What are the best product management tools?

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A good tool improves the way you work. A great tool improves the way you think.

Jeff Duntemann

I often point product managers to this quote when they all they want to know is which product management tool will help them become 10X better at their job.

Let’s take an example of productivity tools – something which majority of founders and product leaders often are (overly) obsessed about.

Favs range from old school like Trello/Asana /TODOist to Microsoft ToDo to Pomodoro tools to a whole lot of freshly launched fancy products.

You must have tried many of these productivity tools.
Question: Have they improved your productivity ? Made you a better professional?

‘I am not sure’ is how most of you would respond (I definitely would and I know many of you are in the same boat).

So what’s the problem? Are these productivity tools useless?

Well, actually not. Here is what I have learnt instead.

People who have actually managed to solve their productivity challenges are not the ones who rely on tools, but the ones who have built a habit.

And what tools do most of them use? Pen and paper !

What’s the deal here?

We often end up treating a tool as a master, but in reality it should be your servant.

Most of the problem statements, if done from first principles perspective can be solved by basic tools – the only caveat is that you need to really know what and how you want to solve the problem statement (answer: why/what/how – and you will understand that solution doesn’t lie in a tool, but in one’s approach to solving the problem) .

To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.

So..what are the best product management tools?

I’d argue that 90% of product managemennt tools problem can be solved by Microsoft/Google docs + excel, sans fancy tools.

Wanna write a PRD? Sure – there is a template and lots of tool for that, but how about first defining what should go in your PRD? Importantly: why are you writing a PRD when you know that nobody is gonna read it? So: what should matter in PRD then? What matters and what’s fluff?

Wanna work on product roadmap ? Sure buddy. MS Excel / Google Sheet has 99% of what you need.

Want to learn product management for free? Go ahead and apply for the invite on DRIP app.

Fancy tools are often used as an excuse for not thinking deep, not really answering the important questions / not really going deep in defining and understanding the problem itself.

I am not against tools, but I am against the reasons how and why they are often used and abused – many a times, these tools shift the ‘deep thinking’ process from the product manager to the tool, which sets a foundation of mediocrity among the teams.

Of course, tools are needed (especially in remote working environment – but let it not become an excuse to *not think*.

Remember: Any tool is a weapon if you hold it right.

Ani DiFranco

What’s your take?