Product Management Tools

List of Product Management Tools

BEST PRODUCT MANAGEMENT TOOLS GUIDE

BEST PRODUCT MANAGEMENT TOOLS GUIDE

There are a great many product management tools on the market.

You will want to choose the right tools to suit your business’s needs – there is no need to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut!

Therefore, with that in mind here is a list of Product Management Tools that will suit light users (simple needs) through to power users (very complex needs).


Office Suites

General-purpose office suites are the most common tools used by product management teams to generate documentation in a variety of formats. The most common components of office suites used by product management teams are word processor software; spreadsheet software; presentation software; and, database software:

  • Microsoft Office – Proprietary suite containing Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access.
  • Open Office – Open Source suite containing Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw and Base.
  • iWork – Proprietary suite for the Mac containing Page, Numbers and Keynote.
  • Google Docs – Online suite with sharing capabilities that contains Docs and Spreadsheets

Dedicated Product Management Tools (Web-Based)

There are some great web-based applications for product management teams, such as the Accompa Product Management Tool.


Dedicated Product Management Tools (Traditional Client/Server)

There are heavy-weight Product Lifestyle Management solutions such as IBM Telelogic and DOORS that can be used very effectively for product management.


Tools for Documentation

Here are some tools for creating good documentation:

  • Flowcharts:
    • Microsoft Visio
    • SmartDraw
    • OmniGraffle – For Macs
    • Dia – Free software. UI is not as great, but it’s free!
  • Screenshots:
  • Images (Creating, Marking Up):
    • Microsoft Paint
    • SnagIt – Basic image editing only
    • Adobe: Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks
    • GIMP – Free software. Again, UI is not as great, but it’s free and powerful!
  • Screen Mockups:
    • Microsoft Powerpoint
    • Adobe: Illustrator, Fireworks, Dreamweaver
    • Balsamiq
  • Mind Maps:
  • Text Documents:
    • Microsoft Word
    • Google Docs
    • Adobe Dreamweaver
    • Wikis

Templates for Documentation

Although there are no industry standard templates, you are best off not trying to reinvent the wheel. If your organization has standard templates of its own, adopt these. If they do not, then you need to make sure that they start using one set as standard in the future.

You can find free templates (for MRD, Roadmaps, etc) by conducting searches in Google. Software such as the Accompa Product Management Software has built-in templates that can assist you in implementing standardized formats in your organization.

Organizations such as the “280 Group” sell document templates for purchase as well.


Requirements Management Tools Used by Product Management Teams

The most common tools used by product managers to manage requirements include:

  • Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel
  • Word processors such as Microsoft Word
  • Dedicated requirements management tools, like Accompa
  • Internal wikis
  • Online docs such as Google Docs

Writing Requirements Documents – MRD, PRD

Requirements documents are used to describe the need for the product or product enhancement; the context within which the product is used or will be used; and what the product should look like.

As a Product Manager, there are two main types of requirements document that you will need to write:

  • MRD – Market Requirements Document
  • PRD – Product Requirements Document

MRD – Market Requirements Document

The Market Requirements Document is written up when a market need is identified. It will express the requirements for a new product development or product enhancement. The document is solely based on the customer or potential customers and market needs that have been identified in relation to the product concept. This document is vital to ensure that the voice of the customer is heard during the product design process.

The document contains information on the following topics:

  • A full description of the product or enhancement being recommended.
  • Market Segmentation and Target Market analysis identifying who the potential customers will be.
  • Competitive Analysis giving a full breakdown of the competitors in the market and their products.
  • An analysis of the proposed product describing how it differentiates itself from the competition.

PRD – Product Requirements Document

The Product Requirements Document is generally written after the MRD. The PRD focuses on all aspects of the proposed product. It is the document that describes to all the stakeholders what the product is going to be and how it will function. This document is a key document used to make sure that all the stakeholders understand exactly what is to be delivered as a product.

The document contains information organized into the following sections:

  • The purpose and the scope of the product development from a business perspective as well as a technical one.
  • Details of all the stakeholders involved e.g. the business, the users and the software developer.
  • Market, Market Segmentation and Target Market analysis identifying who the potential customers will be.
  • An overview of the proposed product with a full set of use cases prepared in collaboration with the stakeholders.
  • All the requirements for the product so; functional requirements, non-functional requirements; user requirements; and business requirements.

As you can see the PRD is a much more substantial document than the MRD. This is why they are quite often merged into one document for less complex product builds or enhancements. The PRD is the most important document because it will form the baseline for the development phase.


User Interface Design

A user interface (UI) is the means by which a user interacts with a software.

The UI of a software is often what the user judges the software on. As a result, it is essential for product managers to have a good understanding of UI Design.

At most companies product managers do not perform UI Design themselves – but they work closely with UI Designers. At smaller companies, product managers may also be responsible for UI Design.

The goal of UI Design is to ensure that the user’s interaction with the software or hardware is as easy and as efficient as possible.