developer tools don't work for product managers

Your developer’s tools won’t work for you. Here’s why.

Repeat after me: JIRA is for developers. Not product managers.

Yes, you can dabble in your developer’s tools and collaborate with them to answer their questions and get technical work done. BUT, when you need to get product management work done — their tools are not the tools you’re looking for.

You need your own product management specific tools.

But why? Why can’t I just use what they’re using. I mean, we’re already paying for them!

Well it has mostly because development tools are not built for unstructured work.

Structured versus unstructured work

Developers do a lot of structured work while PMs do a lot of unstructured work. Developers often have specs to go off, tests that ensure everything works as expected, and clear gates for when something is done.

Meanwhile, product managers do a lot of unstructured work. They could be asking questions in customer interviews, giving presentations to the executive team, or brainstorming ideas for improvements and new products. Most of the time, this unstructured work doesn’t fit nicely into JIRA or whatever other development management tool you’re using.

Developer tools are not built for unstructured work

Developer tools are frequently ticket based. Is your latest presentation or customer interview script really a ticket?

Probably not. But there are other tools that are meant for more unstructured work.

What tools are we talking about?

  • Aha!
  • Trello
  • ProductBoard
  • Slack
  • Google Suite
  • And many, many others…

Developers may be perplexed by your half baked ideas and customer feedback

Keeping unstructured work in your development rather than your own tools may actually lead to confusion from your developers. Perhaps they’re checking out some of your product management related items and get confused by some of the ideas that are in there that may not be ready for primetime yet.

They’re not spec’d out. They’re super broad. They have no clear deliverables. No clear instructions. They may lack very important context.

“What is this?!” They’ll ask.

They’re bound to cause confusion.

But if you don’t put them in your development tools, what do you do with them?!

What to do instead

Keep your unstructured PM items in your tool of choice. Then, when they’re ready for your engineers, move them to your development tool.

If your product management tool is directly integrated with your developer’s tools, that’s even better!

This gives you the space you need to figure out what still needs to get done while letting your engineers work on the stuff they need to get done at the moment.

Everyone can focus on their own unique value providing tasks and still collaborate when needed. That’s what we’re all after anyways, isn’t it?

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