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How to Choose a Roadmap Tool

People often associate the word “roadmap” with “product”, but the reality is that everybody needs to create roadmaps. At the end of the day, a roadmap is a plan of action that defines what are the goals that we are trying to achieve, and how to achieve them.

A roadmap tool helps users create, manage and share roadmaps. There are many options available in the market, but how do you effectively choose a roadmap tool for your specific needs? Ultimately, the process of selecting a roadmap tool is really important because that tool will influence how you think, plan, communicate and work, and it should also help you maximize your business outcomes.

If you are trying to choose a great roadmap tool but don’t know how to do a proper evaluation, this quick guide will come in handy. So, what does the best product roadmapping tool deliver?  We’ve narrowed it down to 4 key areas and broken down a checklist for each:

1. Transforms Your Workflow to Outcome-Focused

  • Connects strategy to product delivery.
  • Creates, builds, and shares visual roadmaps based on data, allowing product managers to defend their plans easily.
  • Goes beyond planning by providing portfolio allocation that is seamlessly integrated.
  • Connects to execution tools (Jira, GitHub, Clubhouse, Asana), so you know where you are and whether you can deliver your roadmap.

2. Flexibility

  • Enables various roadmapping styles, such as OKR or outcome-based roadmaps.
  • Easy to use across all levels of the product org —  individual PMs, group managers, Chief Product Officers, and their stakeholders
  • Integrates with engineering, development, and communication tools.
  • Allows you to build various roadmaps in minutes — changing formats in a few clicks while using the same data.

3. Creates Visibility into Your Organization

  • Maintains tight alignment that’s loosely coupled for cross-functional teams.
  • Gains insights and analytics around requests.
  • Delivers one-click roadmap sharing in various formats, only showing the data you want and multiple levels of granularity depending on the audience.
  • Views roadmap roll-ups across multiple levels and hierarchies, giving your entire product team multiple lenses to view their efforts.
  • Goes beyond planning by providing automatic tracking and alerts with roll-up progress and predictive schedules.

4. Empowers Teams

  • Receives best practices and pre-set workflows designed specifically by former product leaders.
  • Provides best practice education, free product management, and product-ops webinars, and a community of product professionals willing to help you make better decisions that accelerate business outcomes.
  • Connects with a team of world-class team product consultants as your customer success manager.

Good vs. Great Product Roadmap Tools

Now that you know what to look for when choosing a product roadmap tool, let’s look at what sets a great tool apart from the rest.

OK Roadmap ToolGREAT Roadmap Tool
VisualizationVariety of formats such as board, list, and GanttVariety of formats while also laying in multiple perspectives: Goals or work, themes, strategies, time horizon
PlanningTimeline basedChoose the style that works for your team —timeline-based, lean roadmap, strategic plan — while connecting multiple horizons across various teams and dependency plans.
Prioritizing Supports RICE, MoSCoW, or simple scoring models Support RICE, MoSCow, simple scoring ROI-based prioritization, and target allocation models, in addition to dynamic prioritization models that connect shifting goals or strategies via MoAR
Portfolio Can group multiple teams for roll-upCan roadmap across multiple teams, and at individual team levels to support both top-down roadmaps and bottom-up roll-ups

A basic roadmap tool illustrates a wish list. A great roadmap tool should support a portfolio approach to building products while collaborating with product operations, engineering, go-to-market teams, customers, and external parties. And it should, ultimately, help you maximize your business outcomes. 

At Dragonboat we help teams practice outcome-focused and customer-obsessed product management.  Dragonboat is a complete roadmap tool for your outcome-focused product teams. Check it out via Dragonboat’s free trial today or schedule a demo with one of our product expert consultants. We’re here to help and get you on your way to accelerate outcomes.

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10 Common Roadmap Templates For Your Unique Communication Needs

Product roadmaps are essential in communicating product plans and the reasons behind these decisions. They enable visibility and alignment, critical in product-led, outcome-focused organizations. As product managers have many stakeholders each with varied needs, they need to create different roadmap formats to tell the right story for the right audience. For example, customers may want to see the progress of requested features, while executive teams might want to know how these features help to achieve business goals.

At Dragonboat we work with thousands of teams. Here are the 10 popular and effective roadmap templates we’ve come across. In this post, we’ll share details about ten common roadmap formats and when to use them. You can create all of these roadmap formats in Dragonboat with real-time data.

  1. Lean Roadmap
  2. Strategy Roadmap
  3. Outcome-Based Roadmap
  4. Release Roadmap
  5. Quarterly Roadmap
  6. Theme-Based Roadmap
  7. Team Roadmap
  8. Technology Roadmap
  9. Transformation Roadmap
  10. Milestone Roadmap

1 – Lean Roadmap

What is a lean roadmap?

A lean roadmap, sometimes called a “fuzzy timeline”, provides an overview of what problems can and should be solved in order to work towards your product vision and reach business goals without being an exact outline of what’s going to be delivered and when. 

The Now-Next-Later Lean Roadmap template focuses on time horizons over timelines by using three buckets to communicate and align teams on the upcoming challenges, opportunities, and issues:

  • Now: Initiatives and ideas in the Now Bucket are currently being worked on and are the most defined in terms of details and scope, and are often already being executed by teams. 
  • Next: Initiatives and ideas in the Next Bucket are the ones you’re getting ready for your team to work on, and often in the discovery or planning phase. 
  • Later: Initiatives and ideas in the Later Bucket are further down the horizon without clearly defined details. These are often assumptions of problems you foresee but are not yet ready to be moved to planning. 

When to use a lean roadmap?

Product teams can use various lean roadmap formats like Now-Next-Later or expanded like this month, this quarter, this year, or in the future to organize initiatives that best drive product outcomes. 

You can also use this roadmap format to communicate your priorities over broad timeframes. It’s a great choice for teams that need to provide an overview of what’s on the horizon, but need flexibility for changing release dates.

2- Strategy Roadmap

What is a strategy roadmap?

A strategy roadmap serves as the link between strategy and execution. This roadmap format visualizes and communicates the key initiatives and plans within a particular timeframe to achieve your organization’s strategic vision. 

Strategic Roadmap Template - Netflix style

When to use a strategy roadmap?

A strategy roadmap is used to help product teams prioritize initiatives, allocate resources, and track and manage dependencies to ensure that an organization is focused on solving the right challenges at the right time. A strategy roadmap is what ties day-to-day efforts to business strategy.

Below are some key steps to follow to ensure an effective strategy roadmap:

  1. Assess the key challenges that need to be solved with your strategic vision.
  2. Set objectives that need to be achieved to solve these challenges
  3. Evaluate your capabilities to understand what people and processes you need to have or invest in to meet the objective. (For example, if your objective is to increase sales bookings by 5% you may need sales and marketing resources. At this stage, product teams can also assess required capabilities against their current state to determine how much of a change is required to the capability to meet the objective).
  4. Define initiatives to determine how these actions will be grouped for execution.
  5. Build your roadmap to outline which initiatives will be delivered and in what order

3- Outcome-Based Roadmap

What is an outcome-based roadmap?

An outcome-based roadmap gives context to roadmap items and their prioritization. This type of roadmapping approach focuses not only on the “what” (outputs) but also the “why” (outcomes). It empowers teams to align toward top-level objectives typically set by an organization in annual or quarterly planning sessions.

When to use an outcome-based roadmap?

An outcome-based roadmap is used by product teams to connect product initiatives and features with product or business goals. This helps product teams focus on delivering products customers love while also driving business outcomes. This type of roadmap is used to align teams with a focus on the end goal instead of specific deliverables to ensure objectives are achieved.

Check out our Step-by-Step guide for Outcome-Focused Roadmapping for more detail.

4- Release (Rollup) Roadmap

What is a release roadmap?

A release roadmap organizes your roadmap via releases to plan and visualize which features will be grouped into which release. It provides an overview of what improvements, features, and fixes will be included in the upcoming release cycle. Release roadmaps can span a few months, but can also be broken down into shorter 2-week sprints. 

Release roadmaps are used by product teams to plan feature and product releases across upcoming time horizons and prioritize each release based on impact, effort, and benefit. With a release roadmap, product teams can also easily view and manage timeliness and progress for all upcoming releases. 

