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In over 25 years of leading technology-related disciplines—from executive product leader of Google Maps to SVP/CPO at Shopify to adjunct professor at Cornell Tech—I’ve explored many tools relevant to product and engineering.
A few years ago, after many failed attempts to make various “product management” tools work for me, I gave up and went back to Google docs and spreadsheets, which wasn’t ideal.
Docs I shared would be edited by viewers, breaking formulas or screwing up the formatting—a huge pet peeve of mine. Plus, each Google doc is independent, which required consistent naming conventions and Drive folders to stay organized and accessible. But the docs were flexible and allowed me to do things my way (for the most part).
Why PM tools didn’t work for me
I am very much a process guy. And I believe that product’s product is process.
For the most part, PMs don’t design or write code. But we do create the processes and frameworks to best support engineers and designers so they can ship the best products possible, taking into consideration an often daunting array of quant and qual data, business needs, and opinions.
Product is like an API that connects the disparate functions of the organization, a mechanism for things to communicate with each other in a structured and predictable way.
And that’s what a good process should do: make it easy to communicate efficiently and effectively, and access the information you need to do your job.
Product is an art and a science. To be effective as a PM, playbooks must be adjusted to the unique personality of an organization. What worked at your last job likely won’t work at your new one unless you make changes in how you do things. Learn how everything is currently done, identify problem areas, and collaborate with the team to fix them. And the problems you identify will probably include a seemingly endless array of issues, like cross-functional communication, product quality, team velocity, customer satisfaction, et al. But we like to solve problems—that’s why we’re PMs.
The current PM tool market
The current array of PM tools doesn’t work for me because they all have their own way of doing things, including Aha, Monday, Wizeline, ProductBoard, Trello, Asana, etc. Most of these tools support an inflexible set of processes, best practices, and workflows. But what if you want to do things differently? What if their way doesn’t meet your needs, doesn’t support the improvements you want to continually make to your team’s work? In my case, I jump ship and go back to the less-than-ideal-but-endlessly-flexible docs and sheets. Until I found Coda.
Coda changed everything
With Coda I can build the tools I need to support
processes. I can automate tasks. I can connect with other apps (Coda calls these Packs) like Jira, Gmail, etc. I can publish my work as internal apps, locking down those parts of my app that others could accidentally break (no more broken formulas)!!
My Coda docs are apps that can change and scale with my team. These apps are comprised of elements that anyone will find familiar: graphs, tables, kanban boards, webpages, images, etc., so there is zero learning curve for users and contributors. I’ve built Coda docs for OKR planning, sprint management, issue tracking, capacity planning. And best of all, my docs can talk to each other. For instance, my Sprint planning doc can speak to my OKR planning doc, pulling in Initiatives to the backlog, syncing with Jira, and turning them into Epics.
Coda addresses an extensive set of use cases, with docs ranging from simple note-taking docs, to task trackers, to enterprise-grade CRM systems.
My product management tools
The tools in this doc are used by my current team at
for managing the product lifecycle:
- OKR-based approach to high-level roadmap planning (3-6 month outlook)
- A single source of truth for anyone in the company to see the status of all product initiatives
- A means of ensuring all key stakeholders and contributors stack hands on a release before it goes to production
- A way for anyone in the company to submit product ideas, and a means to triage those ideas and add to the roadmap, making the requester a key stakeholder for the feature’s lifecycle
In addition to the tools in this doc, the following are additional Coda docs we use for running our tech org:
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