Product managers are the backbone of some of our favorite products and services. While building out a product amongst engineers, designers, and creatives, someone has to provide the accountability and focus to push deliverables and keep projects on track. Not every company has a designated PM, but every founder must play this role in the early stages of their startup. Product people know their market, can design viable roadmaps, and have the leadership and know how to execute and take a product to market or to scale.
We wanted to show product people (managers, founders, and enthusiasts, alike) some love by creating a helpful stack of tools that we think would be most useful in their day-to day. So, without further ado, here’s our product management stack:
This tool allows product managers to connect with their potential user base in a personal way. Typeform prides itself on its beautifully designed forms, templates, and surveys that deliver better insights collected through more human data collection.
Price: Free! With 100 responses per month and 10 fields per typeform. Options to upgrade to premium plans for a monthly per user fee.
10% of the Stacklist startups are using the Google Suite, including Google forms, because they are a comparable competitive research solution without the fuss of learning a new tool or paying a premium. For simple, no-fuss surveys turn to Google to save both money and time.
Price: Free! ($10/user/month for business accounts)
As the world’s #1 online survey software, SurveyMonkey is the standard in market research. Their reach includes employee engagement and customer satisfaction templates, but it is their market research portfolio of surveys that allow PMs to gauge public opinion, test features, and measure brand awareness.
Price: Free! For a basic plan of 10 questions and 100 responses per survey. Options to upgrade.
Gartner and Forrester are two options for product professionals looking for hands-on insights and recommendations. These technology research and advisory firms deliver a number of services through expert analysts who cover a number of areas from IT, to customer experience and buyer-seller relations. Using a more insight-focused firm like Gartner or a strategy-driven service like Forrester ensures objectivity and a certain degree of expertise your new product or startup might crave.
Price: Contact both via “Become a Client” options on their sites.
Billed the world’s #1 product roadmap software, Aha! is the first choice of product managers because it’s platform is designed as a step-by-step guide to building a complete product. Managing your strategy, crowdsourcing customer and colleague ideas, allowing you to set requirements, and visually producing a fully integrated roadmap with analytics, Aha! takes the headache out of product management.
Price: A free trial, with an invitation to sign up for a startup plan (5 users or less) at a heavily discounted price for small, early-stage companies. See here.
Roadmunk provides PMs with simple, powerful, visual roadmapping. Allowing users to choose views based on needs, customize and create multiple filters for single data sets to target different audiences, and collaborate on a single timeline-based roadmap, Roadmunk is another great solution for planning products.
Price: $19/user/month for a starter plan. Billed annually.
The key feature of LiquidPlanner are smart schedules that automatically update and keep teams on track while keeping them out of the productivity dead zone. Their platform also allows users to manage resources, have cross-project visibility, and collaborate in real-time making for dynamic, flexible roadmaps that keep teams moving along.
Price: $45.95/month billed annually for small teams.
A great solution for larger operations, ProductPlan allows you to plan and visualize your strategy to communicate across the company. Allowing import from JIRA, Pivotal Tracker, and outside spreadsheets, ProductPlan quickly assembles a visual, color-coded roadmap and plan for PMs who need to manage both big picture objectives and detailed tasks.
Price: $34/month per editor, billed annually.
Trello, Asana, GitHub, and JIRA are the Stacklist top picks, both in terms of how many of our founders love and use them (over 20% for each tool), but also in terms of their status in the marketplace. These are definitely the big guns of project management, widely used in a number of industries, so while you can be assured that their interfaces are well-tested, you can also expect a more generic product. JIRA is generally loved by developers, so if you’re trying to appease your dev team go with this tool.
For our niche players, we recommend Producteev, Blossom, and dapulse. Producteev is for the PM seeking more organization. They break down project management into a pyramid starting with networks, projects, and tasks that flow into labels, priorities, subtasks, and deadlines, keeping products on track from the top-down. Blossom is a product-obsessed tool and wants to provide the best possible resource to product teams, integrating with apps like GitHub, HipChat, Flowdock, and Slack, and pushing high-level product digests to your inbox daily. Finally, dapulse is a favorite of former Stacklist panelist Assaf Glazer, who used this platform to manage his work at Nanit. This tool offers highly-visual organized boards that integrate with all your apps and allow you to manage and communicate in one spot, but this efficiency does come at a hefty price. See below.
Trello - Free! With options to upgrade.
Asana - Free! For a basic, small-term version. Discounts may be available on their $9.99/month premium package for small teams.
GitHub - $7/month at the developer level. $9/user/month for a team.
JIRA - As cheap as a $10 flat fee for self-hosted server for 10 users. Other pricing plans available.
Producteev - Free! For unlimited users. $99/month for personalized support and network colors/logo customization.
Blossom - $19/month billed annually at the startup level (5 members). Increases in price for larger teams.
Dapulse - Definitely on the premium side, dapulse’s pricing starts at $25/month for 5 users on a basic plan and increases incrementally by adding more users and/or features.
This is a great FREE progress reporting option that saves you time by creating beautiful, updated progress reports that are useful and efficiently update your team.
Price: Free! $29/month for a premium version.
