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7 Must-Use Tools for Product Managers in 2022

product management technical tools Aug 01, 2022

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Every great product manager uses a number of SaaS tools to be effective in their role, but it’s not always clear what types of tools and which specific SaaS product(s) you should use as a PM. While the answer depends a lot on the team, the company, the product, and the feature you’re working on, I’m going to share some across-the-board SaaS tools you probably already use, and a few you might not currently be using but probably should.

For this article, I gathered up all the insights and suggestions from the product management community on Twitter & LinkedIn and created a comprehensive list of the tools you should definitely be using, and the ones you probably should use depending on your specific job function, company and product.

First, what’s a SaaS tool?

SaaS stands for Software-as-a-Service and it’s a way of delivering applications over the internet as a service. Instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access the app via your browser where updates happen automatically thus freeing you from complex software and hardware management (think installing apps on your phone/laptop where you have to update them regularly).

What SaaS tools do Product Mangers need?

Product managers across the tech industry use a number of different SaaS tools to help them complete core PM responsibilities like:

  • Prioritizing tasks/goals and collaborating with cross-functional teams to achieve those goals efficiently and effectively
  • Measuring business goals and harnessing data to make important business and product decisions
  • Playing an active role in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) also known as the software development process

Hundreds of SaaS tools exist for each of these core responsibilities and each of them offer different features and different user experiences. Understandably it’s a daunting task trying to figure out which tools work best for your needs, and what you personally prefer.

That’s why I wanted to hear on Twitter directly from the product management community about the SaaS tools they use, which are their favorite, and how they use them to excel in their PM role. And boy did I get some great responses (and some passionate debates)! Check out the tweet for yourself (it went semi-viral).

In the rest of this article is a breakdown of all the different tools you should consider using as a PM. For each of these tools I’ll do a deeper product dive into the most popular tool as polled the product management community along with some other note-worthy tools you might want to check out.

Tools for achieving business and product goals:

(1) Roadmapping tools to help prioritize what to build next, align everyone to the same goal and visualize the product roadmap

(2) Product analytics tools to help you understand how your customers using your product, and where in the funnel you can optimize and improve for different product goals (i.e. conversion, engagement)

Tools for roadmapping & team collaboration:

(3) Project management tools for breaking down projects, assigning and keeping track of tasks

(4) Documentation tools to share and document knowledge across teams

Tools for playing an active part in the software development lifecycle with your dev team:

(5) Data Visualization tools are different from product analytics tools in that they are great at visualizing any data that’s being queried from a data warehouse. This includes filtering and sorting through all types of data including log data.

(6) API Platform tools are a great way for PMs to play an active part in the software development life cycle by helping debug and test apps.

(7) Flow & Diagramming tools to help your dev team and UI/UX team visualize user flow quickly and seamlessly.


(1) Roadmapping Tools

Recommended SaaS tool:

Product Board is also by far the most popular roadmapping tool within the product management community! Product Board helps product teams understand what customers need, prioritize what to build next, and align everyone around the roadmap.

Website: https://www.productboard.com
Free option: Yes. 15 day free trial.
Features:

  • Customizable roadmap board(timeline-based or release plan)
  • Feature prioritization board to help you identify, prioritize and centralize feature ideas
  • Customer feedback software to help you centralize customer feedback and link them to the feature prioritization board
  • User engagement board to show your customers what’s being planned, what’s being built, and what’s under consideration

Product Screenshots:

Timeline-based Roadmap board
Feature prioritization board

Other notable roadmap tools to check out:


(2) Product Analytics Tools

Recommended SaaS tool:

Amplitude helps product teams to understand their users, drive conversions, and increase engagement, growth and revenue.

Amplitude is a fan favorite from the product management community and no wonder since it’s been voted #1 in product analytics for 6 consecutive years. It has a simple UI but lots of basic and advanced features that helps you visualize parts of your product that can be improved and the data supporting it.

Website: https://amplitude.com/
Free option: Yes. Free starter plan.
Features:

  • Event segmentation
  • Funnel analysis
  • Retention analysis
  • User timelines
  • User sessions
  • Lifecycle
  • Revenue LTV
  • A/B Test Analysis
  • Customer journeys
  • .. Check out more features here!

Product Screenshots:

Customer Journey
Visualization of the path users take to conversion

Other note-worthy Product Analytics tools to check out:


(3) Project Management Tools


There was a lot of debate amongst the product management company when it came to project management tools, but there were 2 clear fan favorites: Jira and Linear. Let’s dig into them both!

Recommended SaaS tool:

Jira helps teams plan, track, and manage their agile and software development projects.

Product managers either love or hate Jira with a passion. Product manager Geoffrey Anderson even hilariously described Jira as a capable management tool that he hates with the passion of a million suns. I personally disagree with Geoffrey and love Jira, but regardless of your preference, it is undoubtedly one of the most popular project management tools on the market and offers the widest array of advanced features. Ironically this is also the reason why some PMs really dislike Jira as some find it overly saturated and confusing to use.

Website: https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira
Free option: Yes. 30 day trial.
Features:

  • Scrum and Kanban boards
  • Backlog
  • Customizable workflows
  • Roadmaps (Simple and Advanced based on your pricing plan)
  • Advanced permissioning
  • .. Check out more features here!

Jira Product Screenshots:


Built for high-performance teams, Linear helps streamline software projects, sprints, tasks, and bug tracking.

Linear is another super popular tool amongst product managers. While Jira has a wide offering of advanced features that let you create the project board of your dreams, Linear is much more opinionated about how project management should be done. It boasts a much simpler UI compared to Jira so if you’re a sucker of great UI/UX and prefer a project management tool with strong core features, then Linear is a great bet!