When to use a release roadmap?

A release roadmap is a great way to plan upcoming releases by linking features and stories in a sprint to show how each of these individual items relates back to the overarching objectives and provides an overview of the company’s strategic direction to engineering teams. In addition, it can be used as a tool to ensure alignment around upcoming releases across multiple departments including product, marketing, and sales. 

5- Quarterly Roadmap

What is a quarterly roadmap?

Certain goals like retention and market expansion are almost always present in a business but can fluctuate depending on the time of year, business goals, and other external factors. Planning quarterly helps companies better align their product planning with the changing needs of the business, customers, and market.  

Quarterly roadmaps allow teams to focus on the company’s specific needs at a specific time. This type of roadmap format helps structure product roadmaps over a longer term and highlights how they plan to execute within each quarter.

Outcome focused quarterly roadmap template Netflix style

When to use a quarterly roadmap?

Product teams often perform quarterly or bi-monthly planning and build quarterly roadmaps to coordinate release plans and execution across teams. Quarterly roadmaps can be built by goals or by product areas, and typically start at the initiative level for cross-team alignment, and then break down to epic or lower during release planning. 

Check out our Step-by-Step Guide for Performing Quarterly Planning with Dragonboat.

6- Theme-Based Roadmap

What is a theme-based roadmap?

A theme-based roadmap is similar to the outcome-based or goal-focused roadmap approach but is more centered on the area of focus than the outcome. With this roadmap format, initiatives and ideas are sorted and prioritized into high-level strategic roadmap categories. 

Themes are a way to group similar features, epics, or initiatives. An example of a customer-centric theme may be “improve user onboarding experience.” Once themes are defined, product teams create various epics and initiatives that correspond to those themes.

When to use a theme-based roadmap?

Theme-based roadmaps can be used to keep teams connected with the key business goals and help structure, plan, and prioritize work more effectively. Theme-based product roadmaps are used to break down major initiatives. Themes can be linked to goals and clearly display all associated ideas and initiatives to communicate and justify decisions and prioritization with internal and external stakeholders.

Below are some key steps to follow to ensure an effective theme-based roadmap:

  • Define Themes: When setting themes, keep in mind that they should be goal-driven. At this stage, it can be helpful to get executive alignment on the goals to help ensure alignment on themes.
  • Identify initiatives: Come up with the initiatives that will best address the overarching themes.
  • Determine success metrics: Set metrics to determine what success looks like and make sure goals are measurable so you can iterate in the future.
  • Collaborate: When setting themes it can be important to make them cross-functional to ensure alignment.
  • Iterate– As with any good roadmap, your theme-based roadmap is never finished. Revisit your roadmap to reflect on any new learnings or changing priorities. 

7- Team Roadmap

What is a team roadmap?

A team roadmap is a way to visualize the initiatives and epics specific to your teams such as product team, marketing, customer success, or sales. Within a team roadmap, there may also be sub-roadmaps. For example, a product team may also have sub-roadmaps to include each specific product team under that umbrella.

When to use a team roadmap?

A team roadmap can be used to gain better visibility on the progress of initiatives and epics specific to your team and also how those are contributing to overarching business objectives. 

8- Technology Roadmap

What is a technology roadmap?

A technology roadmap communicates and visualizes at a high level an organization’s technology strategy. Two common types of technology roadmaps are internal IT roadmaps and software roadmaps. Technology roadmaps help internal teams make strategic decisions around their technical infrastructure.

When to use a technology roadmap?

A technology roadmap is often used to strategically plan any complex changes to an organization’s technological infrastructure and addresses things like technical debt. As an example, a technology roadmap may be used when a new system is being rolled out for employees and show when the previous system will be offboarded.  

Depending on the type of technology roadmap you’re creating, below are a few steps that should be taken to ensure success:

  • Identify strategic objectives to clearly articulate the “why” behind the proposed change. 
  • Understand your audience to ensure non-technical teams can easily understand your vision.
  • Establish key initiatives to support this change.
  • Align with teams to prioritize initiatives, estimate the impact and effort, and allocate resources to ensure successful delivery. 

9- Transformation Roadmap

What is a transformation roadmap?

Digital transformation involves integrating technology across a business to achieve a competitive advantage. The process is often complex and can take months or even years to successfully complete and can include replacing existing traditional processes with digital solutions in response to the evolving business and market needs. 

A digital transformation roadmap is a plan that moves your organization from Point A (using your current digital processes) to Point B (using new digital processes). 

When to use a transformation roadmap

A transformation roadmap serves to break down the complex process into steps and outline those steps that the organization should follow to achieve business goals through the use of technology. A digital transformation roadmap is used to provide structure to the migration from one tool to the next — including everything from technology, people, and processes — to ensure a successful transformation.

Below are some key steps to follow to ensure a successful transformation roadmap:

  • Define transformation OKRs 
  • Align teams with your vision plan
  • Align initiatives with strategic factors and align features within those themes or initiatives
  • Set metrics to measure success 
  • Assign resources to ensure viability and success 
  • As transformations often have longer time horizons, setting quarterly milestones can help ensure effective delivery

10- Milestone Roadmap

What is a milestone roadmap?

Roadmap milestones are events or deadlines represented by a single date. Product managers can add milestones to their roadmaps to share important dates and events with their team such as product releases, feature releases, or industry events.

When to use a milestone roadmap?

Setting milestones correctly in your roadmaps is an effective planning technique that can make your sprints and progress towards goals more effective. Milestones in Agile planning provide clear outcome-based goals to work towards and can be used to address the accuracy of a team’s priorities towards the goal.

Create, Save, and Share Your Roadmaps

The next step in building a successful product roadmap in any format is to share it with your audience. With all of these roadmap formats, you can easily share them directly from Dragonboat to keep teams aligned and stakeholders informed.

Ready to start creating roadmaps in Dragonboat? Follow along with our Step-by-Step Guide to Creating 10 Common Roadmap Formats with Real-time Data.

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Product Portfolio Manager vs Product Manager – What’s the Difference?

There is one significant difference between a Product Manager and a Product Portfolio Manager. You might think it’s related to managing a single product area versus multiple areas and products. That’s partially true, but the real difference comes down to the organization’s mindset, operations, and strategy. Below, I explain the difference between product management and portfolio management, so you can decide what is right for you.

Let’s start with simple definitions. 

What is Product Management

Product management is the practice of managing a product throughout its lifecycle, from ideation to product development and through sunset, ensuring that it meets customer requirements and supports company goals. Product Managers typically identify customer needs, align those needs with business objectives, define the “what” and “why” behind new product features the team will build, and manage their product roadmap.

In other words, Product Managers assume responsibility for individual products. They determine what initiatives are necessary and possible, then collaborate with others in your organization to meet product-related deadlines.

What is Product Portfolio Management

Product Portfolio Managers take a broader, more holistic view—overseeing all aspects of the product(s) the organization sells. For example, Product Portfolio Manager (PPM) responsibilities include identifying opportunities and risks across the entire portfolio, optimizing resource allocation, and switching from feature roadmapping to outcome-driven OKR roadmaps.

At its core, Product Portfolio Management guides the collective efforts across the entire product org toward higher-level company goals. It works closely with all team members to connect objectives, products, and resources with execution.

What Type of Companies Hire a Product Portfolio Manager?

Whether they have one product or several, companies need a Product Portfolio Manager if they take a portfolio approach to their decision-making across multiple product goals, themes, timeframes, user groups, regions, etc.

As companies scale, they need portfolio-minded leaders to be the internal strategic driver. Portfolio management focuses all product areas, products, and their teams on top-level strategies to accelerate business outcomes.

In some companies that have product operations, the activities of product portfolio management may fall under the scope of the Product Operations Manager or Director since both PPMs and Product Ops exist to drive product portfolio outcomes.

Ready to scale your Product Management skills to Product Portfolio Management? Watch this webinar recording to hear from industry experts on incorporating the framework into your organization.

Can You Have a Product Portfolio Manager With A Single Product?

Yes! Even with one product, you can manage it as a “one-product portfolio” since it most likely has multiple facets, use cases, and markets. You also may have to balance customer needs, product vision, and business goals when making trade-offs and prioritization decisions. 

