Bringing a product to market tends to be a lengthy and complicated process. There are usually several stages of product engineering, iteration, development, and refinement.
That’s nothing of marketing and sales messaging, which can require their iterative journeys. And, of course, there are countless variables, from market fluctuations to changing consumer preferences, can scuttle progress and send product development teams back to the drawing board.
Throughout this journey, product managers are tasked with monitoring day-to-day activity while keeping an eye on big-picture goals. Their job is to support product development moving forward on time and within agreed-upon budgetary parameters. To accomplish this, product management software can be essential, but of course, not all product management software tools are created equal.
This raises the question: What should product managers look for in their software tools? Here is a comprehensive guide to selecting the right technology.
What is Product Management Software?
Product management software can be defined as any application that helps coordinate all aspects of a product’s lifecycle. In other words, product management software provides a centralized dashboard from which team leaders can keep tabs on a new product's planning, research, development, and iteration.
The right software will provide all team members with a single source of truth, ensuring that all decision-makers work from the most up-to-date version of the product. The software should also provide an essential roadmap, allowing all team members to see where the product is headed and how their contribution plays a part.
Not only do product management software solutions provide clarity, but they also make it easier for distributed teams and remote employees to collaborate, all via a centralized source of information.
What to Look for in a Product Management Software Solution?
There are several features to identify before investing in any product management software. Here are some of the essentials.
Industry Analysis Tools
One of the most essential functions of the product manager is to identify the most significant product features to highlight; this is critical to ensure effective marketing and brand positioning. But the only way to know which features are most desirable among consumers, or the most cutting-edge within the industry, is to understand what’s going on in the marketplace. Industry analysis tools can provide this insight and should be considered non-negotiable in any good product management software.
Road Mapping and Flowcharting Features
Another critical function of the product manager is to provide the entire team with clarity about how the whole process will unfold, including important milestones, deadlines, and goals.
Of course, it is possible to record this information and make it accessible to everyone through a spreadsheet or even a word processing document. However, shared documents like these can be counterproductive, as it’s inevitable that different versions will proliferate, compromising your single source of truth.
Tools that allow you to create more interactive, visual, and easy-to-update road maps and flowcharts are much more helpful to the product development journey.
User Feedback Tools
It’s also important to look for software that offers user analysis and feedback tools. The product manager’s foremost concern is ensuring a positive user experience. To do so, it’s critical to collect accurate data about customer needs and pain points and their basic understanding of using the product in question.
Again, some simple and widely available tools, including SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Google Surveys, provide limited functionality. While these tools can offer some essential insights, they are restricted by the questions you choose to ask and the extent to which customers understand and can articulate their habits.
Product managers really need to learn what customers don’t even know or realize about themselves. As such, it’s critical to have software that can track user behavior. For example, creating a visual engagement map can show which parts of a product or app users lingered over the most extended, invaluable insights for product managers looking to identify UX bottlenecks, pain points, or points of interest.
Project Tracking Tools
Fundamentally, product management keeps several tasks and subtasks moving forward, aligning everything toward shared goals. Therefore, any product management software solution must provide a way to keep track of other studies and their statuses. Additionally, managers need software that allows team members to easily share information and report any issues, helping everyone stick to the roadmap they’ve agreed upon.
We’ve touched on the importance of collaboration several times already, but to emphasize how significant it is: Product managers usually manage large teams of people representing many different disciplines. Simple messaging apps or file-sharing platforms aren’t enough. Again, having a unified dashboard where everyone can access up-to-date and authoritative information and communicate with personnel across multiple divisions or departments is critical. Please don’t settle for any product management software that comes up short with its collaboration tools.
The elephant in the room is cost. Product management tools can be costly, but it’s crucial to look beyond the price tag when deciding which software to invest in. Think about the long-term value that the software will deliver to your team and ultimately to your company's efficiency- and revenue-generating potential.
Do Your Due Diligence with Product Management Software
Shepherding a product from inception to market is arduous, requiring countless processes to be carried out efficiently and cost-effectively. Product managers can’t do it alone, so software solutions are essential. To ensure the wisest decision, do your due diligence, comparing multiple product management and product roadmap tools to determine which one offers the features your team needs. Keep in mind that the software that works best for your team may not be the one that works best for someone in another industry; there are no one-size-fits-all solutions here!