A product manager’s day can vary widely, not just between companies, but also between the different stages of the product development lifecycle. However there are a few tools that I find myself using on a daily, or nearly-daily basis.
Google Analytics + Google Tag Manager
Good design starts with having good data. Collecting valuable data to inform your product decisions is not particularly hard to do, but it does involve some planning and forethought into what you are looking to measure, and how. Google Analytics is a staple tool, but it becomes an order of magnitude more powerful when paired with Google Tag Manager. GTM gives you a powerful level of control over how, when, and what you are tracking. A well-kept tracking implementation pays enormous dividends when you need reliable data to answer specific questions about usage patterns.
(Google Analytics Academy is currently running a course on GTM Fundamentals, which is a good starting point if you are interested in turbocharging your tracking setup.)
Balsamiq + Gliffy
Mockups and diagrams are hands-down the easiest and quickest way to communicate ideas and iterate on product design. I use Balsamiq to make low-fidelity prototypes, which helps keep focus on UX and IA decisions, rather than visual design. Gliffy is good for quickly communicating complex processes. Especially when writing up long detailed product specs in JIRA, visual media is a great way to quickly clarify and communicate points that might get skimmed over otherwise.
Inspectlet + Olark
Conducting user research is a key ingredient to designing good products. But what do you do if your users are 6000 km away and speak a different language? Olark is a tool that lets you live-chat with users, or place targeted feedback forms on your website. Inspectlet records user sessions of visitors on your websites, to be replayed or analyzed later. I use these two tools in tandem to interact with difficult-to-reach users through targeted feedback and recorded user sessions. When I find interesting feedback from Olark, I grab the user’s IP address and cross-reference it with Inspectlet to view that user’s actual session.
Good product design starts with data, but it also comes back full circle in the end. Optimizely helps me validate product changes or new product features, before they are released to 100% of our users. You can even integrate with Google Analytics to see how a change impacts metrics such as conversions and user retention.
Sometimes I am interested in pulling operational data to answer a question that comes up in product development. PyCharm gives me access our internal data warehouse, and makes it easy to write simple scripts for data wrangling. This comes in handy when you are pulling data for 20 countries across 10 languages.