For example, Gmail by Google is a one-product portfolio. Within the Gmail product team, there are many product managers, and each is involved in building a different facet of Gmail within the company’s overall product portfolio (e.g., the mobile app, desktop app, ads, smart recommendations, etc.).

Another way to think about it is that every touchpoint where a customer interacts with your product, service, customer support, or brand is a product. Your website is a product. Your integration ecosystem is another product with its teams, delivery cadences, and features. Your internal systems are a product. You get the idea.

Why Should You Care About Product Portfolio Management?

Some of the most successful companies practice Product Portfolio Management, including Paypal, Chime, and Miro, just to name a few. Companies that put Product Portfolio Management into practice have consistently increased revenues while reducing costs with more efficient resource allocation, deliberately investing in more impactful projects, and overall improved internal efficiencies.

How to Get Started as a Product Portfolio Manager

The best Product Portfolio Managers start with the corporate-wide business goals and identify where to invest time and resources across the portfolio to achieve meaningful results. It takes progressive and strategic thinkers to view all business areas as interconnected products. Next, you set objectives that span multiple products or areas of the business and link them to the corporate strategy. Many teams connect objectives and key results (OKRs) to their initiatives and roadmaps.

By linking these, an outcome-driven organization prioritizes initiatives for the relevant OKRs based on how much they contribute to each objective. This framework guides teams to prioritize what to build next while keeping the organization aligned through planning, resourcing, tracking, and communicating. Many use a Responsive Product Portfolio tool to facilitate this process, guide best practices, and rally all stakeholders to achieve team and company-wide OKRs.

What is the Difference Between Product Management and Portfolio Management?

To summarize, product management is responsible for a product throughout its lifecycle and focuses on aligning customer needs with business goals. Product portfolio management takes the big picture view. It aims to optimize your portfolio of products to drive efficiencies and positive business outcomes, such as increasing market share, encouraging adoption, or growing revenue.

Both roles are cross-functional. They interact with colleagues across the organization, from project managers to customer success and even the executive team. So although the position certainly requires technical expertise, those who are successful are also highly organized individuals with strong interpersonal and communication skills.

Difference Between Product Management and Portfolio Management

Product ManagementProduct Portfolio Management
Scope of RoleIndividual products or servicesPortfolios of products or services
Primary FocusAligning customer needs with business goals throughout an individual product’s lifecycle and driving execution of product-related initiatives.Optimizing a collection of products (a portfolio) to drive efficiencies and maximize positive business outcomes.
Time-HorizonShort-to-mid temShort-to-long term
MeasurementProduct centricPortfolio centric

Join the Product Portfolio Management Community

Are you interested in learning more or leveling up your skills in Product Portfolio Management? Sign up for our free Responsive Product Portfolio Management training!

Good Product Ops, Bad Product Ops

Product operations (product ops) is a key function of a product organization; and a good product organization is essential to the success of any company. But the Product Ops role seems fuzzy, how do you evaluate good product ops vs bad product ops? In this post, we’ll cover the 6 key factors that differentiate good product ops from bad product ops.

  1. Customer – Who is the customer for product ops?
  2. Focus – Where should a product ops focus?
  3. Approach How should a product ops approach their role?
  4. Process – What and how processes are managed?
  5. Tooling – What tool stack should be adopted?
  6. Growth – How should a product ops team grow?

Before we start, let’s take a look at how important it is to have good product ops vs an ok product ops. For some people, Ops roles are usually considered a peripheral role. But this view is very dangerous.

Product Ops orchestrates the entire product organization connecting top, down, and across teams and functions. This makes them one of the most leveraged roles in a company.

When product ops make even a small change, it can lead to a big impact. 

So, how can you be sure that what you focus on and the changes you make create the greatest impact? What should you do in order to be successful and get promoted in your role as a product ops manager? Let’s dive into these 6 key characteristics of good product ops and what you can do to accelerate your growth – both personally and professionally.

1. Good Product Ops Serve The Entire Product Organization as Customers, Bad Product Ops Serve Only Their Immediate Teams

A commonly held belief is that product ops work to serve product managers. While this is true, it’s only half the story. A great product ops manager understands that her customer is not only the company’s product managers.

“A great product ops manager will view the entire product organization and their customers (stakeholders) as the customer they are serving.”

– Becky Flint, CEO and Founder of Dragonboat

A good product ops makes the entire product organization successful. A bad product ops pleases the product managers they are grouped with.
Serving more than just one customer is an important approach for any ops role to take, not only product ops. For example, if we consider the role of sales ops, they work to serve the entire sales org, driving revenue and accelerating growth for the whole company.

2. Good Product Ops Focus On Enabling Business Outcomes, Bad Product Ops Only Facilitate Data Collection

New product ops managers often fall into the trap of focusing too much on facilitating customer insights. They may tackle this initially since it’s relatively low-risk and simple to understand and get buy-in. 

However, focusing only on facilitating data collection, triaging customer feedbacks leads them to bad product ops practice, potentially missing the big picture with an overly-simplified believe what’s needed to succeed in product.

A product organization is multi-faceted and many factors drive success. The most successful product ops pros orchestrate how decisions are made, how data is gathered, and help determine how to adapt to the evolving needs of the customer, stakeholders, and the business. 

This means Good product ops focus on enabling customer outcomes and achieving business results for the product organization. 

Good product ops also triage the needs of the current and future market, drive near-term and long-term results, and balance these needs as the product org and company evolve as they navigate through the world they’re operating in.

3. Good Product Ops Connects Strategy and Operations, Bad Product Ops Behave like On Demand Helpers   

Don’t be fooled – product operations has ops in the title, but it’s a highly strategic role. A successful product ops manager takes the opportunity to initiate critical strategic discussions and facilitate alignment between product teams and their stakeholders. 

They also design and orchestrate the product and portfolio rhythm from annual/ semi-annual strategic planning, to quarterly alignment, and bi-weekly or weekly ops reviews and stakeholder engagement. Additionally, they ensure alignment on goals, access to data, prioritize holistically, and adjust all aspects of running a product organization.

“Product Operations — the art of removing obstacles from evidence-based decision making. Done right, it fuels a virtuous cycle of benefits that’ll empower everyone from the executive team all the way to each individual contributor responsible for building the products — whether Engineers, Designers or Product Managers.” 

– Melissa Perri, CEO of ProduxLabs

4. Good Product Ops Manage Process as a Product, Bad Product Ops Enforce Processes No Matter What

Some call product ops the “process people,” instead of viewing them as creators. But process is not a bad thing when done right. A Process is a product that orchestrates all the moving parts related to this process to function in a cohesive way. This is why “Processor” is a core part of every computer. 

Each “Process Product” is built to solve a problem and this process product needs to be managed and updated continuously along with the rest of the organization. If someone build out a large, set-in-stone, and inflexible process and they forget about the “why” behind it in the first place. What are the “jobs to be done” for that process?

To avoid this misstep, manage and iterate the “product” of process. Adapt it continuously for ever-changing needs rather than blindly following a set process. Thinking in design systems, product ops should work as an API between teams and functions, rather than being hardcoded or like a bandaid solution.

5. Good Product Ops Promote Integrated Tooling For Team and Portfolio Needs, Bad Product Ops Tolerate Siloed Tool Choices

A common challenge for product ops is to reconcile the different tools and spreadsheets used across different product teams. In response, some product ops managers will allow tooling to be decentralized so that each person/team can do what they want, where they want. This takes the form of stitching things together, creating time-intensive slide decks in PowerPoint, massive spreadsheets, and even data warehouses. 

However, it is more beneficial to implement end-to-end tooling to create a central source of truth for portfolio decisions, visibility and outcomes. This is when a responsive product portfolio management tool is needed. Successful product ops find the right tool that will allow them to focus on the strategic side of the role and operating the strategy. 

“We needed to have a single source of truth for idea management, a way to enable smarter outcome-based decisions, visibility for senior leadership into investments being made, and general visibility with the roadmap, because there was a lot of feeling like things would go into a “black box”, and no one would know what was coming out the other side and when.”

