool, users can chart business models and value propositions—and quickly determine if an idea makes sense to pursue.
A design tool, Sketch allows for building and editing concept pages, icons, and web elements. Web and mobile app designers often use the tool to build designs from initial stages to final artwork. The tool allows for real-time collaboration to quickly make design changes.
Another product management tool, Figma, is web-based and allows users to create wireframes, design mobile app interfaces, create prototypes, and create social media posts. It allows for storing multiple tasks simultaneously, using various platforms to create and adjust several products simultaneously.
5. Google Analytics
Google Analytics provides data to enhance website analysis. The data assists project managers in determining website visitors and their activity. Using this data, product managers can determine the success of a website’s elements and features to build in the future.
Its data allows users to learn about and analyze the behavior of website visitors, such as:
- Pages visited
- Time spent on each page
- Browser used
- Type of device that accessed the page
- Website forms submitted
A valuable product management road map tool is Jira, which began as an issue-tracking tool. Today, Jira also allows users to:
- Develop a road map for product development
- Report on tasks completed and pending
- Track time spent on developing the product
Airfocus assists with managing various products and plans—from internal and external products to an ongoing list of information technology projects. With the tool, product managers and their teams can:
- Develop strategy
- Determine user needs
- Prioritize tasks
- Rank product features
Monday.com focuses on planning, tracking, and managing the daily tasks associated with product development. The tool includes templates that help in navigating the management of products at any stage of work, allowing for the adjustment of tasks and plans according to input from those using the products.
Asana also helps in managing product development tasks. It allows product managers to follow the progress of product development by:
- Planning deadlines
- Collecting customer feedback
- Notifying product team members
- Uploading files
Another useful product management road map tool is Basecamp, which also helps with navigating tasks. The tool facilitates scheduling, messaging, and task tracking, with features such as:
- File sharing
- Calendar sharing
Productboard helps product managers and their teams prioritize the development of features by regularly noting comments received about the project. The tool streamlines tasks such as:
- Aggregating product feedback
- Tracking requirements and requests
- Scheduling features to develop
Agile Product Management Tools
Agile product management operates according to a philosophy that emphasizes the importance of teamwork in achieving a goal. With this type of product management, interaction with customers and other stakeholders dictates the direction of development. Product management teams quickly respond to that input by building products that customers demand; then, they use feedback to continuously improve their processes and products.
Traditional product management follows a sequence of planning, designing, implementing, and testing that can sometimes make adjusting the product difficult. Agile product management is a more fluid approach that encourages—and more readily adapts to—input from product users. In this way, agile product management can deliver incremental value to an organization and its customers faster than a traditional approach.
The use of agile product management tools can help managers make processes more adaptable and responsive.
Agile Product Management Benefits
Because agile product management calls for building products in short, adjustable increments, it offers several benefits for product teams as well as customers, including the following:
- Hearing customer input throughout the product life cycle
- Adapting product schedules to allow for responding to customer input
- Providing multiple opportunities to show adjustments and progress to customers
How Tools Assist With Agile Product Management
Tools for agile product management processes help in tackling the challenges that can be associated with following the agile philosophy. The agile approach has less formal reporting and a greater emphasis on collaboration, instead of working toward firmly established milestones. To keep the process on track, it can be beneficial to rely on product management tools and techniques that make it easier to:
- Collect feedback
- Analyze data
- Share project updates
- Adjust deadlines
Product Information Management Tools
Product management tools and techniques can assist with product information management (PIM) as well. Product information management is a process for handling product data across various channels. The product information can be related to manufacturing, marketing, and sales. Examples of the types of product information are:
Product information management can also make it easier to access information about the stores and channels that are selling the product.
Effective product information management provides information about a product consistently, with details readily available in a single repository, regardless of which team or business unit is accessing the data. The following are among the functional areas that could have uniform access to the information:
- Product management
- Digital marketing
Product information management tools can streamline the process of gathering and sharing this data internally and to customers.
