They have the role of taking the user requirements, understanding what is possible and working with the developers on timeframes. They need to be commercial, technical and great communicators. It’s not easy and comes with many problems…
The Many Challenges of the Product Manager
A product manager needs to understand enough technical language to work closely with developers and spot problems when explained to them. They need to be commercially astute so they understand user requirements. They need to understand marketing so they understand what’s needed to launch the product. And all whilst project managing it all.
They have to balance the argument between quality over quantity. They will be constantly told that the code needs to get produced faster, whilst taking heed of the developer complaining that if it’s rushed it won’t be as good.
They are told by users that it’s never quite the product they want and by developers that the brief/user story doesn’t make sense. It’s a tough job and hard to please anyone, particularly when for so long, so much is outside of their own hands.
But help is at hand. A new generation of tools is helping product managers take more control and speed up the development process, all without having to write a line of code themselves.
The rise of no-code tools has been a massive boost for product managers looking for ways to speed up development. There is a variety of different tools to help them improve the product development process, delivering many benefits
- Cost-effective. The easiest way for a product manager to speed up development is to get more developers. Unfortunately, that level of extra budget is either not available or the product manager is not responsible for that. Any of the no-code tools will mean the work can be managed more efficiently, therefore saving cost for new developers
- Take back control. By investing in tools that product managers can utilise themselves, they don’t need to rely on people like project managers, developers or scrum leaders, they can instead get actions completed themselves
- These tools generally work well together, making it easier to select the right tool for the job and not compromising by selecting a one size fits all platform
- They enable product managers to test out ideas without needing to involve overworked developers, meaning product ideas get to development faster and better formed
- Plenty of the tools also enable managing multiple small tasks and bringing teams together, key to the product managers role
- Ultimately the biggest benefit of these tools is time saving. A key goal of the product manager is to speed up development and using many of these no-code tools they are able to bypass stages in development and get sprints to completion much faster.
What Products to Use
Whilst no-code tools can provide amazing benefits to product managers, it does leave them with one problem - which ones to choose! The variety of tools is immense and can actually be overwhelming.
The starting point is always talking to the community. Talk to people about the problems you are looking to solve and more often than not you’ll get a response from people who have been through the same and suggest tools to help. If that avenue doesn’t provide the answer, then try a more route one approach and simply Google the question!
Ultimately the key to success will be understanding what you are looking for.
- Tools to make you more efficient
- Tools to improve communication
- Tools to build wireframes and test an initial hypothesis
- Tools to build prototypes and an MVP without writing code
- Tools to build custom workflows for the development process
- Tools that enable you to build APIs and connect to other platforms
- A mixture of all the above!
If you are struggling to build your roadmap, try our free consultation service where we help you understand the tools and team you need to deliver your most complex projects.
No-code Tools for Product Managers
As mentioned, there are a lot of no-code tools, so a definitive list would be a very long exercise. To help with that difficult job of narrowing down your options from all the choices on the market, below are some of the tools that we’ve pulled out from talking with hundreds of product managers over the last few years.
Let’s start with a tool loved by most product managers I know, for its variety of options that allows them to manage a lot in one place. Whilst at its heart notion is note-based software, it is being used by product managers for so much more.
For some product managers, it’s used as a simple wiki. However, it extends way beyond this with interactive media, databases, Kanban boards etc… In one simple example, you can store all meeting notes in notion and add tags to easily find the right information later on.
It is not just simple but powerful time-saving functionality that it contains, for example, the database is formed in blocks and complemented with structured metadata. It’s also possible to apply filters and separate views that show a particular underlying data.
Another fantastic addition to the product a couple of years ago was a roadmap feature, vital to any product manager. The notion roadmap can be viewed differently by each type of user.
You’ll get a detailed view for the developers (epic and feature level) whilst an exec will only want to see a summary and key metrics. You also get views for customers or sales teams. All making it quicker for the product manager to share updates with user groups and speed up the development process.
One of the most popular no-code tools in the world and one that nearly all product managers will need to be comfortable using, which shouldn’t be a problem considering how user friendly it is.
Zapier enables a product manager to build connections between thousands of different tools. This allows a product manager to test out the impact a new platform could have on the their product before they need to approach the developers, which is ultimately going to mean less wasted time and a better relationship - all things that speed up development.
Another great option for managing so many of the jobs of a product manager, they have everything in one place and can work closely with teams from different parts of the business without the need for it to be costly or take up loads of their valuable time.
It’s very popular for its Kanban feature but it offers so much more. You have the classic spreadsheet functionality but all with the power to store your product documents and enable anyone to access them and hold along with other key search information, creating an effective product database without a database engineer in sight!
It’s also great for communicating insight and actions to different people/teams, regardless of how close they are to the project or their level of experience. Utilising the automation functionality can be a massive time-saver, get dev teams back to work faster and use the Slack integration to talk to them on their favourite platform.
Imagine a tool that allows a product manager to build their own custom workflows, that has tables that connect within each other and buttons take take action, publishing them for the company so you have efficient processes built just for you. This is one of the main reasons product managers love working with Coda.
If you add to this the ability to build your roadmaps, collate all documentation and have experimental backlogs, you start to see why this no-code platform is a favourite of product managers.
Adalo helps product managers put together prototypes of the ideas, meaning they show the developers more accurately what they are looking to achieve, thus saving a lot of time on the handover from product to development.
The tool enables them to build these prototypes and understand what is realistic, without having to know how to code themselves. They are able to use third party integrations (using Zapier) to access additional functionality, again without needing to use the time of the developers.
If you are looking for a more complex initial solution to put in front of the development team, then Bubble is a really good option. Not only does it come packed with a great selection of templates allowing you to build most things out of the box, it has the ability to scale with your requirements.
This means the prototype you build can be taken on by the development team and the solution solution built in the same platform, which is a massive plus when looking at how to speed up the development process. This all means that product managers can work far closer with the developers.
A great little tool that is used by a number of product managers for a couple of specific reasons. Firstly, if you are looking to build a bot, then it’s packed with the right features and will allow a prototype to be built quickly by the product manager, speeding up the development process.
Alternatively, if you are looking to set up some new APIs, then its a wonderful tool for making this simple and well within the skills of the non-coding product manager. They will be able to connect different platforms and test what are the right integrations.
One slightly left field requirement that we’ve seen more and more is the need to build quick, good quality websites that can be given to users to showcase a new product or even a simple app for the same purpose. It’s a great tool when looking at idea generation and hypothesis testing. It might even be used in user testing sessions.
With a tool like Webflow, the product manager can manage all of this themselves without going to development, which would either delay the site/app getting built or slow the developers core project.
Webflow comes packed with templates, making it simple for someone without coding skills to have an initial site/app live within a couple of days, a massive time saver for everyone.
That is a lot of tools and there are many more that you might use to help you in your job or build your dream project. If you would love some support in making these decisions then try our free consultation service and let us help you today.
Start to Finish the Jobs
The natural conclusion is that a lot of the smaller jobs could also get completed by the product team, which would have a dramatic impact on the speed of development. One of the big issues with slow development is technical debt. Much of this is small little tasks that need completing but never get given as a priority.
Take the example of an internal workflow that needs aligning. Maybe the current system involves the raising of a ticket that gets passed manually and then has to be updated. Getting a developer to look at this problem will always be a challenge and when they do, it slows down the core development.
With the advancement of the tools above, the product manager can take on these jobs and free the developers, all without them needing to write a line of code!