– Jackie Orlando, Dir of Product Ops at Tealium, on creating a single source of truth a Responsive PPM tool

Learn more about how Jackie Orlando built and scaled product operations at Tealium

6. Good Product Ops Are Force-Multiplier, Bad Product Ops Keep Doing the Same Without Scaling

Perhaps you’ve reached the point when you’ve already figured out a strategy to make your customers successful and it’s working! So, you start wondering, where to go from here? 

A common misconception about product ops is that the function grows linearly based on the number of PMs a company has. For every 10 PMs, you need 1 product ops. However, this isn’t the optimal way for product ops to grow.

As mentioned before, product ops is a highly leveraged role. A good product ops professional manages themself out of the job so they become a force multiplier. Product ops’ growth should be multiplied and evolve based on how well you serve the customer. 

“I like to think of this Force Multiplier Model as having a Product Ops function at the same level as Product Management and Product Design. Product Ops is there to serve as a force multiplier to product managers, product designers and for certain activities, the product marketing managers.”

– Marty Cagan on the Force Multiplier Model of Product Ops

Become a Strategic, Outcome-Focused Product Ops Leader

Like any role, there is always a spectrum of good and bad with practices that go hand in hand with each. Contrary to the title, product ops can’t just be focused on ops. For good product ops, the goal is to think about your position as a strategic role where your mission is to lead and orchestrate the product org to achieve the best outcomes.

Here are some of the biggest do’s and don’ts that product ops managers should know:

product ops manager tips

If you’re just starting out as a product operations manager, keep in mind that your job is not just about improving efficiency, your ultimate objective is to accelerate product portfolio outcomes, just like a sales ops manager’s purpose is to ultimately accelerate revenue growth.

You can rejoice in knowing that the whole company is your customer – you can have a huge impact. As the chief enabler of your product organization, you help the company to balance the right outcomes at the right time – short vs long term customer and business needs.

So, to answer the question, “How can I get promoted as a product ops manager?” Follow these six tips and you’ll be in a much better position to be promoted, for example, to be the Director of Product Ops. Then you should be able to expand the team to increase product ops’ value exponentially!

The 5 Best Product Management Courses

We often get asked what the best courses for product managers are and what product management courses aid in career development? Whether you are an entry-level product manager or a senior product manager, there are always more ways to improve product strategy and hone your product management skills. That’s why we put together our top 5 course recommendations for product professionals.

Responsive Product Portfolio Management

responsive product portfolio management

Course: Best outcome-driven product strategy course 

Who is it for? Established product professionals

Price: $300, or free for RPPM Community and Dragonboat Customers

When: 1st Friday of every month (sign up to the RPPM Community)

Structure: 60-min course/15-min quiz | Remote | Online

Description: This quick and efficient online course is necessary for your growth in product management. In 60 minutes, you can become Level 1 certified and master the basics of Responsive Product Portfolio Management (“Responsive PPM”). 

Responsive PPM is the framework outcome-driven organizations use to dynamically connect objectives, customer needs, and resources with execution. Responsive PPM helps product professionals accelerate outcomes responsive to the state of the organization as well as the market.

You’ll learn how to make the switch from traditional Project Portfolio Management, which focuses on a basket of projects and centralized governance, to Responsive PPM, which focuses on continuously evolving products. You will also learn how to apply Responsive PPM to your day-to-day, allowing portfolio leaders to adapt and adjust in real-time to best deliver customer delight and business outcomes.

Benefits/What you will learn:

  1. An introduction to Responsive Product Portfolio Management.
  2. The 5 pillars of Responsive PPM – multidimensional portfolio management, 3 operating horizons, double diamond strategy, MoAR prioritization, responsive allocation.
  3. The difference between traditional product management and Responsive Product Portfolio Management.
  4. How to effectively apply Responsive PPM to your organization.
  5. Earn membership to the Responsive PPM, outcome-driven community.
  6. Earn your Responsive PPM credentials you can add to your LinkedIn and resume.

Instructor: Becky Flint is the CEO and founder of Dragonboat, a SaaS company with the mission of empowering outcome-driven product teams with a modern PPM tool. ​​Becky scaled product operations and built a responsive product portfolio framework for a number of tech companies like PayPal, BigCommerce, Shutterfly, and Feedzai prior to starting Dragonboat to solve the challenges she experienced firsthand at scale. 

As a product leader, she has built and grown an outcome-focused community around product operations and responsive PPM and has also attracted thousands of active and engaged product leaders. 

As a thought leader in tech leadership and product portfolio management, she is a frequent public speaker and mentors through prestigious platforms such as Insight Partners, Product School, Pearson, Plato, and Stanford.

Produx Labs Product Operations 101 Workshop

produx labs

Course: Best Introduction to Product Operations course

Who is it for? Those looking to break into Product Operations or bring the function to their company.

Price: $495

When: Monthly, see upcoming schedule

Structure: 9:00am ET – 1:00pm ET | Remote | Online | Max of 20 attendees

Description: Product Operations enable outcome-oriented decision-making at scale. This function surrounds the product and development teams so they have the support needed to make the best decisions.  This high-level course is for those looking to break into Product Operations, as well as those looking to introduce Product Operations to their company. In addition to taking you through getting started, the course answers questions like “how do you know your product strategy is working? How do your product teams get the data they need to set success metrics or know if they are on the right path?” 

The course focuses on the three major areas of Product Operations: Data and Insights, Customer Feedback and Market Research, and Processes and Governance. If you’re interested in learning more about product operations, this is the workshop for you. 

Benefits/What you will learn:

  1. An introduction to Product Operations as well as why it’s essential for scale-up companies.
  2. An overview of the three pillars of Product Operations and how they contribute to informing outcome-oriented product strategies.
  3. Implementing Product Operations at your company – best practices as well as potential watch-outs.
  4. Most commonly used tools and techniques.
  5. The roles on Product Operations teams and how to hire well (or redeploy current staffers).

Instructor: Denise Tilles has 10+ years of product experience working with growth stage and enterprise organizations. Her expertise also includes product strategy in SaaS businesses, pricing/packaging, org design, and P&L management. 

She previously created the product strategy and built the product team at Understood and led product management at Cision, a B2B enterprise SaaS company. Denise is also a mentor at Built by Girls, supporting young women to explore tech career possibilities and build their first network.

Product Maestro – Storytelling for Product Leaders

product maestro

Course: Best Product Storytelling course

Who is it for? Product professionals and general leaders who want to increase their influence

Price: 6-week course ($995) or self-study option ($550)

When: Cohorts 2x per year (see upcoming schedule) / or anytime with self-study

Structure: 6-weeks of video lectures with 1 live session/week | Remote | Online

Description: This course is designed for those in a product whose success hinges on effectively working with people. Have you ever done all the research, walked into a meeting with all the facts, but still failed to get your executives on board? It’s likely the product storytelling that missed the mark. 

Product Maestro’s storytelling course teaches you how to influence like never before. The course breaks down the different personalities that you’re pitching to, so you can bring every executive on board.

This program will not only teach you how to get execs on board with your vision, but also how to get customer buy-in. It will also teach you how to manage every high-stakes interaction, and use storytelling methodology to get your point across with crystal clarity. Learn how to better convey your message in both your personal and professional life.

Interested? Take this quiz to see what storyteller type you are.

Benefits/What you will learn:

  1. An introduction to storytelling- the structure of a great story and the basic techniques to effective storytelling.
  2. How to leverage your newfound storytelling basics so you can be more influential in the workplace.
  3. How to craft stories like Hollywood – capture attention with your stories and remain engaging in any environment.
  4. Everyone is a different storyteller type, learn how to best utilize yours and adapt to other people’s storyteller type.
  5. Learn how to best express yourself in any medium whether it be Zoom, powerpoint, on stage, or in a simple meeting.

Instructor: In her 15 years spanning enterprise and consumer, SaaS, health, energy, and semiconductor, Connie Kwan has crafted and delivered thousands of stories in her roles as Chief Product Officer and CEO. Whether it’s presenting to executives, motivating teams, or convincing candidates to join a company, storytelling is at the heart of her work. 