Benefits of Product Information Management
By tying all data into one repository that broadly provides up-to-date information, effective product information management provides numerous benefits in the product management process. Among the benefits are:
- Less data entry—a single point of data collection instead of multiple spreadsheets and systems
- Quicker changes to products—data about product usage and feedback more readily available
- More effective marketing and sales—team members sharing up-to-date information about product features
- Greater workflow efficiency—all business units easily accessing data that guides their plans and processes
How Tools Assist With Product Information Management
Efficient product information management calls for broad access to uniform product data. Seeking the right product information management tool requires evaluating whether the software allows the team to:
- Collaborate with each other and with different business units and customers
- Access a single source of data collected from multiple sources
- Automatically update customer-facing information about a product
- Easily adjust tasks and priorities according to product information updates
Product Management Road Map Tools
Product management road maps offer a centralized source of information about product plans, including the vision for the outcome and the timeline for achieving that vision. Among the essential elements of a product road map are:
- High-level goals for the product
- Work required to achieve product goals
- Timeline for beginning and completing stages of work
- Methods for measuring the progress toward product goals
Product management road map tools can simplify the process of establishing goals and timelines and monitoring progress. They can assist in producing road maps designed to inform groups such as:
- Product development team
- Corporate executives
- Sales personnel
Benefits of Product Road Maps
Once a product manager has completed high-level planning, a road map for achieving the goals outlined in the overall plans can benefit those creating the product as well as other stakeholders. Some benefits of product road maps are that they:
- Outline a clear path for how and when to achieve product goals
- Represent a commitment to reaching objectives
- Help keep the product team accountable
- Focus efforts on high-level goals for the product
How Tools Assist With a Product Road Map
Product management road map tools can help teams schedule and track the progress of product development. To simplify the road map, product managers should seek out product management tools and techniques that help with:
- Brainstorming strategies for achieving goals
- Coordinating team members’ tasks
- Prioritizing product development tasks
- Tracking progress in individual tasks and overall plans
- Displaying product schedules
Software Product Management Tools
Product managers responsible for software development can follow the software development life cycle (SDLC). The SDLC provides a step-by-step system for developing software that starts with determining initial requirements.
- Tools for software product management focus on simplifying the following elements that commonly comprise the SDLC:
- Planning—gathering information from stakeholders and determining product features to include
- Designing—establishing and securing approval for design specifications and a product road map
- Implementing—scheduling and completing work, including coding, outlined in the road map
- Testing—checking a completed version of the software for issues
- Deploying—releasing the software for production and sales
- Maintaining—addressing requests for enhancements and fixes
Benefits of the Software Development Life Cycle
The SDLC requires software product managers and developers to complete each stage of the process before proceeding to the next. Following this path helps to ensure that the product team addresses any problems that arise at each step, preventing those concerns from worsening as the product advances to subsequent steps. This thorough approach to completing each step can yield the following benefits for software product management:
- Fewer large—and expensive—problems, leading to a decrease in costs
- Higher quality, with each potential issue addressed as it arises
- Shorter production time, with less time needed for large-scale fixes after completion
How Tools Assist With Software Product Management
Software product management tools to simplify the SDLC are those that help ensure a thorough review of product needs and open communication between teams. Product management tools and techniques that can streamline this process include those that:
- Encourage thorough collection and analysis of data to inform plans from the outset
- Assist development team members in advancing through the product management steps
- Facilitate communication about activities throughout development and multiple product iterations and launches
- Allow for some flexibility, as needed, by establishing work cycles within the project framework
Prepare for a Career in Product Management
Product management tools and techniques can play an important role in making life easier for product managers. However, the product managers themselves play the biggest part in successful product development by understanding best practices, what techniques to follow, and which tools fit their product and team needs.
Fullstack Academy’s online Product Management Bootcamp teaches the practices that help ensure that products meet customer needs—and it examines tools to make the process easier.
The 25-week, part-time program features hands-on instruction from working professionals who have expertise in a broad range of product management topics, including UI, product design, and marketing. Enrolling in Fullstack Academy’s online Product Management Bootcamp requires no prior experience.
Discover how the program can help you pursue your product management career goals.