4 Tips for Effectively Choosing and Using a Product Management Tool

The tech industry is constantly undergoing changes, and product managers are often in the thick of them. Between product updates, security patches, and priority pivots, there are a lot of details to manage. Add quarterly sales goals, customer retention, and support needs, and learn about new releases, and it’s hard to keep up. 

Thankfully, the right tech aids can make a product manager’s life easier. But simply signing a contract for a product management tool doesn’t provide an immediate solution. Without training, strategy, and personal commitment, integrating the new tool can feel more like a productivity drain than an efficiency gain. For product managers hoping to streamline their team’s workflows, consider these tips.

1. Understand What Problems Each Candidate Tool Solves

You know as well as anyone that slick sales presentations don’t always mean a product lives up to the hype. As you’re considering a new product manager tool, think about what your particular pain points are first. 

Meet with your product team to have a candid discussion of your current difficulties. Put every issue on the physical or digital whiteboard. Once you’ve listed them all, group and rank them. Identify themes and priorities that a new tool could solve, weighing the costs and benefits among your stakeholders. 

Consider your globally distributed product team and its bad habit of letting meetings get away from the agenda. Your pain point may be that you rarely articulate assignments and deadlines until the meeting’s end. Here, a product management tool can help you outline deliverables and due dates, complete with attachments and reference materials.   

2. Examine Your Workflows to Determine Fit

Just as a blazer can look good on the hanger but terrible on you, your chosen tool needs to fit your workflow. As you’re considering possible tools, consider the workflows that work well and that you intend to retain. The tool you select should facilitate tried-and-true ways of working, not cut against them. 

Ideally, you’ll be able to find candidate tools that accommodate your most effective processes. Ask your sales rep to confirm the tool’s features and integration capabilities before you sign. Model connections in test environments and even ask for referrals to get candid feedback from other clients. 

If you’re reviewing customer feedback from multiple sources, it can be helpful to share that information with your team. Seek your team members’ input to ensure the tool you choose receives maximum buy-in. 

3. Make Using Your New Tool Second Nature

Deployment of a new tool often starts out strong, especially when the promise of more efficient product management is there. But excitement can quickly wane when learning to use the tool involves more friction than you’d like. That’s why it’s important to create a plan to deploy and foster the new tool within your organization. 

Just as with any business change, launching a new tool requires a strategy. And while the idea may initially feel like overkill, remember the investment you’re making of both time and money. Establish a product integration team to conduct your tool’s launch. 

Host multiple training sessions and assign internal champions to promote and assist with the adoption of the tool. Set implementation goals to guide the tool’s integration with your daily work and report this data to your leadership team. The more accountable your team is, the greater likelihood that your new tool will be used effectively. 

4. Stay Up to Date to Get the Best Results

With so much going on in your organization, it can be tough to keep up with your product management tool’s updates. However, failing to upgrade the software or undergo any further training that’s required can do more damage than you might realize. 

Many product management tools rely on complex code and secure data, which may demand backend updates. There may be planned outages that could cause an untimely surprise for your team if you don’t remain engaged. Commit to reading product update notifications and collaborating with your sales reps. Staying engaged can help ensure you’re getting the most out of your tool. 

You may find user blogs and forums helpful in both optimizing your use of the tool and keeping abreast of changes to it. However, be wary of depending overmuch on these passionate but potentially misinformed individuals for information on tool-related developments. Instead, go straight to the source — the vendor — to learn the truth about your tool’s latest updates. Share this information with your team and assign any training tasks required to ensure team members continue to use the tool effectively. 

Reinforcing the Tool’s Place in Your Workflow

Sometimes, work gets so busy that it’s easy to fall into bad habits. You might even revert to using old spreadsheets and Gantt charts in lieu of your new tool. Avoid the temptation to return to old ways by creating processes that reinforce your tool usage. Checklists at the individual level and team levels can help keep everyone in sync. 

You don’t want to create a team of narcs, but do empower team members to gently call one another out for departing from defined workflows. If one employee Slacks another a task-related question, the latter should ask their questioner to use the comment panel in the relevant project task. That way, the entire team can see what’s going on with that deliverable and understand why certain decisions were made. The more your team members buy into the tool and keep each other accountable, the more successful you’ll be. 

Analyze and share how your tool streamlines your processes and enables new opportunities. With a solid product management tool and a team committed to using it well, you’re sure to reach your goals. 

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