There are countless product management tools out there, and each one serves a different function. Whether you’re an individual product manager looking for a tool to help you track customer satisfaction scores, or a head of product looking for an in-depth platform to help you collect and manage feedback, there’s likely a tool out there for you. But how are you supposed to sift through dozens of product management tools to find the best one for you? How do you even know what the best one for you is? Lucky for you, we’re here to help. Let’s break it down.

What are Product Management Tools?

Before we get too much further, let’s quickly define what a product manager tool is and what it typically looks like. A product management tool is a tool or platform typically used by product managers (I know, shocking) to help them with all kinds of aspects of their jobs. Some product managers will only use really simple tools just to help them gather basic metrics, while others will look for more in-depth analytical tools to help them build out a stronger roadmap. Either way, product managers use a variety of tools to help them gather customer feedback, validate what they’re hearing and create roadmaps.

Why Do You Need a Product Management Tool?

Product Managers have a long list of responsibilities that often vary widely depending on what company they work for. Generally speaking, however, a product manager will need to collect and manage customer feedback, plan out their product roadmaps, track their notes or ideas, and analyze all the data they’ve collected. Not to mention, product managers are often expected to collect and track a ton of different metrics, such as NPS or Customer Effort Score (CES).

As I’m sure you can tell, that’s a lot for one person to handle, which is why many product managers rely on an array of tools to help them accomplish it all. Most tools will not only help them manage all their responsibilities, but great tools can often help them optimize the entire process and make their job (and everyone else’s) that much easier.

What Should You Look for in a Product Management Tool?

Like we stated earlier, there are dozens of product management tools out there- but how are you supposed to decide which one is the best one? You can compare feature sets and review listicles all day long, but the truth is that you shouldn’t be looking for the best product management tool overall, but the best product management tool for you. Each tool accomplishes something different, so it’s worth it to sit down with your product management team before hunting for “the best tool” in order to outline exactly what it is you are looking for.

What are Your Goals?

It may seem obvious, but it’s always good to make sure everyone on your team is on the same page about what you’re trying to accomplish. What are you looking to get out of a tool? Do you need a feedback collection tool, a roadmap management tool? A tool that allows you to analyze information you’ve already collected? Maybe all three?

You may also want to set actionable product management goals to achieve once you adopt a new tool. If you decide you want to increase your NPS score by an average of two points, then you’ll want to look for a reliable survey and analytics platform. If you want to be incorporate three new items into your roadmap based off of user feedback, you’ll want to invest in a strong roadmapping tool.

Outlining your product management goals ahead of time will help you narrow down what kind of tool you’re looking for and will make the entire process much smoother. You may be surprised at the disparity in answers between teammates based on what’s most important to them in a tool, so aligning on your goals ahead of time is key to finding the best product management tool for you.

What Product Management Metrics are You Looking to Track?

Once you’ve all settled around the same goal, the next steps are creating a plan for how you’re going to achieve that goal; more specifically, what are the exact specifications needed in a tool to get you to your goal, and what kinds of metrics do you need to collect, track, and analyze to get you to that goal?

Every product manager tracks different metrics and every product manager is going to give you a different opinion on which product management metrics are the best to track. But the best metrics for you to track are going to be dependent on what you’re trying to accomplish, and which tool you decide to go with. Here are a few of the most common product management metrics that we’ve seen teams successfully collect and analyze.

Net Promoter Score (NPS/aNPS)

NPS typically asks your users to rate on a scale from 1-10 how likely they are to recommend your product to someone else. Typically, those who rated 1-6 are considered “Detractors”, those who rated 7-8 are considered “Neutrals”, and those who rated 9-10 are considered “Promoters”. You can then find your NPS score by subtracting the percentage of “Detractors” from the percentage of “Promoters”.

NPS= % Promoters – % Detractors

So for example, if you have 68% “Promoters” and 10% “Detractors”, then you have an NPS score of 58. NPS can be a helpful metric, however it is highly speculative in nature; “How likely are you to recommend the product?” Instead, we suggest using aNPS, or Actual NPS. aNPS asks the user, “Have you already recommended the product? Why or why not?” This will give you much more actionable insight and data.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Typical Customer Effort Score surveys ask a customer to what extent they agree or disagree that the company, product, or service made it easy for them to address the issue in question on a 5 to 7 point scale. A numerical value is then assigned to each of the options on the scale, for example, assigning a value of 1 to “Very Difficult” and a value of 5 to “Very Easy”. The score itself is then calculated by taking the sum of respondents who fall within the “positive” range on the scale (for example, a score of 4 or above on a 5-point scale) and dividing it by the total number of respondents.

The primary problem with this approach for product management teams is that it completely ignores the context of the user’s expectation of difficulty when engaging with the feature or flow in question. Simply put: users don’t expect every feature in your product to be equally friction free, nor do they expect the solution to each of their pain points to have the same degree of simplicity.

One way to address this issue is to slightly adjust the format of the answer options, in particular by introducing a new answer option, “As Expected”. This allows a user to let you know that even if an aspect of your product is more challenging to use, it was still within the realm of expectation for them and was not a deterrent.

