Want to hear a joke?
So a product manager walks into a bar. Pours drinks, waits tables, cleans toilets, and puts out fire in stockroom. @RynneSpin
I am sure a lot of product managers can empathize with this joke. What does it mean? Basically if you were to ask any mobile product manager what they actually do, you are bound to get multiple answers. Mobile product managers wear many hats and take on a lot of responsibilities.
Even funnier, if you Google the question “what is a product manager?” almost all the answers are completely different, yet all completely spot on.
In the mobile world, the product manager is a key figure who has to pull (and hold) all the strings together. He/she has to make sure that the product being developed:
- Ticks all the right boxes
- Targets the right audience(s)
- Offers a simple and effective user experience
- Gets released on time
- Gets updated with new features based on community feedback
- Works (!!!)
… and many, many more.
In such a dynamic mobile environment, equipping yourself with the proper tools for mobile product managers can mean a world of a difference. The ‘secret’ ingredients to any project’s success – mobile included – are good communication, seamless elaboration and collaboration, and simple, easily digestible stream of information.
Try these tools for size
When it comes to mobile product managers, the must-have daily tools can be placed in a couple of categories: resource management, optimization, communication, and collaboration. With these tools, the mobile product manager can organize who does what and when (both human and time resources, then), on what deadlines and with whom. It allows them to communicate seamlessly with every team member, as well as allowing them to communicate amongst themselves. Finally, these tools will simplify teamwork, data sharing, insights, brainstorming, troubleshooting, and critiquing. Because a mobile product manager wears so many hats and has so many responsibilities, it is crucial that they have an arsenal of the best tools.
Let’s take a look at some of our top rated ones:
Project management: Trello
The first thing every mobile product manager needs is a visual representation of all of their tasks, a timeline of obligations, and a simple and straightforward way of organizing who does what, with whom, until when. Trello does all of these things spectacularly. Looking like a digital whiteboard onto which you can stick virtual post-it boards, it helps managers organize the project with ease. The thing we really like with Trello is that it almost serves as a one-stop shop for a lot of things – you can use it as a roadmapping app, issue tracker, or to take notes. It comes with a bunch of great features like color-coding and an easy drag ‘n’ drop interface, and it’s available on both desktop and mobile platforms.
Communication and Collaboration: Slack
Slack is one of those must-have apps that no project should start without. A simple, but effective communications app, this one has been dubbed the ‘email killer’ by Verge, Time, The New York Times, and others, too. It allows people to communicate privately or in teams, to share files and materials, and all content left there is indexed and searchable. What makes it particularly interesting is its fully customizable notifications system, as well as its integration with other platforms. You can set up Slack with Twitter, GitHub, or Google Hangouts, to name a few.
Managing a team of people usually means more than one person gets to work on a single file. If those people are scattered all over the world, which seems to be a growing trend nowadays, it is extremely important those people are able to share the files, be able to see changes in real-time, and work at the same time, without fear of losing any changes made. That’s why we chose both Box and Dropbox as our favorite apps for file sharing and storage on the cloud. They both offer plenty of storage space, great support, they’ve both integrated with Microsoft (yes, more than one person can work on a single document at one point in time), and best of all – they’re both integrated with Slack, meaning files can easily be shared through the communications app.
App feedback: Apptentive
There is another extremely useful communications tool, but this one enables a productive discussion with the app’s users. Reviews users leave on app stores are essentially a monologue, from which it is sometimes hard to understand what they did to trigger a bug. It is also hard to reach out to them and get more feedback, or help them fix the problem. For both the product managers and the users, this is a crucial, yet often missing link, and Apptentive is the solution. It connects the people behind the app with the users, enabling a two-way conversation directly in the app.
Testing: Google Play Developer Console, TestFlight, Crashlytics
Before rolling out any changes, or any new versions of your mobile app, you need to test the new features and bug fixes with a small, selected user base. The process needs to be fast and reliable, and these apps do a solid job. Google Play Developer Console allows product managers to create a list of users which will then be invited to test the new app. Soon enough, Google Play will also allow users to either join, or leave beta apps, at the app listing page. Testers will also be able to leave feedback, which will not appear in the app review section.
TestFlight is a great app for testing Apple products, including iOS, tvOS and watchOS-powered devices. Every app can be tested by 25 members of the team, and/or 2,000 beta testers outside the team. One cool feature is the notification testers receive whenever a new build or version is available.
Finally, there’s Crashlytics, an iOS, Android and Unity app which allows product managers and developers to pinpoint the exact line of code which crashed the app. It is one of the most robust tools in the biz and has been installed on more than two billion active devices.
Releasing an app does not mean the work is done – as a matter of fact, that is where the real work begins. Best apps get updated all the time – some even say four times a month. But all these constant changes must not interfere with the user experience, otherwise you might scare your users away. Appsee is a great tool for UX app analytics. It helps mobile product managers see how users are interacting with their apps, and presents points of friction and usability issues visually and clearly.
Appsee’s user recordings and touch heatmaps offer the most actionable insights, helping to simplify the user experience optimization. After using Appsee to understand how users go about the app, and where the biggest problems are, you can use Apptimize to assess and fix them. This tool supports frictionless A/B testing, instant updates and feature flags, helping product managers keep their apps fresh without sacrificing user experience.
Don’t forget your tools
An artisan is only as good as his tools, an old saying goes, and this definitely plays a role in mobile product management. The product manager has so many different tasks and obligations to fulfill that one can get lost in this beautiful mess in an instant. If you want to succeed, make sure you don’t forget your tools. The tools mentioned here, however, are just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless others out there, solving different problems managers find themselves in, and if your problem isn’t covered by the ones we listed here, don’t despair – the solution is definitely out there.