A product owner is one of the essential roles for the product development team, especially when we speak about digital products. The software development process requires us to know the behavioral psychology, human interface guidelines (HIG), basics of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), technical aspects of implementation, continuous integration (CI), and continuous delivery (CD) processes. In addition to the app development procedure, product owners need to know the market and competitors. They should be aware of the business, product, and technical requirements that must be transmitted and explained to the software development team. All this knowledge helps us to be more effective in our positions.
The role of a product owner is full of creativity, challenges, and an endless flow of information. We get it from different sources like software engineering team, Internet, executives, and just staying in the kitchen waiting for a cup of coffee.
How to make a company more efficient?
Everything starts with the company and the culture that is in the air. You know that stressed employees are less productive, and they are prone to quick burnout in the workplace. Their negativity and depressive mood affect others by disrupting the work culture in the collective.
Efficient performance management systems in the company are the main step that protects employees, even if the business needs to protect them from themselves. The environment forms our attitude to the work we do. It is hard to be the most effective person if you need to fight against everyone in the office and suffer from inconveniences. A few pieces of advice for stakeholders to help them make their employees happy and proactive:
- The availability of a transparent corporate strategy helps employees to understand in what direction the company is moving, as well as provides them with confidence in the future.
- Define your cultural values and find people who share them. Company leaders need to articulate company culture and align the whole system with it.
- A clear prioritization allows your co-workers to define the consequence of the tasks and be sure that it lives up to your expectations. Top management needs to make trade-offs between competing priorities and provide the employees with this information.
- Various Key Performance Indicators (KPI) can be instrumental in defining the productivity measures for different positions. The company needs to reward high performers and find out why the rest are not at the same level.
- Company executives should be ready for the feedback, and employees should know that they are welcome to provide it.
Any firm can become the leader of the market if its employees are content and productive at their workplaces. However, even if a company has good working conditions, personal traits can become the reason for low effectiveness.
How to be an effective product owner
An efficient product manager for me is a person who develops a digital product, a team, and himself in time. This person has everything under control and doesn’t experience any stress about it. If you have hands-on experience in digital product design and development, you know that it is hard to reach a state of balance. Project managers, product owners (PO), and product managers are usually between the devil and the deep blue sea. They experience much tension from the business owners, end-users, and members of the dedicated software development team. They need to have a clear vision to elaborate and execute an actionable product development strategy in the best interest of business, all while keeping clients satisfied. It is hard to find this balance, but it still possible.
You may have read some articles and books about well-known visioners and business owners who have tons of responsibilities on them. The first recommendation from their side is healthy food, sports, and comfortable sleep time. These simple rules can help us keep our bodies healthy and fresh.
What about day to day operational activities? I want to be productive in managing positions all day long. However, it is not a mature approach to try to get everything done at the same time. For the last three years, I was experimenting a lot with different tools, concepts, and best practices to make myself as productive as I can. Moreover, I was analyzing the obtained results throughout that time.
In this article, I want to share my own experience and give some tips about the software that can help you perform better. I’ve divided all the tools into five specific groups: time management, development process management, product design, product management, and automation tools.
Must-have product owner tools: #1 Time management
Time is the most valuable asset for managing positions. Technical product owners need to synchronize business requirements with tech teams. We often have situations when the augmented software development team is waiting for the requirements and discussions, quality assurance engineers want to confirm the correctness of the mobile application behavior, and business analysts want to provide you with the results of the marketing research at the same time. As a result, you are expected to manage your time without painful consequences for the project or product. One of the most convenient online time management tools for business is:
- Google Calendar. I plan all the meetings and essential activities on my calendar. All co-workers can see my free timeslots, and they understand at what time they can book a meeting with me. In the invite, I expect to see the necessary information about the goals and agenda of the meeting.
Booking an appointment in the Google Calendar becomes the main rule after I’ve figured out that continuous destruction was one of the crucial stress factors for my brain. People used to come to my desk and asked many questions or wanted me to make a decision right away. However, my mind needed time to switch from other activities that I had at that time.
Google Calendar scheduling tool compels everyone to have respect for a personal schedule. I have synchronized calendars on the web and mobile applications, so I get notifications about the meeting. A small tip is to have a few event colors to simplify the recognition process on the dashboard. So when I look at my calendar, I distinguish which of the meetings are with product teams, tech teams, or personal ones even without reading the titles.
#2 IT project management tools for the software development process
I think this list can be endless because each project is unique, and there are various requirements and needs for team or task management on the market. I name only those that I’ve already used in different projects and only those that have proved their effectiveness.
- <strong>Atlassian Jira Software</strong> is the best tool for the task and bug tracking for custom software development companies. The most useful feature for me is the ability to customize ticket structure, workflows, and notifications according to the project or product needs. My schedule is tight, so I can’t go to each developer and ask for updates. However, I can open the Jira board with the actual statuses of the tickets and review them in five minutes. Sometimes we add clients to our Jira for the same reason. Jira Software has a significant number of plugins that simplify integration with different external tools. Atlassian offers mobile applications for both iOS and Android platforms. The app has limited functionality that allows us to create or edit tickets, find them in the project, and review boards.
