Ninad Phadke
Ninad Phadke
3 min read

Managing a product in an agile environment is like juggling flaming torches on a unicycle crossing a trapeze line being yanked by a maniacal clown. It’s fast, chaotic and demands relentless focus. Luckily for us, in 2017, there is a proliferation of tools (most of them free or at least freemium) that help to tame the chaos.

Unfortunately, a parallel phenomena nowadays is tool overload. A feast of options, along with the usual content marketing noise by people promoting their own products often makes people give up in despair and go back to using Word, Excel and Powerpoint (which are pretty awesome too if used properly).

Here’s the list of tools I use in my day job as an actual Product Manager. (I’ve only included tools that would be available across most companies rather than tools that would depend on each company. This meant dropping CRM tools like Salesforce and CSM tools like Zendesk)

Design

I look for tools that will help me quickly try out ideas and designs but I also want something that will help me build a proper mockup that I can use to start a conversation with my design or development teams.

  • Nothing can beat the immediacy of grabbing a pencil/pen and starting to sketch on a #real-notebook
  • For rough wireframes (if you have around $90), nothing’s better than Balsamiq
  • My hands-down favourite software for anything design-related from rough wireframing, diagramming to full-blown interactive prototypes is Moqups. In fact, I love this tool so much that I paid for it out of pocket when my company didn’t want to get a subscription.

Task Management

I look for tools that will help me keep track of my tasks, send alerts/reminders when required and enable me to share my tasks with other people.

  • At my previous company, where we were using Google Apps for Work, I was using Google Keep. Keep let’s you keep your task management very unstructured but the UI is beautifully designed to help you get things done. Keep is good for simple everyday task management while…
  • Everyone’s current favourite Trello is definitely a good choice for a more collaborative or detailed kind of task management that almost verges on project management. (Of course, Trello is a good choice for project management too)

Note - I have deliberately excluded Asana from the list. I tried and didn’t like it. Just a personal choice.

Product Analytics

I look for tools that will help me keep a track of how the product is doing performance-wise, how people are using the product and to learn if specific features are getting/not getting adopted.

  • Google Analytics. Yes, the old grandaddy of analytics tools should be a part of your toolkit as a Product Manager! While less relevant to the behavioral tracking aspects, Google Analytics is still crucial to understand the acquisition funnel.
  • Mixpanel, Amplitude are both excellent tools to understand in-product behavior and product adoption. However, my standout favorite (although I haven’t really used this) is Intercom
  • For simply heatmap type visual tracking you should look no further than Hotjar or CrazyEgg

Product Roadmap

I look for tools that help keep a track of feedback, requests and helps in prioritization and building of an easy to present roadmap.

  • My current favorite is ProdPad, while Product Plan and Aha! are also good, functional if slightly overpriced tools
  • For overall product roadmap, product agile development, I highly recommend Craft. (Its free for 1 product and upto 5 users)

Document Management

I look for tools with helpful defaults, that ease collaboration and sharing while maintaining security.

  • Google Docs is perfect for all sorts of writing, especially if there is some collaborative editing required. The ability to have prestyled documents using Google Fonts is a big hit with me.
  • Google Sheets is great, although the charting capabilities are nowhere near as good as Excel.
  • Google Slides is really easy to use and has some pretty good templates. Again, the ability to use Google Fonts is a real winner. Better colour management would convert me completely.

Utility

Tools that consistently make my workday better.

  • Jango a free Internet Radio app that plays music for free. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m very thankful they do!
  • LastPass, my favorite password manager. Gone are the days of password reuse and resets. The recent design update has made this very pretty to look at too!
  • Zapier. Very helpful in stitching together/transitioning data between various tools
  • Screenpresso. This has been a real life-saver for more than 4 years now. The best tool to take screenshots, videos and for annotation and editing. Unfortunately, it’s only available for Windows.