Standuply is a Slack bot that lets you do your progress reporting in-app. It’s a great option for teams who live in Slack, allowing remote teams to run standup meetings and track team performance and business metrics within the chat.
Price: Free in beta! With full free and premium plans to come.
Save time and skip the status meetings with WorkingOn. This tool promises to eliminate the need for face-to-face standups, or at least significantly cut down on their length. With emails that go out every morning reporting what was accomplished at the end of the previous day, WorkingOn is a good option for teams looking to streamline progress reports.
Price: Free for basic plans; $4/user/month for business plans for 15 users or less.
I Done This focuses on what’s done, what’s getting done, and what’s blocked. This tool promises to help teams troubleshoot and save time with it’s platform loved by over 160,000 people.
Price: $9/user/month annually for the standard plan.
Jell’s platform is broken down into three components. Daily standups to keep track of what everyone has accomplished. Customizable team check-ins for members to share metrics. And progress reports where long-term goals and OKR’s can be shared. It’s a tool that keeps management in one place.
Price: $4/user/month billed annually for a starter plan.
Managing and collaborating on documents may seem pretty low on the list of a new startup’s worries, but it can be crucial to the organized mechanism required to roadmap, build, and release a product or feature. Out of the hundreds of interviews we’ve done at Stacklist, one piece of advice has resonated with founders big and small in every sector: don’t spend money on anything until you can’t use Google anymore. We agree with our founders that if you’re bootstrapped for cash you should use Google Docs to manage your files because A. it’s free and B. it works pretty damn well for being free. If you do find yourself in the market for something more advanced, Slack is a great tool for internally communicating about product management and for integrating productivity bots. And if you’re looking for the tool that does it all, Salesforce’s Quip is an expert solution combining docs, spreadsheets, checklists, and team chat in one place.
Google Suite - Free!
Slack - Free (for small teams and up to 10,000 searchable messages). $6.67/month billed annually per user for their standard plan.
Quip - $30/month for 5 users, plus $10/month for each additional user. Paid annually.
Wireframes are the basis upon which web developers build their final products. The best wireframes are the ones that are simple to build, but as functional as possible. Two tools promise these results. Balsamiq is a rapid mockup tool designed for smart collaboration between PMs, designers, and developers. And Fluid UI is the world’s #1 wireframe and prototype tool making it a great option for both types of products.
Balsamiq Wireframe Skins
For building strict prototypes, there are several Stacklist approved options. UXPin and Proto.io are well-known tools that promise results. UXPin is noted for its focus on UX whereas Proto.io promises agile prototypes that feel real -- no coding required. Axure boasts that 87% of the Fortune 100 trusts its wireframe & prototype tool combo for their most important software projects. Finally, Zeplin is great for app developers working on their next big product or feature.
Finally, design is important to the most effective prototypes, helping bring a degree of realism to the unfinished product. Outside of the Adobe Suite, InVision and Sketch are Stacklist founder favorites for graphic design. Sketch is notable for its commitment to design for Mac, whereas InVision has marketed itself as the final step of adding gestures and animations to build truly interactive prototypes.
Balsamiq - $89 for a single user license.
Fluid UI - $99/year for a solo plan.
UXPin - $26.10/user/month paid annually for 3 users.
Proto.io - $24/month paid annually for a single user/freelancer.
Axure - $49/user/month for team platform.
Zeplin - Free! For one active project at a time. Options to upgrade.
InVision - Free! For one prototype. $15/month for three.
Sketch - $99
Hotjar is a one-stop shop for analytics and feedback. They provide PMs with Analysis and Feedback. Allowing you to both see what users do and hear what they have to say about your product makes it a great, cost-effective option for user testing and engagement.
Price: Free! For a basic version with options to upgrade.
Product Center by Ramen
Price: Free! For a basic version with options to upgrade.
Peek by UserTesting
Peek is great for testing offering a number of options: websites, apps, prototypes, and wireframes are all fair game. Get feedback at every level of your product process with Peek. Furthermore, they offer features like video recording of users interacting with your site and 1-hour returns on video, audio, and written feedback from users.
Price: Free! UserTesting accounts for business for a price upon request.
Formerly known as Product Pains, Canny puts feature requests on your radar and keeps users in the loop. An excellent option for growing your customer engagement, Canny makes helps product managers deliver the iterations their market seeks.
Price: $99/month for 100 tracked users.
A PM expert who has 15 years experience teaching other product managers about agile methods, has written three books, and has helped numerous companies improve their product management workflow.
Dubbed the #1 product meet up in the world, our panel’s very own Jeremy Horn, aka The Product Guy, runs a robust meetup and Slack channel.
An international product community in over 100 cities worldwide, Mind the Product offers an active blog, 10,000 member strong Slack channel, meetups, conferences, and public and professional training.
Cliff Gilley runs this newsletter and blog based on his 10+ years of experience in product, especially focused on Scrum and Agile methods.
A curated list of product management advice for technical people: https://github.com/tron1991/open-product-management
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp
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Interested in product management? Join us for a panel discussion on September 13th on "Product Management from Startup to Scale: A Discussion with the Experts" with Bonobos, Blink Health, Classpass & Cision. RSVP Here.