- <strong>Atlassian Confluence</strong> has become my favorite tool for document management. I can keep a lot of information in different spaces. Usually, I have different types of documentation on projects such as product descriptions, software requirements specifications (SRS), business and technical requirements, meeting notes, and research results. Confluence helps us to keep development documentation in order as well. For each document type, we’ve created templates that are used within the Dashdevs company. Our developers keep the description of how the system and services work in the Confluence space too. I can control access to space or even a particular page. Atlassian has a mobile application for both iOS and Android platforms.
- <strong>Harvest</strong> is an excellent tool for time tracking. Since Dashdevs provides team augmentation services, we need to track the amount of time spent by the team. Clients usually have too many meetings and manage their teams directly. And the Harvest tool is the best for time table management. We provide access to the accounters, so they have actual information for invoices on a daily basis. Harvest has a self-explanatory design and convenient user experience.
- <strong>Lucidchart</strong> is a perfect tool for chart creation. Product owners, project managers, and business analysts use charts to illustrate the functionality, data flow, and architecture of mobile and web applications. Unified Modeling Language (UML) is our second language. We create different types of UML charts such as Flow chart, Activity diagram, Sequence diagram, Use case diagram, or Communication diagram. Lucidchart is the best web solution for these types of tasks with the possibility of integration with Confluence.
Atlassian software company does a great job now, providing business with the best solutions for development process management. They always update Jira and Confluence products so users could enjoy the perfect user experience.
#3 Best product design tools
Design is one of my favorite stages of the software application development process because we start to visualize our products. PO and BA are working closely with designers and use some of their tools as well. I have a must-have list of online product designer tools for every person in my product management teams.
- <strong>Sketch</strong> is the most progressive and commonly used tool for mobile and web designers, but it can be easily used by managers as well. It has such necessary features as symbols and libraries that make it easier for the responsible parties to follow design guidelines for the product. It has multiple plugins for different functions, such as color lint, spell checkers, photo, and text generators. The main disadvantage of the application is that it has only a desktop version for Mac, but I don’t have issues with that.
- <strong>Marvel App</strong> is one of the most suitable applications for prototyping. Marvel has everything you need to create a prototype that shows how your software solution must work. We can share our visual prototypes with clients, web or mobile developers, and QA teams. They have various animation possibilities to present new screens of the prototype. However, the most valuable feature for me is the Handoff that enables the sharing of design resources and design specifications with developers.
- <strong>Abstract</strong> is a fabulous tool for version control of design files. Usually, several designers concurrently work on the design for one application. The process of synchronization and the source file update can turn into a mess, and this tool helps our designers to collaborate. It has a history of changes, the possibility to roll back to the previous version, and provide access to files from all around the world. We can share the project with the client so they can always have the most actual design file. Our developers have access to Abstract as well.
The collaboration of these three tools can become a powerful booster for your product development team. A few years ago, we had an issue with design team productivity. We analyzed the process and figured out that the use of Sketch, Marvel, and Abstract tools has impressively increased the productivity of the design team. We’ve already shared our experience and described how to increase design productivity in one of our previous articles.
#4 Product management tools
Product roadmap can be managed through Jira Software, but some clients find it too difficult. They need something more straightforward that gives visibility to the whole team on the progress and plans. Here are the product lifecycle management tools that I sometimes use to cover such clients' needs.
- <strong>Trello boards</strong> are a trendy and user-friendly tool that allows us to create boards, lists, and manage cards in a fun and flexible way. Additionally, boards can be integrated with Atlassian products.
- <strong>Monday</strong> is a rich collaborative space with a great and fully customizable board. It has much functionality for planning, management, and process control. We usually use Monday to collaborate with non-tech departments such as sales, marketers, and customer support managers. They can see the roadmap, discuss features, plan marketing campaigns, and share documents.
Trello and Monday tools can simplify the collaboration between tech and non-tech teams and improve the product management process in general.
#5 Project management automation tools
By nature, I hate monotonous work and continually look for options to automate it. Here are some tools that can help you be more productive and free up more time for exciting tasks.
- <strong>Slack apps and integrations</strong> are the best tools that keep you up-to-date and simplify processes. There are integrations with Jira and Confluence, so we always know about blockers, document updates, and changes in statuses. It has integration with CI/CD tools that notifies about the issues with the deployment process or flag when the deploy is over. Another excellent feature is the stand-up bots. Working with several teams requires you to keep track of their progress. Slack stand-up bots get updates from everybody and notify about the blockers. You save time on meetings without losing the effectiveness.
- <strong>IFTTT</strong> or <strong>Zapier</strong> are the utilities that can make different tools work together. If something happens in one tool, it influences the other instrument. You can use IFTTT or Zapier if your tools don’t have open API or integration.
The process of software development requires IT outsourcing companies to remain as productive as possible. The product development department unites the roles that are the main drivers of the progress in application engineering. The level of their productivity extrapolates to the whole product development process.
I hope these tools will help you build products faster while not compromising the quality and scope. Have we missed anything? You’re welcome to share your favorite project management tools in the comments below.