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How To Choose The Right Product Management Software

November 13, 2013

Product Leadership

Your team, the employees of your company, are indispensable sources of innovative product ideas. But too often, the tools you use for product management (if you even use product management software!) force the people on your team who have some of the best input into awkward mechanisms for getting their suggestions in.

Idea management can be tricky

Idea management can be tricky – are you doing it right?

Sure, your bug tracking tool has an ‘ideas’ or an ‘enhancements’ category, but really, that tool was built by developers, for developers. For most people on your team, it’s a scary looking system, asking for all kinds of checks and inputs, just to propose a new idea.

And that’s where the problems start. You start getting ideas by email, or perhaps Skype or HipChat, instead. As the Product Manager, it’s now landed in your inbox, and it’s up to you to do something with it. But what? Stick it in the same bug tracker or development task/project management tool that scared them so much in the first place? Surely not.

So instead, you decide to perhaps write a spec for it. Or bounce it around in a growing email chain, gathering feedback. But let’s be honest, here’s what usually happens: it ends up settling into a place at the bottom of your inbox, or becomes a fuzzy, inactionable task on your to-do list with no clear outcome, like

“[ ] Consider Duncan’s suggestion about photo tagging”

Unfortunately for poor Duncan, and the users if this was a crucial feature request, they’ll often never find any trace of the suggestion again. Last he checked, he gave it to you. 1 month on, it’s not built yet (your dev team has got other things to work on!), but it’s also not been rejected. What’s more, Piotr’s also just suggested something similar, but has no idea that Duncan was also asking for it. When it eventually gets delivered, it’s not clear whose idea it was in the first place and credit gets given where none is due.

And on and on the list of frustrations goes, with the result that your development team is chugging along, but the non-techies in your company are losing ‘Faith in Product’.

The solution: A Product Management Software that pulls it all together

If this sounds at all familiar, you’re in the same boat we were when we built ProdPad. Too many channels for ideas to come in, too much fragmentation, and not enough visibility.

To fix this, we built ProdPad with the entire team in mind – not just the developers and product people. This enables everyone to get involved in your product management process, without diluting or undermining your authority as product manager.

So you know what to look out for, here are three crucial features your product management software should have to encourage and nurture your team’s contributions:

  • It has to be super-easy for people to submit ideas. That means giving them options – whether it’s logging into a web app or sending an email.
  • Credit where credit is due – all contributions should be traced back to their origin to make sure all members of the team feel valued and the suggestions keep coming. Read more about this here.
  • Where possible, discussion of ideas should be encouraged. In ProdPad’s product management tool we do this with regular email digests to all team members and a simple-to-use discussion interface.

And what can you do with a collaborative product management tool?

The list is long, but here are some examples.

  • If you could just find some way to give Duncan, Piotr, and the rest of your team a simple, easy channel to add their ideas.
  • And if only they could see where their ideas end up and give them the tools to discuss things.
  • Adding thoughts, building up a better culture of well-formulated product suggestion, should all be included as well, of course!
  • And with a daily digest, others should be prompted to jump in on the conversation. No more mutterings like “Oh, I didn’t realize that was happening!” or “Well, I would’ve done it differently!”.
  • You as the product manager also don’t want to spend 20-30 minutes discussing each new feature idea with the suggester, so the tool should do that for you and force them to think their idea through or at least give you an indication of the impact vs. effort of the new feature.
  • And obviously, you want to be able to link up with project management tools, like JIRA (which often sends the non-tech team running for the hills and should thus be kept in the background), so the actual delivery of the features can be easily managed as well – whether by you or a dedicated project manager.

The list goes on… and that’s why we built ProdPad the way we did. You’ll be happy to hear that, of course, we support all of these use cases and much more – check out the full list of features and get going on a 14 day free trial now!

Janna Bastow is co-founder of ProdPad, software that helps product managers plan and deliver better products. Janna also organizes ProductTank events around the world, including Mind The Product, a global community of product managers. She likes to inspire great product conversations by asking: “What problem are you trying to solve?”

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