Let”™s Put the Roadmaps and Requirements Management Right ““ Five Popular Tools for Product Managers

16 Aug 2017

Let”™s Put the Roadmaps and Requirements Management Right ““ Five Popular Tools for Product Managers

Aug 16, 2017

 

The use of roadmap and requirements management tools is becoming increasingly popular. Traditionally, product managers have mainly used tools such as spreadsheet or presentation software and project management tools, but, according to the latest studies (Sirius Design and ProductPlan), the number of users of specific roadmap programs has as much as doubled over the past year. The change has been accelerated by both the more favorable attitude of companies towards cloud-based software and the development of product management tools. These trends are likely to also remain strong in the future, so the new tools will probably keep on expanding.

In this article, we will list five noteworthy candidates for a roadmap tool, as well as the things worth considering when evaluating them.

The Most Important Criteria for Tool Selection

As the selection of product management tools expands, selecting the right kind of tool becomes more difficult. It is advisable to determine the decision-making criteria before exploring the options. At least the following five points should be taken into account.

1.      IT strategy

The majority of the new tools are only available as SaaS type tools. For some large companies, this is still against their data security strategy or at least difficult to arrange in practice. Other restrictions can be presented by, e.g., the approval of a new supplier or user management.

2.      The most important usage requirements

When the preliminary outlining has been concluded, it”™s time to turn the focus to your own needs. What is the tool needed for and whom does it benefit? Needs vary according to the users”™ roles. One person might think that the new tool is unnecessary because they process requirements at a lower level. On the other hand, it is possible for the strong opinion of a loud manager to trump the needs of the primary user, which leads to a bad choice for the whole. It is, therefore, recommended that the matter of tool selection be approached through use cases and their benefits and the determination of, e.g., the three or five most important use cases for the tool.

3.      Product development methods and tools

The benefits of roadmap and requirements management tools will not materialize if the tools cannot be integrated into the operation of the entire organization. At best, each developer work task can be linked to a certain customer need and/or strategic theme. Thus, a product management tool must be integratable with the product development tools and provide the developer with an understanding of why something is being done. Similarly, the management of business operations must be able to see in the roadmap or specific customer need how its development is proceeding.

All the product management tools of today are, at some level, integratable with the project tools. Some of the tools are, however, clearly directed at those who use agile and scalable methods (such as SAFe®), whereas some are directed at service companies and some support better products, in connection with which hardware development must also be taken into account.

4.      Usability

It often happens that a new tool is tested in a company, but after a while, everything goes back to the way it was before. The most common reason for this is that the amount of work required for deployment has been underestimated. The easiest way to start the use of a new tool is in connection with a new project. If, however, some development history has already been accumulated, the creation of product structures in the new tool may require more work than anticipated. Integration with other tools may also seem like difficult extra work, and it is advisable to plan it carefully in advance and perhaps even obtain it from an external source.

In general, the level of usability of the new tools is good, and the roadmaps are often updated automatically. If enough time is allotted for acquiring a new skill, it usually quickly becomes worthwhile.

5.      Support

Even though the usability of tools is mainly good, the need for support rarely ends at deployment. It is advisable to think carefully about what kind of support could possibly be needed in the future and where such support could be acquired. In the case of some tools, support can only be acquired from the tool provider, but some providers have local partners who can help with deployment, integration, and other problems.

Five Sound Tool Options

There are already beginning to be almost too many options, and it is probably unlikely that anyone has enough time to evaluate all the possible tools. If the list of options has to be created out of thin air, it is advisable to at least have a look at the five options below.

Aha!

Over the past few years, the most popular of the tools directed at project managers has probably been Aha!, which was evaluated in fall 2016 on the Tuotepäällikkö blog.  Even though the functionality has already been improved, the analysis of the tool still stands. Aha! is a very versatile product management tool whose functionality covers everything from the collection of ideas to requirements management. Of all tools, Aha! has the largest number of integration opportunities, and it is suitable for both agile software companies and companies that develop hardware and software using the waterfall model.