Product Engagement Metrics (DAU, MAU, WAU)

One of the most important things for product managers to track is how engaged a user is within their product. To do this, most product managers will keep track of Daily Active Users (DAU), Weekly Active Users (WAU), or Monthly Active Users (MAU). These metrics measure “active users” within a certain time period.

The definition of an active user will depend on the nature of your product. For example, Instagram may define an active user as one who logs in and spends at least 60 seconds viewing posts, whereas an accounting platform may define an active user as one who makes an accounting entry or runs a report. Using your definition of active, sum up all of the unique (counting only once) users within each time period.

On their own, these metrics provide a high-level view of how your user base is changing over time and user activity in your product. However, they likely won’t provide much context or information into how your users are actually interacting with your product, or how satisfied they are with their experience. Tracking active users is crucial to understanding your user population, but it likely won’t be the only product management metric that your team will be tracking.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

We’ve all received customer satisfaction surveys; essentially, CSAT shows shows a user’s overall content or discontent with your product. You ask your users to rank your product on a scale (1-3, 1-5, 1-10, etc.) and then you take the sum of the scores divided by the number of respondents. While NPS measures overall satisfaction, CSAT typically measures a user’s satisfaction with a certain feature inside of your product. This metric is most effective when you use it at the exact moment they just finished using that feature during their journey through your product.

CSAT can be used as an overall health indicator of the satisfaction of your user base (or individual cohorts). By targeting questions to a specific part of the experience (e.g. onboarding or the product itself), you can get more insight into which aspects of the experience need to be improved. CSAT responses can also help you determine which customers are unhappy, and thus needing some extra attention from your team, as well as which customers are very happy, and can be advocates for your company or product.

Feature Fit Index (FFI)

Feature Fit Index (FFI) is a type of feature sentiment rating that uses one simple question to measure how users feel about an existing or new feature. We recommend using FFI anywhere from 30-90 days after launching a new feature to understand how well it resonates with your users. The survey is then as simple as “Would you be disappointed if this feature disappeared” and asks for a yes or no response.

Your FFI score then comes from taking the number of respondents who would be disappointed and dividing it by the total number of respondents. Some product management teams use FFI for a product-wide assessment, but we recommend targeting FFI on a specific feature or functionality. That way, you can get a more accurate and pin-pointed assessment on your user’s thoughts about your product.

Types of Product Management Tools

Alright, so you’ve established the exact goals your team wants to accomplish with a product management tool and you’ve identified the exact product management KPI‘s you want to track. Now you’re ready to shop! Let’s go through the different types of product management tools and how they align with your goals and metrics.

Roadmapping Software

One of the most common types product management tools is a roadmapping software. Every product team has a roadmap; a plan for what they’re building next and when they’re hoping to release it. In theory, product teams can use non-native roadmap applications, like an Excel spreadsheet, but anyone who has tried to do this will vouch for how disorganized, inflexible, and messy this quickly becomes. And don’t even think about finding a way to use analytics and metrics to prioritize certain roadmap items over others without a roadmapping software.

Using a dedicated roadmap software, like ProductPlan or Parlor’s brand new Priority Management tool, will help keep not only your product team organized and aligned, but makes it that much easier to communicate your product roadmap and priorities to outside teams who may not have had visibility before. Did you get a CES score from a high-paying user that let you know that a certain aspect of your product needs to be improved? You can use a roadmapping tool to prioritize that roadmap item over others you may have had planned out.

Customer Survey Tools

Some teams just want a simple and effective way to gather information from their users. A simple customer survey tool, such as SurveyMonkey or even just using a Google Survey, is a great way to do this. Of course, there are more in-depth tools, such as Qualtrics that you can purchase to run more intense surveys with better metric analysis, or tools that focus heavily on one specific metric, such as NPS. But those are likely not only going to cost signifcantly more money, and are really only going to be useful for much larger teams. Plus, as we mentioned above, going deep into one single metric is likely not going to be very useful for any teams; it’s important to get an array of information to help you gain context as to why your users are answering that particular way.

Survey tools are extremely useful for product management teams to get a better understanding of how users are utilizing their product, and going into the purchasing process knowing which KPIs you want to track will help you select the right survey tool for your team.

Analytics Tools

Along with survey tools, analytics tools are crucial to understanding your user population. After all, if you gather all this information from your users but have no way to actually interpret and incorporate it, then what’s the point in running the surveys in the first place?

Most survey tools will have a basic analytics capability built in, but many product management teams will need a more in-depth analytics tool to help them better analyze and understand trends happening in their feedback data. A platform such as Pendo, can help take the results from feedback collection and gain actionable insight into what to do or focus on next.

Conclusion

There are literally dozens of product management tools out there, and each tool accomplishes something different. Deciding with your product team what goals you’re trying to accomplish and which metrics you’re trying to track will help your team select the best product management tools for your team.

The easiest solution, in our humble opinion? Finding a tool that does it all for you. That’s where Parlor comes in.

Parlor creates a single place for your teams to collect and manage user feedback, validate and prioritize your product roadmap, and communicate new updates and releases with your users. Looking for a survey tool to measure NPS and FFI? We’ve got you. Want a roadmapping tool to help you prioritize items based on actionable analytics and specific user requests? We have that, too. Want a way to see feedback trends across user populations that accounts for different product metrics? You guessed it- Parlor. Sound too good to be true? Check out even more of what we do here.