What is product development software?
Product development software is a category of tools designed to help product teams manage every step of the product development process — from ideation to launch and beyond. Product managers, designers, engineers, and more use this software to build and develop new products and services, update existing offerings, and even create internal products.
Your product team may use a wide range of tools for a variety of tasks, including:
Product strategy and roadmapping
Customer feedback and surveys
Design and wireframing
User experience testing
Collaboration and productivity
Project and task management
Kanban or scrum workflows
So which ones fall under product development software? The short answer: all of the above. Product development software is a large umbrella. Product development is complex and comprised of several stages — beginning with a raw concept and ultimately resulting in a valuable offering for customers. This is an incredibly tall order for a single tool. So in most cases, product development teams rely on a collection of tools or robust software suites to support the entire process.
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Since product development software is such a large category, you have the freedom to choose tools that support the way your organization functions and how your product team prefers to get work done. In this guide you will get an overview of the different types of features and tools to include in your product development tech stack and what to look for when evaluating new software.
Why is product development software important?
Things move fast in product development. More holistic than linear, it involves several major functions, including product management, engineering, and leadership collaborating on the process at once. And all of this often takes place in agile and remote environments.
It is an elaborate process but the right tools can simplify things. For cross-functional product teams, product development software offers central places to come together. It is where the fast-paced, meaningful product work happens.
Product development software can help streamline your product development process. And integrated workflows and unified environments make it easier to collaborate and be efficient. This helps you untangle day-to-day demands and focus on creating real value for customers.
Types and features of product development software
The list below describes the full spectrum of product development software. It starts with tools that support early product development (e.g., brainstorming and strategizing) and moves through the process. Factors like your company's resources, product type, and development methodology will shape what you need throughout the process. You may choose to invest in multiple, separate tools or a larger, end-to-end software suite to cover these capabilities.
As part of your product development software, you should ideally have all of the following types of tools or features:
Creative tools help you brainstorm and explore your product concepts via notes, mockups, flowcharts, and other diagramming features. These tools can also support your strategic work with different business models for mapping out your company vision, positioning, or personas.
Creative product development tools and features include:
Mockups and wireframing
Physical or digital notebooks
Product teams use creative tools like digital notebooks to brainstorm product ideas. Example from Aha! Create.
Customer feedback tools
With customer feedback tools, you can collect ideas from internal and external stakeholders. You can organize, evaluate, and prioritize the input you receive to uncover trends and inform your product roadmap.
Customer feedback tools and features include:
Ideas portal and idea management software
Surveys and polls
In-app feedback widgets
Ability to host live focus groups or empathy sessions
Reporting and analytics on feedback trends
Idea management tools help product teams collect and prioritize customer input. Example from Aha! Ideas.
Product roadmapping tools
You can use roadmapping software to refine product ideas and add structure to them with releases, features, and requirements. You can then plan when you will deliver those new features to customers. Visual roadmaps help you to showcase your plans to stakeholders, monitor progress, and manage product launch activities.
Roadmapping tools and features include:
Workflow boards that house features and requirements
Visual release timelines and Gantt charts
Roadmap builder and templates
User story mapping
Roadmapping software helps you to plan, visualize, and present your product progress. Example from Aha! Roadmaps.
Agile development tools
Agile development tools allow your development team to build all of the new functionality you have so far brainstormed, refined, and planned on your product roadmap. You will want to select a tool that aligns well with your team's particular agile development methodology.
Agile development tools and features include:
Kanban and scrum workflow boards
Documentation (e.g. for an internal wiki or knowledge base)
Progress tracking and other agile analytics
Ability to assign work to development team
Ability to write user stories and tasks
Agile development tools allow developers to track sprint progress and work efficiently. Example from Aha! Develop.
Product analytics tools
After your product has been released to customers, you will need a tool to evaluate your success. Measure product value and performance by tracking customer usage and happiness with product analytics software.
Product analytics tools and features include:
Ability to measure quantitative metrics (e.g. revenue, active users, and churn)
Ability to measure qualitative metrics (e.g. Net Promoter Score, lovability)
Visual reports for uncovering trends and insights in your data
What to look for in product development software
Beyond your checklist of must-have features, consider these other factors when evaluating product development software:
Ensure your tools come with access to timely customer support. You place a lot of trust in your product development software to manage such a complex and important process. You should feel similarly trusting of the team behind the products that helps you find success with them.
Every organization has unique ways of developing products. Look for product development software that allows customization and does not lock you into rigid workflows, layouts, settings, or terminology.
Unified environments and integrated workflows eliminate manual, duplicate work and promote consistency. This makes the case for choosing tools within the same product development suite. But if you choose to use separate ones, verify that integrations exist to support your work between them.
Consolidate software when possible. Fewer tools means less friction throughout the process. For example, some roadmapping software will include diagramming and documentation features. You may not need a separate creative tool.
Your overall strategy is a connecting thread across teams, tools, and development stages. Look for software that helps you to capture your vision, goals, and strategic initiatives so they are accessible and trackable throughout the process.
Choose tools that support your team's work style and company environment. For example, static spreadsheets do not work for iterative, agile teams. Instead, seek out software that supports dynamic updates and real-time collaboration.
It is likely that several teams — if not your entire organization — will use or access your product development software in some capacity. Choose tools with an intuitive design that are enjoyable to use and support accessibility.
Value-based product development involves defining what product value means to you — then tracking it as a metric throughout the process. If you are interested in this approach, seek out tools with relevant features like a value scorecard.
Product development is a multi-stage, mission-critical process. Reliable product development software is an important investment in your product's lasting success, so avoid the hassle and limitations of disparate tools. Purpose-built product development software gives you everything you need to bring your product ideas to life, collaborate seamlessly as a team, and create real value for your business and customers — all within one unified environment.
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