Tools & Resources
For Product Management
This is a list of tools and resources I personally use, and have found to be useful across product, engineering, and design disciples. I've used (and paid for) nearly every enterprise SaaS product on the market; my hope is that countless years and dollars spent will a least pay off by winning the benefit of your doubt.
JIRA Software + Scriptrunner
JIRA is my go-to project management tool. Trust me on this one, because I've used them all: Trello, Asana, Monday.com, TargetProcess, Redmine, Basecamp, and the hundreds of similar products releasing themselves on ProductHunt every week.
Now, I'd be willing to bet that JIRA isn't your preferred Product Management tool. Plenty of people agree with you, and probably for a plethora of understandable reasons... Firstly, JIRA's UI prior to JIRA Cloud was absolutely horrendous. Software devs didn't seem to mind, perhaps as they tend to favor the esoteric in my personal experience. To normal humans, the "old" JIRA (and still JIRA Server) is an awful experience to subject innocent human beings to. The complexity of the UI served as two shots in the foot: I'd be willing to bet less than 85% of paying JIRA customers are aware of they can do with the software. For example:
- Proper Time Tracking: In my opinion, this is the most critical advantage JIRA holds over competitors. JIRA's live insight into sprint progress is unparalleled: thanks to automatic scope creep detection, and burndown charts, it's possible to see if sprints are on time on any given day: even after the first. If you aren't doing sprint retrospectives or paying attention to team velocity, you are using JIRA incorrectly.
- Automated or Strict Workflows: It's possible to use very basic scripting to automate the handoff of responsibilities when tasks are completed, and so much more. I personally replaced a mess of a Zendesk instance for a 13,000 person enterprise with a JIRA Service Desk implementation with immediate improvement. With some planning and elbow grease, the act of figuring out "what next" is eliminated if you plan ahead to identify that, say, device approvals for department X are handled by person Y, and therefore should automatically be assigned to said person. It sounds small, but the previous method was a team in stalemate, constantly asking who is responsible for what.
Regardless of what your team's work philosophy may be, JIRA is designed with customization in mind. JIRA can and will fit what system you have in place, given somebody invests a small amount of time in learning the tool (doubtful).
When it comes to keeping an internal WIKI, Nuclino takes the cake. I'm shocked this product hasn't blown up: it's an absurdly simple, fast, and sexy way to store internal documentation. Did I mention they have native apps for literally every device ever created?
Check out the demo video above to catch a glimpse of how easy the user interface is to understand, as well as some cool features like the graph feature. Compare this to a terrible alternative, such as Confluence: an ugly, bloated, god-awful user experience that nobody bothers to deal with. Sorry Atlassian, that's 1-1
Flowcharts should be in every Product Manager's vocabulary. It's no secret that creating these diagrams are one of the least glorious aspects of product management, so selecting the right tool to make this process simple is key.
Visio and Omnigraffle leave a lot to be desired: neither tool has a clean or intuitive interface, yet both have a price tag seemingly much higher than the quality of their products. Draw.io has come to replace both of these as a free cloud-based program for creating logic flows.
Draw.io works well with Google Drive, making it easier for multiple teammates to contribute to a single diagram at once.
I've been paying for a personal subscription to Arcentry for months and I've never turned back. Arcentry is great in-browser tool for creating beautiful architecture diagrams, either to communicate to stakeholders, developers, or anybody in-between.
Arcentry is a great alternative to Draw.io for diagrams which specifically pertain to architecture. When used correctly, Arcentry diagrams are easier to digest and understand than their two-dimensional flowchart counterparts.
As a huge added bonus, Arcentry can also be hooked into AWS' API to show usage happening in real time. That means you can embed your diagrams as live components, which show real usage statistics as well has cool animations for when functions/services are firing.
InVision filled a massive void years ago when it popped on the scene. The problems that InVision solves are multi-faceted, but serve one core purpose: collaboration through the design process. The top three features which stand out to me:
- Quick Prototyping: Designers can use InVision to build prototypes of frontend user flows using nothing but exported designs. Most of the time, the best MVP is one which isn't functional at all- but rather once that was created in an hour by a designer before investing money in the development hole. Invision prototypes feel real enough to clients and end users that they're ready to give feedback before dev has started.
- Collaboration & Annotating: The shittiest part about being a PM is taking notes- especially in fast-paced meetings where 20 stakeholders are free associated about what is on their screen. InVision alleviates this with annotations. Designers can share rounds of designs with stakeholders, receive feedback inline with the designs, and demonstrate what was fixed the next time. Beats text documents.
- Workflow: For designers holding out on JIRA, my next best suggestion would be to use InVision's workflow features. This is a simple Kanban interface which each design is simply a task.
- Exporting Assets: InVision's feature set has expanded to include exporting assets for developers (similar to Zeplin). It will be interesting to see how this pans out, with Sketch recently announcing they'll be doing the same.