Her storytelling experience engaging different audiences through powerful narratives has consequently led to talking on countless public stages. She has told stories at Google Tech Talk, Health 2.0, Keynote for eCornell, Product Management Festival, and Atlassian’s annual conference. Additionally, she has been on panels for Women in Product and Product Pub and was interviewed for a podcast for Practical Product. Her passions led her to collaborate with actor and theatre director Max Koknar to create the Storyteller Method to turn the art of storytelling into a science. This is the method she continues to teach in her class.

Product School Product Management Courses

product school

Course: Best general product management skills course 

Who is it for? For product professionals looking to make a change in their career

Price: 1 certificate ($4,499) or 3 certificates ($13,499)

When: Courses start every month (sign up at Product School)

Structure: Choose full-time courses (5-days) or part-time courses (2-months on weeknights or weekends) | Remote | Online | 20 students/class

Description:  Product School is the global leader in Product Management training with a community of over one million product professionals. Their certificates are industry-recognized credentials by employers hiring product managers. Furthermore, you can choose the certificate that fits your career goals.

Their certificates include:

  • Entry- The product manager certificate helps you land your first product management job.
  • Professional – The product leader certificate helps you move up the product management ladder.
  • Executive – The product executive certificate is the first step to joining the c-suite.

Benefits/What you will learn:

  1. The Product School’s certificate program is highly relevant for the next generation of software product leaders.
  2. Product School is flexible so you can choose the course that lines up best with your schedule.
  3. Get taught by real accredited product professionals for a fraction of the cost of a traditional MBA.
  4. Upon course completion, you’ll receive industry-recognized certifications you can add to your LinkedIn and resume.
  5. You’ll also earn access into their Product School community and slack with 100,000+ product professionals. 

Instructor: All Product School instructors are real-world Product Leaders working at top Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, PayPal, Uber, and Amazon.

Product Management Certification Course 

product manager

Course: Best Introduction to Product Management Course

Who is it for? Those looking to break into Product Management or who want a return to the fundamentals.

Price: $350

When: You choose (sign up at Product Manager HQ)

Structure: Self-paced 7-day online course | Remote | Online

Description: The Product Management Certification Course will arm you with real-world skills you need to know about product management from learning the essential fundamentals of product management, creating your own product management project, to dominating your product management interviews. 

This course is also great for those who have been struggling to find their footing in their role or who are looking to land a great product management role. 

Benefits/What you will learn:

  1. Learn about the day-in-the-life of a product management – the ideal skill-sets to develop, the process of working with cross-functional teams, the product lifecycle and development cycle, popular development methodologies, and product ideation.
  2. How to structure and conduct proper user research and user interviews.
  3. Key fundamentals of landing a product management job and how to stand out as a candidate.
  4. How to apply product management fundamentals into your own projects.
  5. Access to PMHQ Product Management community with over 10k+ professionals. 

Instructor: Dhaval Bhatt is a Product Management Leader who has spent 16 years as an engineer, founder, and product management leader. He previously founded an artificial intelligence company that won the IBM Global Entrepreneur Award, Google Spark Award, NVIDIA AI Inception Award, Strata-Hadoop Featured Data Startup, and Orielly Intel Featured AI startup. Furthermore, he was a Senior Product Owner for Data Analytics and Growth / Acquisition at Lifelock and is currently a Product Management Leader for Artificial Intelligence at Wells Fargo. He’s also an Instructor at UC Berkeley leading their immersive Data Science program.

How to Run Outcome-Focused Strategic Planning

You heard it right – effective strategic planning is essential to outcome-focused product teams. But how do you conduct annual strategic planning and integrate it with agile product management? In this post, we’ll walk through how to run strategic planning in 4 steps. We’ll also cover how to connect strategic planning with responsive re/alignment and re/allocation to achieve portfolio outcomes.

First, let’s do a recap on why effective strategic planning is so essential to outcome-focused product teams.

You may have heard from product management best practices that empowered teams build the best products. According to Marty Cagan, the author of “Empowered”, there are 2 key elements from leaders to empowered product teams:

  1. Give product teams problems to solve, not features to build
  2. Enable them to have the necessary strategic context to understand “the why” to make good decisions. 

The output of strategic planning enables the strategic context from leaders to their teams.

Step-by-Step Guide to “Annual” Strategic Planning 

Strategic planning is the exercise for executive teams to align as well as define the strategic context for the company and the product teams. Let’s jump into the 4 steps of how to run effective “annual” strategic planning.

Step 1 – Align on Strategic Product Initiatives 

First, executive teams must set out key business goals for the coming year. They may include doubling revenue, increasing existing customer adoption, and so on. How to achieve these goals depends on many factors, including the state of the business, market, product, technology, etc. 

Additionally, hold a brainstorming session (or sessions) with leaders of all functions to create strategic bets or initiatives to achieve these business goals. These initiatives should not be “build XYZ feature”, but rather, “how do we achieve XYZ goal”. They should also be evaluated based on a variety of factors, from simple benefit/ cost to schematic patterns and balance between core vs. expansion vs innovation, etc. 

Step 2 – Align on Budget Allocation

Secondly, to ensure sufficient resources for product teams, high-level T-shirt sizes are provided by functional leaders to understand the teams or skills needed. This can be based on staff month, or staff month by skills (design, mobile engineer, etc.) This allocation may also lead to additional juggling of step 1 if the budget is not feasible or too skewed. 

Step 3 – Evaluate Business and Product Dependencies 

This next step is conducted at a broader scope and is essential especially if some initiatives require longer-range planning, e.g. legal-related, licensing, partnership, etc. The portfolio level of visualization is by no means a committed plan, but rather a directional map for the correlated teams on the ecosystems and portfolio context they operate internally. 

Step 4: Align on Roadmap 

Lastly, you need to define the product plan for each of these bets and map them to intended outcomes and associated metrics. The outcome of the product changes should influence future iterations of product planning. So planning becomes continuous and responsive monthly and quarterly, not just set in stone from the annual planning session. Make adjustments on focus and allocation based on product outcomes. Re-evaluate product prioritizations based on new inputs.

Why Switch From Annual to Continuous Strategic Planning?

Outcome-focused teams must connect long-term vision and near-term action iteratively as well as collaborate across teams to achieve shared goals. Outcome-focused teams review and reassess “annual” strategic planning continuously. Hence a responsive product portfolio platform is essential to keep both strategic and outcome context in one place.  

3 Reports Every Product Manager Needs to Share

As a product manager, you’ve incorporated stakeholder requests, prioritized your roadmap, and created a perfect product plan. The hard stuff is done and now it’s time for tracking and sharing. Whether you’re still building reports in spreadsheets or using a tool like Dragonboat to automate the process, providing visibility and real-time progress updates is an important part of every product manager’s job. 

Across the thousands of teams using the Dragonboat platform, we’ve seen three reports that high-growth, outcome-focused senior product managers consistently save and share as evergreen slide decks


Share with Customer-Facing Teams: Features Requested by Customer Report

Keep your customer-facing teams up-to-date with features that specific customers have requested, their progress, and expected delivery. This report should show customer feature requests in the rows and the expected release dates in the column. 

product manager reports requests by customer

Some benefits of this report include:

  • Keep track of customer needs while providing an overview for clarity and alignment. 
  • Inform the marketing team so they can create the collateral needed for new product and feature launches. 
  • Inform the sales team so they can accelerate existing deals and generate new pipeline. 
  • Keep customer success in the loop to build support materials and process documentation.   

Providing insights and updates in real-time keeps customer-facing teams on the same page to create the biggest impact.


Share with Engineering Teams: Features Aligned with OKRs Report

Keep your engineering team motivated by showing how the work they’re doing contributes to the greater company goals and objectives. This report should show product teams in the rows and company objectives in the columns.

product manager reports 2 features by okr example

Why is this report useful?

Showing how the work being done across teams ties to the company-level objectives helps create a portfolio-level view of how the product organization as a whole is moving the company forward. 

This is a great report that product managers can use to show for company-wide alignment to keep everyone up-to-date on the status of products. 


Share with Executives: Product Team Focus by Quarter Report

Create a high-level view of what each product team is delivering by quarter. This report should show product teams in the rows and timeframe in the columns. 

team focus by quarter product manager reports example

Why should product managers create this report?

Executives need high-level visibility across the portfolio. This report provides the necessary information for executives to understand what’s being built, by which team, and when product launches may occur.