There are always, however, two sides to every coin. If one wishes to make the most of Aha!, a generous amount of time should be allotted for its deployment. Aha! does not use partners, so official support is mainly available online.

Suitable for:Mid-sized and larger companies with resources for deployment and a policy that enables the deployment of cloud services.

ProdPad

The only European option on our list is ProdPad, which we also evaluated earlier. Even though the functionality of ProdPad has significantly improved over a few years, its main feature is still the creators”™ need to make a tool that suits their needs. ProdPad is, in fact, a SaaS program, which is perfectly suited for companies that operate under the same business model. The collection of user feedback and user experience development have been integrated into the tool.

ProdPad”™s specialty is that it does not support the traditional calendar-based roadmap thinking, but rather new ideas are divided into three time horizon columns. If the management wants to see specific dates for new products or features, ProdPad is not the best choice.

Suitable for: Small and mid-sized companies that develop SaaS services.

ProductPlan

If ProdPad utilizes a bottom-up approach, then ProductPlan”™s approach is the complete opposite of that.  Above all, ProductPlan has been developed as a roadmap tool for product managers, with which it is possible to devise long-term plans on the basis of determined benefits and cost criteria.

ProductPlan has been divided into three parts: Roadmap, Planning Board, and Parking Lot. New ideas are imported into the Parking Lot, from where they can be imported to the Planning Board for evaluation. Prioritization takes place by evaluating the ratios between benefits (e.g., revenue growth, significance to the customer relationship, and strategic value) and costs.

The ProductPlan interface supports the “drag and drop” functionality, which makes updating the roadmap easy. Updated roadmaps can easily be shared in different file formats.

Suitable for: Companies that want a simple and functional roadmap tool at a reasonable price.

Jama

Jama differs from the other tools on this list in that it is only intended for requirements management. Jama contains no visual roadmap functionality, and it is used for the collection and management of requirements. At the heart of Jama”™s functionality, there is a document and content creation tool that encompasses word processing, the creation of advanced diagrams, and support for making interface mock-ups.

Jama is a fine addition to requirements management for the users of, e.g., VersionOne or Jira Software. It enables collaboration in requirements management and accelerated decision making, facilitates requirement monitoring and change management, and provides comprehensive support for reporting and documenting. Jama”™s customers mainly operate in fields with very specific and strict requirements management needs, such as the automotive, aviation and space, defense, and pharmaceutical industries.

Suitable for: Large companies that need a robust requirements management tool but not a roadmap tool.

Craft

Craft is one of those roadmap tools that have grown and become popular quickly. One reason for this may be that a product manager who works independently and only on one product can use it for free. Even though the license updates for a larger group of people are in the same price category as the updates of other tools, the user easily becomes hooked ““ and who would want to give up a good tool?

Craft is intended for software development. Requirements can be created in the form of Features, Epics, or Stories, as well as in visual form. The offered functionality also includes a roadmap view and requirement prioritization. There is no idea portal in Craft, at least not yet.

Suitable for: Product managers who work with software products and who wish to test a roadmap tool for free and without time pressure.

Conclusions

Our list of tools is not in any order of preference, and it does not necessarily represent the best five tools, but rather the tools with which Contribyte has the most experience. Of the product management tools, Roadmunk, Accompa, Wizeline, and OneDesk are missing from the list, as are Jira, Trello, and Confluence, which many use for the same purpose. When acquiring a new tool, there is no point in trying to find a product with a myriad of features. Instead, it is advisable to search for a product that best suits the company”™s needs and processes. So, just as in all product development, it is advisable to first define the problem and then the solution.

If you need assistance with tool selection, configuration, or maintenance, Contribyte”™s tool team would be happy to help you. Contact us.

Tuotepäällikkö-blogi

Tuotepäällikkö aloitti kirjoittamisen jo 2011 prodman.fi-sivustolla, josta myös löydät vanhimman  kirjoitukset. Blogi käsittelee laajasti tuotejohtamisen ja -kehityksen aiheita. Myös vieraskirjoitukset ovat tervetulleita.

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