Essential tools a product or project manager needs in 2021

image of product managers on a virtual meeting

These tools will help both product managers and project managers tackle digital priorities in 2021.

Beyond just their titles, product managers and project managers also share similarities in their responsibilities. The two roles work in tandem to successfully deliver a project, with the product manager advocating for the customer and stakeholders, and the project manager representing what’s needed to reach the finish line.

Each role uses an array of tools to accomplish whatever the goal is. But what are they, and how are they used?

Let’s take a look at common tools that each role uses in 2021, and explore how they make the lives of their users easier.

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What are product management tools?

Product management tools help product managers play their part to create the product, whether that’s an app, website, widget or something physical on a store shelf.

A product manager must communicate regularly with the customer to understand requirements and with developers to ensure those requirements are being met. After the product goes to market, product managers must measure its success and communicate that back to the customer.

Top tools for product managers

The top tools for product managers therefore help facilitate communication between various stakeholders, manage requirements and milestones, and measure success.

Tools like the ones listed below help product managers in their day-to-day work:

  • Diagramming software like Google Drawings that can help communicate ideas and ensure the product manager, the customer and other stakeholders are on the same page.
  • Product design software like InVision and Zeplin allow designers to create the front-end UX and styleguides, from which the product team can create requirements to pass to the development team.
  • Issue and project tracking software, like JIRA or Rally, that helps product managers create requirements, submit bugs and fixes, and track development across the product lifecycle.
  • Analytics software like Google Analytics that can measure site traffic to determine if the product is performing well.
  • Tagging software that can help keep track of site tags and increase site speed, like Google Tag Manager.
  • Social Media services like Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn (and others) to get a better understanding of how their users are engaging with the product, which in turn can help engagement.

A day in the life of a Brightspot product manager

A Brightspot product manager will utilize a number of these tools in their workday. Which tools they use depends on the stage that the project is in. Typically, though, mornings are often spent in Slack or on stand-up calls where teams review what work they are tackling that day as well as discuss any issues or roadblocks. During these conversations, product managers may refer to requirement spreadsheets on Google Sheets, Confluence or Evernote, just as they will throughout the day in various conversations with the customers whom they support.

In the beginning stages of a project, the product manager may sketch up sample flows and product concepts using diagramming software like Google Drawings. These sorts of diagrams and mockups are often referenced when creating tickets in JIRA that pertain to the product, which helps developers as they build it out.

As the project progresses to future stages, a product manager may be collaborating with design teams using InVision or communicating with front-end developers and QA using Zeplin. The product designs are also heavily referenced as part of requirements that go into JIRA or other project management software.

All of these tools help all stakeholders visualize the product, and product managers will often refer back to them on Google Meet, Zoom or JoinMe calls with customers.

Once a product has launched, product managers at Brightspot will often use Google Analytics to measure site traffic or Pendo to track site behavior. These tools, plus metrics recorded from social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, help the product manager understand the impact and success of the product, which they will then communicate back to the customer.

No matter the stage of the project, Brightspot product managers always have the resources they need to communicate with the right people and convey the right information at the right time, ensuring a successful product delivery for the customer.

image of product manager using Slack communication tool
Austin Distel/Unsplash

What are project management tools?

Project management tools help project managers keep the wheels rolling on any given project.

Project managers break apart the needs of the project as a whole into its component parts and then work toward building a project plan with the right teams, resource, and delivery timelines. This means driving day-to-day activities for every meeting, establishing who will perform each role, and ensuring the on-time and on-budget delivery of various commitments.

Top project management tools

The top tools for project managers then help keep track of many different elements in play and facilitate communication between many different team members.

Tools like the ones listed below help product managers in their day-to-day work:

  • Spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to help visualize the needs and progress of a given project.
  • Collaboration and work management software like Smartsheets that help assign tasks, track progress, manage calendars and more.
  • Communications platforms like Slack, Zoom and others to facilitate communication on progress, roadblocks and other project-related dealings.
  • Issue and project tracking software like JIRA that helps project managers track development across the product lifecycle.

A day in the life of a Brightspot project manager

Similar to Brightspot's product managers, project managers may enter and exit many different tool interfaces throughout their day, depending on the stage that any given project is in. Since communication is so crucial to maintaining oversight across multiple projects, Brightspot's project managers often begin their days on Slack or on Zoom, collecting information from team members to see how work is coming along and providing support when necessary.

On one day, most of a project manager's day might be spent conducting such communication; on another day, most of the day might be spent in JIRA creating advanced sorts to sift through the right tickets and get the right information about the different elements of the project.

With that information, and with the updates projects managers receive from team members, project managers will update the many spreadsheets they maintain for each of the projects they manage, whether those live in Google Sheets or in Smartsheets.

Regardless of the their tasks, project managers at Brightspot always maintain order over the many dealings of the many projects they manage, giving customers the confidence that they are in the right hands.


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