In Dragonboat, any product manager can create various evergreen “slide decks,” updates, presentations, or reports (however you might call them) so they are always available automatically in real-time. Now, engaging and collaborating with stakeholders becomes a strategic conversation focused on outcomes and results.

Top 12 Product Operations Tools

Rapidly growing companies around the globe are looking to scale without hampering their ability to deliver winning products to market. Operations roles are key here and the need for them in the product org is no exception. One of the biggest reasons behind the growing demand for product operations tools and professionals is the increased scope of responsibilities for modern product managers and the emergence of the product-led movement.

Product teams are now a key catalyst for growth and responsible for driving business outcomes.

Product operations (aka product ops) gives product teams the tools they need to move from being feature focused to outcome focused, connecting product teams, customers and stakeholders to achieve the best outcomes across the entire portfolio. Additionally, product ops plays a critical role in owning and evolving the processes and tools for individual product teams and the entire product portfolio.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the different tools that product operations might use or should be familiar with in order to empower their product teams. 

Recommended Product Operations Tools to Get the Job Done Right

Here are 12 main categories for product management tools and product operations tools:

  • Product portfolio management (PPM) and roadmapping
  • Agile development
  • Usage analytics
  • Product experience
  • Data analysis and visualization
  • Heat mapping
  • User testing
  • A/B testing
  • Collaboration
  • Knowledge management 
  • Collecting feedback
  • Prototyping / wireframing

Below, we’ll touch on some of the most recommended tools by product operations managers for each category. 

Disclaimer: Having 1 of each of these 12 types of tools isn’t necessary to deliver a winning product! With just a handful, it’s possible to deliver better quality products that move the needle faster.  

1. Dragonboat

Main uses: Product portfolio management, outcome focused roadmapping

Dragonboat is the fastest growing product portfolio management platform for outcome-driven leaders to strategize, prioritize, plan and deliver industry-leading products. With Dragonboat, product operations is equipped with the tools it needs to help product leaders connect OKRs with initiatives, build data-driven roadmaps, integrate with engineering tools for execution, and inform future iterations with past results all in one place. 

Product ops leaders are quickly finding value in Dragonboat because it’s been designed to help teams follow best practices stemming from the responsive product portfolio management framework (Responsive PPM). Leading companies like Miro, Chime and F5 employ Responsive PPM to adapt and adjust in real-time to best deliver customer delight and business outcomes.

product operations tools dragonboat screen

Dragonboat is the only ppm and roadmapping tool for: 

  • Connecting OKRs, Customer needs and building outcome-focused roadmaps using data-driven prioritization and allocation modeling
  • Enabling a strategic framework to guide product decision making across all levels
  • Effective planning and tracking of portfolio dependencies
  • Creating holistic plans, gaining real time visibility, and creating forecast schedules that prevent delays
  • Building customized reports and sharing roadmap updates automatically to the right stakeholders
  • Allocating resources and adjusting responsively, in real-time, by any dimension (OKR, themes, teams) and level (bet, initiative, feature) with scenarios
  • Centralizing customer insights and requests and linking them to product features dynamically, organizing them multi-dimensionally
  • Seamless integration with dev tools like Jira, Azure Devops, Clubhouse

Learn more about Dragonboat for product ops

Alternative tools that could be used for OKR portfolio roadmapping are Google Sheets and Google Slides.

2. Jira

Main uses: Agile development management, bug tracking

Jira is one of those tools that, for professionals in software development, needs no introduction. Jira is the #1 software development tool used by agile teams to manage their workflow from sprint planning to code releasing. Teams use Jira to manage software development activities with its out-of-the-box workflow templates (like Scrum and Kanban). One of its major advantages is that it integrates with other leading tools, e.g. product portfolio tools (Dragonboat), DevOps tools (e.g. Bitbucket, Jenkins, Github, Gitlab) and knowledge management tools (e.g. Confluence). 

Jira screenshot product operations tools

Jira is best one of the best tools for:

  • Agile development using Scrum or Kanban 
  • Bug tracking 
  • Organizing and prioritizing tasks 
  • Backlog and issue management 
  • Integrating with CI/CD tools

Check out the Jira website.

Other tools for agile development management include Clubhouse and Azure DevOps

3. Pendo

Main uses: Usage Analytics, in-app messaging 

As with any ops role, one of the primary focuses of product ops is collecting, organizing, analyzing and sharing data with teams across the company. Therefore, a good Product ops Manager or team will have to rely on the right tools that provide them the right data. When it comes to obtaining insights on product usage and analytics, Pendo is one of the leading options for product teams, implementation teams, and product ops managers. Pendo captures product usage patterns and user feedback while also enabling in-app communication to onboard, educate and guide users to value.

pendo dashboard screenshot product analytics tool

Pendo is one of the best tools for: 

  • Getting insights on where and how users engage with your site 
  • Tracking user behavior 
  • Onboarding resources and facilitation 
  • Analyzing the impact of a release

Learn more on the Pendo website

Other tools for usage analytics include Google Analytics,Amplitude, Heap, and Adobe Analytics

4. Gainsight CS, PX

Main uses: Product experience, customer success

The category creator and leader among customer success tools, Gainsight aggregates and turns disparate customer data from multiple sources into a single source of truth. Review customer data-driven insights and deploy actions that drive business outcomes for your clients. This tool allows you to get a comprehensive view of your customers, understand trends and risks, and empower your team to scale with proven actions that deliver outcomes. A thought leader and early mover in customer success, Gainsight built its tool around best practices to help SaaS companies retain customers. Product Ops teams can benefit from pulling data from Gainsight to give critical feedback to product teams and deliver information for executives to make business decisions. 

Gainsight screenshot

Gainsight is one of the best tools for: 

  • Teams working with Salesforce
  • Processing data from different sources, and displaying it in an easy-to-consume manner
  • Sorting customer accounts by various health factors
  • Understanding account health to be alerted to accounts that are most at risk of churn

Visit to learn more.  

Other product experience tools include Churnzero, Totango, and Vitally

5. Tableau

Main uses: Data analysis and visualization

Tableau is a market-leading tool for creating interactive graphics to visualize data from almost any source, with multiple format options. With Tableau, you can quickly perform ad hoc analyses that reveal hidden opportunities and ask questions in natural language. It has a drag and drop functionality to create interactive dashboards with advanced visual analytics. With product ops focusing heavily on data, Tableau is an essential solution to help them easily ask and answer questions in real-time, informing stakeholders who can make smarter product and business decisions. So, it’s not surprising that when we analyzed dozens of product operations job descriptions, Tableau was one of the most cited tool skills to have. 

Tableau screenshot

Tableau is one of the best tools for:

  • Ad-hoc reporting
  • Business intelligence standard reporting
  • Behavioral analytics
  • Report output and scheduling
  • Data discovery and visualization
  • Trend / problem indicators
  • User research analysis
  • Predictive analytics

Visit the Tableau website.

Other tools for data analysis and visualization include Looker, Qlik Sense, and Zoho Analytics

6. Hotjar

Main uses: Heat mapping, CRO

Hotjar offers a fast and visual way to understand your users. The tool enables your team to get instant visual feedback, see how people are really using your site, and uncover insights to make the right changes. Hotjar equips teams with product experience insights, showing them how users behave and what they feel strongly about, so they can deliver real value. Hotjar is a great tool for discovering product opportunities, consolidating qualitative and quantitative data, and communicating user needs. 

Hotjar screenshot

Hotjar is one of the best tools for: 

  • Getting real customer insight and data and to understand pain points and find out how to eliminate friction
  • Gathering insights used to define roadmaps and A/B testing strategy
  • Visual session recording
  • Conversion funnel analytics
  • Usability testing

Visit the Hotjar website.

Other tools used for heatmapping include ContentSquare and VWO.

7. UserTesting

Main uses: Real user testing, usability testing

UserTesting enables organizations to deliver the best customer experience powered by human insights. With UserTesting’s on-demand human insights platform, companies across industries make accurate customer-first decisions at every level, at the speed business demands. Several product teams, marketers, digital and customer experience executives use it to confidently and quickly create the right experiences for all target audiences, increasing brand loyalty and revenue.

