Best Practices For Product Management of Internal Tools

August 29, 2022

Jordan Chavis

Internal tool product management is identifying a need for, creating, and managing internal tools that will fulfill the needs of multiple people at your company. It's one of the most intimidating product roles in tech startups, but it doesn’t need to be.

The fog of ambiguity within internal tool product management can be overwhelming, and you must make quick decisions impacting your company's expectations for the tools on an ongoing basis. In addition, the demand for internal tool product management is rapidly increasing as companies seek to create bespoke software for their employees and rely less on off-the-shelf products. 

Continuous learning is key to staying ahead of the competition in product management, and there’s no better way to learn than to build products for your colleagues.

What Are Internal Tools?

Internal tools are custom software and apps built internally at your company for a specific team or use case. These tools can:

  • Automate repetitive tasks between teams with a single button 
  • Facilitate teamwork and communication across business units
  • Monitor key stakeholder output on dashboards
  • Report progress on company goals

The internal tools utilized for internal product management include different types of software. Companies can review and collaborate on their product development process. Further, the software can provide end-to-end product life-cycle management. 

Internal tools include issue tracking systems, usability testing platforms, product management software, and customer relationship management software. 

These software tools are essential in helping organizations achieve business goals while staying agile and cost-efficient. In addition, the best new internal product management practices exist with the emergence and use of internal tools. 

What Makes a Good Product Manager For Internal Tools?

Internal product management comes with a unique set of challenges and responsibilities. Whether you're a first-time product manager, or an experienced product owner, making the proper internal product roadmap and staying on top of it is essential. 

Core Competencies

Internal product managers need to think strategically about the long- and short-term goals for a company’s internal tools. Aside from a thorough grasp of the actual technical product, proper communication and presentation skills are crucial to success.

PMs should also be able to identify core product opportunities and set appropriate goals for fellow internal stakeholders. 

A PM must have:

  • Strong communication
  • Project management abilities
  • Leadership mindset
  • Team-building skills

A competent product manager must also have a deep understanding of internal tool software development (including knowledge of new no-code internal tool builders) and management concerning the product roadmap. 

Internal product managers must have excellent critical thinking skills and provide technical leadership for their team and other groups within an organization. In addition, internal tool product managers are involved in core product strategy across the entire internal tools life-cycle. They thus should know how to translate business goals into results via a usable app.

Mastering your internal tools portfolio will help you deliver more complex external products as you build and optimize your product development process. As a bonus, you should stay up-to-date on what’s trending in internal tool technologies. 

Emotional Intelligence

Being able to understand and manage your own emotions is key to being an effective product owner. In addition, internal product managers often work with stakeholders with various personalities and work styles. Therefore, an internal product manager needs to manage all of these different skill sets and characters effectively to achieve their goals for the company.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage our emotions and the feelings of critical stakeholders. You must always be aware of how you are feeling, what others are feeling, how your emotions will impact your work, and how their moods can impact the work environment. 

Company Fit

Internal product managers need a strong focus on the company’s core values and culture. It’s essential to align with these values to grow your internal tool team and increase organizational productivity. In addition, you need to know how to work with your internal dev teams, how they work best, and what type of environment will help them thrive.   

You Care About Your Users

How can you build something they love if you can't empathize with your user base? If you don't take a genuine interest in the people using your product and their needs, you won't be able to create a meaningful solution for them.

Judgment is the key to success in customer experience, as you must often make tough calls on customer-facing products. This is true when building internal tools that your colleagues will use daily. You must stay up-to-date with the latest product trends and ensure that every feature meets users' needs at every stage in the internal product lifecycle. 

Internal users with whom you've built strong relationships can easily participate in user interviews and usability testing to provide feedback. Identify and work on the pain points established from the user interviews. The best part is that these interviews can be super informal and happen via Slack, face-to-face convos, or video calls.

You must also be good at managing expectations by making your user base understand that not all suggestions get included in product implementation. This is probably the most challenging part about creating tools for people you talk to daily.

Product owners must be supportive and deliver exceptional service to their colleagues. They should also ensure they are present when needed by providing insight into new solutions for company needs. 

Product managers can positively influence internal users by offering opportunities to try beta products in product initiatives and provide feedback. Offering access to a pre-release version allows more users exposure to new features and functions before they are released. 

Beta testing in internal product management allows users to deeply understand what is in development and familiarize themselves with new features and abilities.

Since you've already established a relationship with these users, they will feel comfortable providing constructive criticism as you improve the customer experience.

You Know How To Solve the Core Problem

An excellent internal tools product manager knows how to identify the real problem behind a user’s request. 

One of the best ways to understand the underlying cause of a problem and come up with a solution is to conduct user interviews. Your users can tell you if they are struggling with certain features on your platform product and how it would change if they were tweaked and improved. 

From there, you'll be able to develop an action plan for product development that includes relevant improvements based on your users’ feedback. Instead of creating an internal tool solution individually, take a team-based approach to problem-solving.   

Prioritizing Internal Tooling Projects

A product owner should deeply understand the product development process to prioritize internal tooling projects. You need to know how your employees work, what they do at work, and how you expect them to solve problems daily. You must also be aware of upcoming changes and whether they will impact your internal tools and software development product strategy. 

An excellent internal tools product manager must leverage the data they receive from usability testing to develop ideas for new features or improve existing ones. 

Investigate time and cost factors associated with manually performing tasks and how automation would help solve the issue. Finally, assess your technical resources and decide whether or not they are worth the investment.

As a product manager, you must decide whether to build new internal tools or improve the existing ones. Create a company budget that establishes a deep understanding of how much money is available to acquire new internal tool builders, develop external products, or improve existing internal tools. 

Setting an external product strategy and budget score for the project regarding time to completion and resources allocated ensures you avoid out-of-budget tasks.

Finally, determine what new resources might be needed and choose the best way to implement them. These steps should give you a good idea of where to start when trying to find ways to improve efficiency with your team. Once you narrow down the task checklist, prioritize each task based on its importance for day-to-day operations at the company. 

When prioritizing all tasks, consider not only their potential impact but also their cost of implementation. Ensure to keep internal stakeholders informed throughout the internal product development process to provide input and approvals before launching anything new into production.

Wrapping Up

As a product manager, you must deeply understand your various internal tool builders. Internal tools can streamline your workflow and make your job much easier. 

In addition, by keeping your team informed and up-to-date on the latest changes to these tools, you help them be more productive and efficient in their work. Get started with Basedash to create internal tools without writing code or worrying about starting from scratch.

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