4 simple tools to manage the development of a new product

Filip Wachowiak - Customer Success Manager

If you’re starting work on a new software product, you might find these four management tools useful. Lean canvas, a product map, the kanban board and the Gantt chart can help you make better strategic decisions, prioritize the right tasks, organize your team’s work, keep track of deadlines, and more. In this article, we’ll take a look at each of them, focusing on what value they deliver and how to start using them right now.

Lean Canvas

This simple but powerful tool can help you strategize and decide on the scope of your product - what’s needed, what’s not, and what can be added in the future. It’s an approach that can help you quickly identify your most promising niche, define your high-level vision, understand your income streams and operating costs, as well as learn a lot about your user group. In a way, a Lean Canvas is a simplified, one-page business plan that can be drawn up in a short brainstorming session.

Top benefits:

  • It’s an extremely fast approach,
  • Because it’s a very minimalistic solution, a Lean Canvas forces you to create the components of your elevator pitch,
  • It’s a lot easier to get other people to read a single page than an extensive business plan,
  • A Lean Canvas can be incredibly effective when used right.

To get started, simply get a Lean Canvas template and begin writing.

Product map

A product map (also known as a product roadmap) will help you organize your ideas for features, and prioritize the right ones during your product’s development. It can act as a repository for the most crucial strategic information regarding your project, and help you communicate your ideas with others. If you already have a product that you want to rework or scale, you can map it out and enjoy the benefits of seeing it so clearly. Roadmaps also help you visualize your project’s future, which is useful both for decision-making and for meetings with stakeholders.

Top benefits:

  • Because of its high readability and visual format, a product map can be easily read and taken in at a glance,
  • Thanks to the above, team members who aren’t product experts can quickly understand the most important concepts and ideas you want to communicate,
  • A product map will help you track your progress and document the development process, resulting in unique insights.

The format is not set in stone - you can get started with a board and some sticky notes, write on paper, or use a flow chart app. Most organizations use one of the two main approaches: timeline or Kanban. The former helps you pay more attention to deadlines, while the latter is more flexible and supports making changes to the map throughout the project. It’s a good idea to digitize it eventually, as doing so will allow you to add links and various types of media, and share the finished roadmap more easily. We recommend using visual cues - colours, shapes, dotted lines - to convey meaning, but make sure not to go overboard.

Here’s an example of a timeline-style product roadmap. As you can see, it’s very easy to read, and focuses on deadlines as well as the length of time each task should take.

Kanban board

This easy to use, quick to set up tool can be analog (post it notes on a physical board) or digital (in a tool like Trello). It’s a fantastic, lightweight solution for project management and team allocation. Tasks on a Kanban board are divided into categories, such as to do, in progress, under review, and done (though you can add your own categories - columns - specific to your process). This allows you to track task status, manage the backlog of tasks and ideas, and control the Definition of Done (which can, and probably should, include making sure that code is properly tested before being integrated into the main codebase).

Top benefits:

  • Kanban boards have an incredibly low barrier of entry and can be set up in minutes,
  • It’s a tool that requires very little effort or time - when a task is ready to move to the next category, you simply drag it to the next column,
  • Tools like Trello allow for a more sophisticated process, thanks to comments, added links, and attachments. As a result, you can adjust your Kanban board to your needs.

To get started, grab some post-its, or set up a Trello account. Instructions really aren’t needed.

Gantt chart

This project management solution allows you to track tasks and events against time. The left side of the chart consists of a list of activities, and the right side is a timeline. It’s a fantastic way to visualize your product development schedule. Activities can be grouped (a different color for each project phase, for example), for top readability. The result is a quick overview of deadlines and crucial periods for the project.

Top benefits:

  • The Gantt chart easily communicatise which tasks need to be completed when,
  • Relationships between tasks become very clear at a glance - you’ll be able to identify periods with a high predicted activity (and perhaps try to spread tasks out a bit) and mark dependencies (tasks that need to be completed before others can be started).

You can use dedicated Gantt chart software to make your life easier, or jump into Excel - there are free templates to be found online if you’d like a quicker start. Among the tools presented in this article, the Gantt chart requires the most preparation before you use it, but a quick tutorial should be all you’ll need.

These four project management tools may look simple, but they are very powerful when used right. If you have any questions or doubts about when to try them or how to get started, let us know - we’d be happy to help.

Ready to get started planning the development of your next software product? Try a dynamic, strategic approach - participate in a Product Discovery Workshop. At iRonin.IT, we use it to help clients perfect their vision and set them up for success.

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Author's Bio
Filip Wachowiak

Customer Success Manager

Data-driven sales enthusiast. He worked in several startups to finally join and lead iRonin’s 100% remote customer success team. He leads all the business related queries and supports marketing operations. In his free time, Filip actively swims, runs and cycles to prepare for triathlon events.

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