User Testing screenshot

UserTesting is one of the best tools for: 

  • Usability testing on product prototypes in iterative development
  • Obtaining fast feedback (often same day) from users 
  • Obtaining qualitative data from your target audience and understanding the “why” behind users’ actions through recorded video sessions and interviews

Check out the UserTesting website.

Other tools for user testing include PlaybookUX, dscout, and UserZoom.

8. Optimizely

Main uses: A/B Testing, experimentation

Product ops teams are often tasked with owning experimentation so that product managers can focus on solving customer problems. Product ops teams use tools like Optimizely to run A/B tests to obtain data for product teams to optimize the user experience. With, Optimizely, businesses deliver continuous experimentation and personalization across websites, mobile apps and connected devices.

Optimizely screenshot

Optimizely is one of the best tools for:

  • Running experiments without the need to write code
  • Testing small UI changes and functionality to increase adoption
  • Running tests on a small percentage of your user base 
  • Running multiple experiments simultaneously

Learn more at 

Other tools for A/B testing include Split and AB Tasty.

9. Miro

Main uses: Collaboration, ideation, digital whiteboard

We recently overheard a Product Operations Manager who said, “I live inside of Miro! I love it.” Miro is a Dragonboat customer and we have to admit that we’re huge fans. Miro is one of the rising tools that has helped teams continue to brainstorm and collaborate despite not being together in the same physical location. Teams use its online, collaborative whiteboard platform for many things such as brainstorming with digital sticky notes and managing agile workflows. The tool boasts deep integrations with the Microsoft ecosystem, Atlassian ecosystem, Slack, Box, DropBox, Sketch, with over 60 templates to jumpstart collaboration. 

Screenshot of a Miro board

Miro is one of the best tools for: 

  • Overcoming challenges to remote brainstorming and interactive group activities
  • Allowing ideas and visualizations to be shared freely across teams 
  • Mind mapping and collaborative, complex problem solving

Learn more at

Other tools for collaboration include Trello, Google Docs, Slack, and Threads.

10. Typeform

Main uses: Feedback Forms & Surveys

Since every product team needs a way to collect feedback, both external and internal, product ops can help them manage or select the right tool for feedback collection and processing the data. A breakout tool for this very purpose is Typeform. You may have seen a Typeform survey before; they’re the ones that are so sleek that you don’t even mind the fact that you’re filling out a survey. Typeform makes sharing information fun and easy on any device and it integrates with just about any application.

Typeform survey screenshot

Typeform is one of the best tools for:

  • Customizable forms/surveys with multiple question types
  • Feedback management, NPS surveys
  • Building engaging and beautiful product feedback forms with templates
  • Third party integrations

Learn more at 

Other survey tools include SurveyMonkey, FormStack, and Google Forms.

11. Confluence

Main uses: Knowledge Management 

An established market player, Confluence by Atlassian is a team workspace ideal for not only product operations, but all functions. Confluence keeps everyone organized and aligned with everything from meeting notes to strategy docs and IT documentation so they can make better decisions faster and be more responsive to change. Another benefit of Confluence is that it integrates seamlessly with the Atlassian suite of products like Jira and other tools like Dragonboat to show reports and dashboard updates in real-time. 

As product ops are often tasked with the onboarding of new product team members, guarding product knowledge, and communicating it across the organization, Confluence is a great tool to add to the product operations tools list. 

confluence screenshot

Confluence is one of the best tools for: 

  • A repository or wiki for housing meeting notes, status updates, how-to documentation, product processes, etc
  • Enterprise-level document collaboration, allowing multiple users to edit a page in real-time at the same time 
  • Integrations

Learn more at

Other tools for knowledge management include Notion, Coda, Zendesk and Google Sites.

12. Figma

Main uses: Prototyping

Last but not least, every product organization relies on at least one good tool for prototyping. Figma is a cloud-based and on-premise platform that enables businesses to create custom designs and share prototypes among team members. Similar to Google Docs, Figma enables real-time sharing on the same file. 

figma screenshot

Figma is one of the best tools for: 

  • Sharing a design project with your stakeholders for their feedback and approval
  • Demoing features before coding them
  • Easy collaboration and information sharing between developers and designers 
  • When a team or group of designers want to work on a single project and leave one another comments on designs

Check out

Other prototyping tools include Balsamiq, InVision, and Sketch

The Right Tool for the Right Job

It takes the right tool to get the job done right. Modern product operations plays a strategic role in orchestrating both product teams and across the organization. This requires a new breed of PPM tool like Dragonboat. Isolated spreadsheets and “Gantt charts” no longer cut it.

One key to success for product ops is to drive a customer and outcome focus, strategic alignment as well as enabling cross-team, cross-functional collaboration and visibility. So, ask your team, “What tech stack do we need to foster alignment, clarity, communication, and collaboration?” and go from there. 

More Resources on Product Operations Tools

What do you think? Did we miss any tools? Tweet your thoughts to @dragonboat_io

Rock, Pebble, and Sand Product and Portfolio Management

Prioritization is the most challenging and impactful part of product management. The Rock, Pebble, and Sand Product Management approach is an effective way to prioritize across products and portfolios.

The Rock, Pebble, and Sand approach is a product management framework originally popularized by PayPal product leaders. Product management is a juggling act with a constant influx of product ideas coupled with unplanned production issues and Rock, Pebble, and Sand helps teams prioritize. As part of the Responsive Product Portfolio Management framework, the approach connects OKRs with Agile and is often carried out in quarterly product planning.

Here’s how this technique can help your teams align the company and achieve your product OKRs effectively.

Rock, Pebble, and Sand Explained

Imagine you are filling a jar with rocks, pebbles, and sand. Each piece represents the potential benefits and extent of effort required to pursue a product idea. The jar represents the available engineering capacity in a given time, e.g. a quarter.

The rocks represent the biggest potential impact and effort. For that reason, the rocks need to be prioritized first and added to the jar before anything else.

Next, add the pebbles; these have less strategic impact, but the impact can accumulate significantly.

The sand comes last and represents small effort tasks or bug fixes.

Building a mobile app is a good example of a rock. As it follows, pebbles would be UX improvements and sand would be any production bugs reported by a customer.

While stakeholders primarily focus on the rocks, all these elements are important to engineering teams who will prioritize protecting the shipping time for big rocks over those for pebbles or sand.

Placing the most important product in the jar first allows teams to prioritize and fit more pieces into a fixed capacity jar.

The Evolution of Rock, Pebble, and Sand

David Sacks, the first COO of PayPal, founder of Yammer, and now founder of Craft Venture, wrote a Medium post on the Rock, Pebble, and Sand method practiced at PayPal since its early days. We have been fine-tuning this approach when it comes to product operations for over a decade both within PayPal and at small to mid-sized companies like Shutterfly, Bigcommerce, and Feedzai.

We expanded the approach further with the concept of product portfolio management to incorporate a “variable-sized” jar when prioritizing product initiatives and allocating engineering resources across teams.

Why Allocate Resources Using a Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand Portfolio Approach?

With the Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand approach, product leaders have a framework to categorize requests according to the business outcome and request’s contribution.

The variable jar approach recognizes that at any given time, product needs to support many goals competing for the same resources. For example, user acquisition, platform scalability, and new market expansion.

Prioritizing big rocks for these varied goals results in an apples to oranges comparison. Instead, “virtual jars” of various sizes represent the amount of resource allocation applicable to the product team’s goals. The rocks fit as acquisition goals in the acquisition jar, and platform rocks in the platform jar, and so on.

Why are separate jars better? Because this enforces a level of accountability at the leadership level. Leaders define goals. Leaders must decide what resources should be applied to these goals. These decisions give their teams what they need to be innovative and create products with the essential resources.

Goals shift according to market and business conditions, and so should the number and the size of jars. For example, in Q1, there might be a 20% allocation to tech debt and 50% in acquisitions. Whereas, in Q3, there may be a 40% investment in tech and 20% in user acquisition because the user growth has strained the platform.