Website: https://linear.app/
Free options: Yes. Free plan.
Features:

  • Issues tracking 
  • Backlog
  • Roadmap
  • Cycle management (Kind of like a sprint except not tied to releases)
  • Cross-team collaboration tools like cross-team project management, discussions, and integrations with tools like Slack
  • Real-time synchronization between all users
  • Works offline
  • Command line for fast actions
  • … Check out more features here!

Linear Product Screenshots:

Other notable Project Management tools to check out:


(4) Documentation Tools


Like project management tools, documentation tools also got lots of debate from the product management community. The community was divided between Confluence which features more robust and features, or Notion with a more friendly and intuitive UI/UX. Both are great tools and which you decide on will depend on your personal preference, feature needs, and team/company structure.

Recommended SaaS tools:

Confluence is a team workspace where knowledge and collaboration meet. Trusted for documentation, decisions, project collaboration & Jira integrations.

Confluence and Jira are typically used together since they’re sibling products from Atlassian, which also means people have strong feelings about it–either they love it or absolutely hate it. Like Jira, Confluence is a market leader in documentation and boasts lots of features. If you’re a user of Jira, then Confluence is a no-brainer as it integrates seamlessly with Jira. 

Website: https://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence
Free options: Yes. Free plan.
Features:

  • Large selection of macros including table of contents, statuses, roadmap visualization, expandable blocks, and much more
  • Page versioning
  • Permission features
  • Separate draft and published views
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Team calendars
  • Page trees for organization

Notion helps you connect your teams, projects, and docs by busting silos and execute as one.

While Confluence is more serious in personality, Notion is decidedly more fun. Emojis and cute graphics are a core UI design feature. Notion is great for how intuitive its UI is. Product managers (and me) love Notion for how easy it is to organize documents according to a specific department/product/feature and features them in one seamless view. This is markedly different from Confluence where there isn’t a dedicated homepage for categories of documents.

Website: https://www.notion.so/product
Free options: Yes. Free plan for personal use.
Features:

  • Dedicated homepage views
  • Version history
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Link Sharing
  • Web, desktop and mobile apps
  • Content block types (synonymous to Macros)
  • Roadmap view
  • Kanban board
  • Calendar
  • .. Check out more features here!

Notion Product Features:

Dedicate Homepage views w/ workspace bar on the left
Documents organized by workspace

Other notable documentation tools to check out:


(5) Data Visualization Tools

Much of the discussion around product management is focused on the planning and building part of the product process, but identifying and harnessing insights from data after a feature or product launch is an extremely important part of the product process that product managers should focus on. One of the most important tools for harnessing insights from data after a launch is using a data visualization (data viz) platform. Product and dev teams stream data from one or many data sources into data viz platforms to create dashboards and visualizations that can help reveal insights from data that contribute to business decisions.

As a PM, before your feature or product launches, work with your dev/data team to set up your data viz platform so as soon as your product is launched, you’ll have all the pieces in place to start generating dashboards and reports.

Recommended SaaS tool:

Out of all the PM recommended data tools, Tableau was the absolute favorite. Tableau is a visual analytics platform empowering people and organizations to make the most of their data by allowing them to explore and manage data, and move faster to discover and share insights that can change businesses. It boasts a clean but feature-rich UI/UX and a lot of advanced functionalities.

Website: https://www.tableau.com/
Free options: Yes. Free trial.
Features:

  • Curate and share data sources
  • Wide range of visualizations and dashboards
  • Create and share custom views
  • Data-driven alerts
  • Download summary and full data
  • .. Check out more design features here and prototyping features here!

Tableau Product Features:

Other notable data visualization tools to check out:


(6) API Platform Tools

You might be wondering why API platform tools is on the list for SaaS tools for PMs. After all, PMs don’t create APIs, devs do!

But APIs are core features of any software and need to be properly tested at multiple points throughout the software development process. As a PM, you want to play an active process in this process by using API tools to do user acceptance testing (UAT). Using an API platform tool helps you not only do UAT by ensuring APIs are working as expected, but also provide information to your dev team that may helps them debug the issue.

Your dev team will be grateful for your help and impressed with your ability to understand and navigate APIs!

Recommended SaaS tool:

Postman is an API platform for building and using APIs by simplifying each step of the API lifecycle–from design, testing, documenting, and mocking to discovery.

It’s likely your engineering team is using Postman for designing, and testing APIs since Postman is the most widely used API platform tool within the dev community, so I highly suggest asking your dev team and learning how to use it yourself to help with user acceptance testing (UAT),

Website: https://www.postman.com/
Free options: Yes. Free plan.
Features:

  • API client for easy exploration, debugging, and testing or APIs.
  • Define complex API requests for HTTP, REST, SOAP, GraphQL, and WebSockets
  • Tools for defining API specifications for API formats (OpenAPI, RAML, GraphQL, SOAP)
  • API documentation tool
  • API testing in Postman or as part of CI/CD pipeline
  • Mock Servers
  • API monitoring for health and performance of APIs
  • .. Check out more features here!

Other notable API Platform tools to check out:


(7) Flow & Diagramming tools


One of your core responsibilities as a PM is communicating business requirements to your dev team throughout the software development lifecycle. Sometimes these requirements can be quite complex, especially if there’s lots of nested if/else cases. The best way to communicate complexity is using visual diagrams and if/else flows, using text as supplementary information!


Figma is a collaborative interface design tool to enable everyone to work towards a shared goal.

Website: https://www.figma.com/
Free options: Yes. Free plan.
Features:

  • Intuitive and design friendly tools like a modern pen tool, instant arc designs, and OpenType
  • Plugins support for automating tasks and improving workflows
  • Widgets for team collaboration
  • Assets libraries to drag and drop into file
  • .. Check out more features here!

Other notable flow & diagramming tools to check out:

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