How to break up with spreadsheets as a product manager
March 8, 2019
March 8, 2019
One of the primary responsibilities of product managers is to build out and track documentation from feedback, features to product roadmaps. As there is not an industry standard for product management tools, we often find ourselves going back to the basics which is the use of Word, Excel and other spreadsheet tools to track our information.
Need to build out a User Persona? Start a Word Document. Need to list out your competitors and how you are different? Create a spreadsheet. Need a place to put all your feature backlog requests? Use Sharepoint or a cloud based spreadsheet to post all of the data. By default, product managers find themselves in need of a solution to track a large amount of data points and unfortunately fall into the trap of using basic tools to complete complex jobs.
While using basic information capture tools like Word or Excel is easy, there are many negatives to using them as your tool of choice for product management:
- Sharing: Typically, the documents are stored on someone’s work station that is emailed out to team members for review. If not, they are using a share point or cloud based repository to keep the documents where you then struggle to see who updated what and when. You need to be able to access your vision, product plans and feature backlog anywhere and anytime but this is not quite easy with documents stored in single locations.
- Connections: In product management, you need to be able to tell a story about your roadmap. For each feature you prioritize, you need to be able to explain WHY you selected it. How you do this is by being able to trace back the source of the feature. Did the feature come from a customer feedback request? Does the feature accomplish your key objectives or a part of your competitor analysis? There is no easy way to trace from one document to another to see the history and reason your backlog and roadmap looks the way it does.
- Working Sessions: Working your backlog is an active session and discussion where you may need to see how features look grouped together and change your mind and reprioritize on the fly. You need to be able to show the vision of your roadmap and the backlog to facilitate discussion. This is hard to do with spreadsheets.
Don’t get me wrong, I can see how easy it is for a product manager to get information thrown at them and look for what is easy. Product managers have Excel on their machine and decide to use that to get going and fill the immediate need. The reality is that Excel is not built for product management and while there are many tools built out for engineer, designers and pretty much every other industry, product management tools are only a new concept.
ProductHQ for example, was built out in 2018 and launched in 2019 to help product managers who have found themselves using spreadsheets to manage their day to day coordination of feedback, features and roadmaps but needed a better solution. If you are currently using spreadsheets or word documents to track your user personas, competitor analysis, customer feedback, product features or your product roadmap, we want you to know there is a lifeline available! Don’t believe me? Give ProductHQ a try and see for yourself. Even better, we have a free version so you can use it 100% free to manage your product and retire your spreadsheets for good!