Transform With A Proven Practice

At PayPal, we proposed, evaluated, and prioritized rocks and used this information to create engineering budgets and headcounts annually. As the pace of change accelerated, we increased our product planning to a quarterly practice during our agile transformation. Ultimately, we rolled out the product portfolio management framework, connecting annual vision and goals with quarterly milestones and adjusting the portfolio allocation responsively. This practice allowed rapid product innovation while ensuring the continued improvements of existing product experience and growth.

Quarterly Planning for Product Manager CTA

Management Collaboration Tools To Drive Your Team Forward

Collaborative teams are essential in today’s dynamic work environment, but the need for effective management collaboration continues to be overlooked. Remote workforce, decentralized decision-making, and agile madness have only exasperated this issue.

Now more than ever, fast-growing global companies need a better way to connect all the moving pieces of building products in one collaborative tool for their distributed teams.

Managers that win are able to effectively connect silos by collaborating up, down, and sideways. Managers must collaborate upwards with the executive teams to align objectives and strategies, horizontally with each other to identify and address dependencies, and downwards with their teams to ensure strategic clarity and alignment.

2/3 of Inc 5000 companies fail to scale due to leadership failure.

To the disservice of managers and the company overall, the focus has been skewed heavily to executive and individual contributor level, but less so at the manager level. However, managers are the bridge between company goals and tactical execution. While leaders may drive company strategy and objectives, that goes nowhere without a strong management team to bring the vision to life.


Managers connect the dots between executives and teams, annual and weekly planning cadences, as well as strategy and execution. Creating autonomy, yet empowerment at all levels.

80% of teams struggle with competing priorities

Creating collaboration between all stakeholders is critical to success at modern companies. Successful managers don’t just manage up or down, they responsively adapt and adjust based on changing priorities.

Responsive Reallocation

Today’s World Demands Responsive Organizations

Responsive organizations rely on collaborative leaders to align, empower, and enable agile teams.

“Dragonboat automates mundane work and facilitates the best practice for responsive portfolio management connecting Agile and OKRs.  Not only does it save hours every week for every PM, but it also created unprecedented alignment across all our teams and offices”

Mauro Martins, Director of TPM

Collaborative leaders rely on Responsive Product Portfolio Management (“Responsive PPM”). Responsive PPM dynamically connects objectives, customer needs, products, and resources with execution to accelerate business results.

Dragonboat is a responsive PPM platform that connects OKRs, customer needs, and product with Agile execution to achieve alignment and visibility across the entire company.

Program Manager vs Product Manager – The Definitive Guide

The Role of The Product Manager & Program Manager

Ever wondered what the key differences are between a program manager vs product manager and how the two roles interface with one another?

Product management focuses on the why and what. Product Managers look at the problems that need to be solved (why) and the product features that can solve them (what). The skills around generating product ideas and prioritizing them are key to product management success. 

To communicate their vision, product managers often create product roadmaps, a visual “wish-list” of the desired sequence of product features. 

Program management focuses on the when and how. They look at the planning, resourcing, and trade-off of competing product features given the limited resources (when). Then they also look at the sequencing of the suite of product features given priority, dependencies, and changes/ interruptions (how). 

Product managers focus on the why and the what of building products while program managers focus on the when and the how.

There are also additional elements of “the how”, such as user experience, engineering solutions, and go-to-market approaches. These “hows” are incorporated into the program plan, (aka Execution Roadmap). This serves as a substantiated product roadmap that includes all the essential elements for a successful delivery.

Most product managers work with a dedicated team, whereas a program manager may work across multiple product teams and product managers and is often aligned with a Director or VP of Product. In companies without a dedicated program manager, a product manager will often program manage her own product and programs. In some companies, there are individuals or teams that serve the product operations role which covers some program management responsibilities.

program manager vs product manager

The Role of The Product Portfolio Manager

Portfolio management focuses on orchestrating product management plus program management across multiple areas to define and achieve the best outcomes as agreed upon by the portfolio stakeholders. 

Portfolio management starts with defining and aligning goals and strategies facing the portfolio participants. Next, they identify allocations to help guide and inform the product and program planning.

product portfolio management and program manager vs product manager

The Difference Between Traditional and Responsive Product Portfolio Management

Responsive product portfolio management is one step further than product portfolio management because it adds goals and outcomes into the portfolio process. So goals are based on the results from the previous iteration to guide subsequent rounds of allocation prioritization and execution. Thus, it creates a closed-loop product portfolio cycle where outcomes and results influence future strategy, priority, and roadmaps.

roles of program manager vs product manager in responsive ppm

It’s easy to understand the portfolio management skills needed when running a budget consisting of millions of dollars in large enterprises for multiple product lines. But it’s also crucial for small companies to treat their product as a portfolio.

A product manager in a software startup with three engineers also plays the portfolio manager role. How so? A digital product, as the end-user knows it, is often multiple products from the company’s point of view because it serves multiple personas and use cases. Take a mobile game app, for example, it’s a completely different product for a consumer, advertiser, and admin.

The Future of The Product Organization

A product manager’s job is more than building products that customers love. A product manager’s job is to build the right product, for the right customers, at the right cost and time, so that the company can achieve its business goals.

program manager vs product manager equation

This requires the responsive product portfolio management framework – the ability to connect business goals, customer needs, product strategies, resources, and execution with outcomes. 

As every product organization needs to juggle many business goals, customer needs, and so on, portfolio management is needed by every product organization.

Traditional product portfolio management (PPM) relies on expensive tools that take months to implement, an army of people to maintain, and months to make changes. 

Dragonboat democratizes product portfolio management – it’s lightweight, economical, and quick to implement. The Dragonboat platform seamlessly integrates with popular agile tools like Jira, Github, Asana and Shortcut. It requires no process or tooling changes to existing engineering practices.

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Effective Feature Prioritization with Product Portfolio Management

A product manager recently posted on a community group that she is looking to change her career as she feels exhausted from constant fire fighting in managing competing priorities and stakeholder demands. When I recommended Dragonboat, she was puzzled: “But we only have one product. Isn’t portfolio management only for large companies with many product lines?”

Not necessarily! According to Investopedia portfolio management boils down to three things:

  1. Determining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the current market
  2. Selecting investments and allocate appropriately to a set of parameters
  3. Rebalancing periodically

You can see that it is not so much about managing the size of your portfolio, but managing your choices. This is not too different from what a product manager does — you are constantly thinking about the product investment mix to maximize your desired outcomes.

This is exactly what responsive portfolio management is. Applying portfolio management principles, allows us to reframe how we think about product roadmaps. Every product, even if it is the only one in the company, is essentially a multi-dimensional portfolio of priorities and demands.

A Product Manager’s Portfolio

Like the finance industry, we often use SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to chart our market and product plans. 

However, that is where the comparison ends. While financial advisors work with clear monetary values — such as profit, revenue, or market share — product managers have a wider set of variables and a broader definition of “the best outcome”.

That means we can derive multiple types of portfolios depending on how we view the roadmap. For some broad examples:

  • Objectives
    These can be long- or short-term objectives such as acquiring or retaining customers, reducing operational costs, or expanding into new markets.
  • Customer Segments
    New, existing, enterprise, or partners.
  • Investment Categories
    Such as deciding between product innovation and tech platform refactoring.
  • Stakeholder Needs
    Both internal and external such as customer feature requests, realigning the product for the market, or addressing tech upgrades and debts.

Why Would You Want a Multi-Dimensional View?

A multi-dimensional view lets you:

  1. Address multiple elements of “product success”; and
  2. Make the right allocation decisions faster (i.e. focus vs. support).

Imagine you have a new product. The sign-up numbers look good but, after a week, these users stop coming back. As a result, the team must shift their focus on how to improve retention. Once that is under control, you can shift back to user acquisition, efficiency improvements, and so on.

Many conventional prioritization frameworks are based on a fixed formula such as scores or ROI, and do not reflect the changing needs of the customer or market.  Over time, it may lead you into a “peanut butter” situation where the product simply fails from the company’s resources being spread too thin.

By looking at it from a portfolio perspective, product managers are empowered to understand the current state of the product and market to decide on a responsive prioritization method for identifying areas that truly need your limited resources.

Think of it as trying to fight a forest fire — you look at it from the ground and the top, analyze the situation, and then prioritize, allocate, and deploy. That is what it takes to be a forward-thinking product leader. 

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