What Tools Do You Use For Product Management Discussion Notes

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Notes from an interactive discussion at P-Camp Silicon Valley 2008 on what tools PMs are using, especially for requirements management.


  • 1. What Tools Do You Use For PM and Why? P-Camp 2008 Discussion Moderated by Nils Davis Director of Product Management Accept Software Thanks to all the participants in the discussion! (Notes by Nils Davis)

2. Categories of PM Activities

  • * Marketing
  • * Requirements
  • * Collaboration
    • Working with engineering
  • * Customer feedback
    • Enhancement requests
    • Defects
  • Ideas
    • Internal
    • Customers
  • Decisions that need to be made
  • Communication management
    • Who owes me what?
    • Workflow
  • Roadmapping

Items with *s were prioritized higher for discussion 3. Marketing

  • How do you get the word out about your product
    • (Sounds like product marketing)
    • Use Ad Words

This turned out to be a short discussion 4. Requirements

  • What are the requirements problems?
    • Always changing
    • Markets are changing
    • Changing priorities
      • Customer feedback
      • Business strategy
      • Deal of the Day
      • Funding
      • Competitors
    • Figuring out how valid the requirements are
    • Centralizing
      • Single source of truth
    • Sharing and communicating
    • Tying together reqs and UE design and technical design
    • Am I done?

5. How Do People Manage Requirements?

  • Giant Word document
  • Giant Excel spreadsheet
  • Giant GoogleDocs
  • Wiki
    • Benefits:
      • Doesnt have to be perfect low friction
      • Everybody has access more diverse inputs
      • Basecamp -comments underneath the wiki, but doesnt change the wiki page
        • Meta comment level
    • Cons
      • Cant prioritize wiki pages
      • Hard to get QA test plans out of the wiki
        • No logical order
        • Depends on wiki if programmable, can write scripts
      • Not as authoritative as a document
      • Potential loss of control
        • Can use scripts to impose some workflow (Flexwiki)
      • Search can be a problem if wiki is large

6. How Do People Manage Requirements?

  • Online app
    • Does both bug tracking and requirements (TargetProcess)
  • Bug tracker
    • Jira (+ Clearspace)
    • TRAC not recommended
    • SourceForge painful
    • Bugzilla
  • Backlog tols
    • VersionOne, Rally, Scrumworks, etc.
    • Gets very complicated
      • Four days of training and setup required
  • Living specs prototypes
  • UML
  • Basecamp
    • Use messages for discussions
    • Also use Writeboards
      • They just accumulate and cant be nested

7. How Do People Manage Requirements?

  • Mindmapping
  • Omni Outliner
    • Use personally, then print out
  • Personal wiki
  • Omni Focus
  • Write on paper or whiteboard
    • Then digitize and put in repository
  • Lighthouse
    • Enables tagging

8. Goals for Requirements Management

  • Clarity of what to do
    • Need to describe what you want to have happen
    • Be able to prioritize
  • Tie the $$ associated with the feature to the individual requirement
    • How about business objectives
  • Depends on the PM
    • Different tools fill in different areas of weaknesses
    • Memory enhancement
    • Prioritization help
  • Visibility of business side to engineering team

9. What About Getting Ideas and Customer Feedback?

  • Goals
    • Comment: Requirements written by or developed with a customer are implicit contract
      • Reluctant to write down everything a customer wants
      • Would rather use a conversation about their products
    • Its a plan, not a commitment
    • Value of PM is taking lots of input, and synthesizing it
  • Breakdown of customer-based ideas vs. internal
  • Customer community systems?
    • Clearspace runs their own community
    • How about control?
    • Benefit if customers create their own community for you
      • GetSatisfaction create communities for you with no commitment from you
    • Probably need 500 customers for this to work
    • Is there a relationship between the type of s/w and success of a community?

10. Prioritization

  • Use Excel for calculating a priority based on # of customers calling in, etc.
  • Can forward emails to a certain bucket, and they review the bucket for the amount of activity

11. Tools Used For UI Mockups

  • Omni Graffle
  • Paper low friction
  • Agile usability discussion group on Yahoo has a really long thread on usability tools
  • Visio
  • PPT 2007 with animation
  • Photoshop
  • Axure
    • Captures interactions
    • Generates HTML
    • Expensive?


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