Perspectives

What’s In Your Product Stack?

Ask any marketer what’s in their stack and you’ll probably get a rapid-fire recitation of vendor names suggestive of a proud grandparent prattling on about Bobby, Jane, and the twins. Salesforce, Marketo, Engagio, Looker, Quantcast, Trendkite, and Sprout Social.

That’s my stack. What’s yours?

It’s the classic icebreaker for any marketer, the start of a peer discussion on the certain combination of tools that, when deployed together, become a force-multiplier on performance.

This obsession with tools should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the digital shifts in consumer behavior and proliferation of data that have so altered the marketing discipline. The same digital disruption–and the accompanying data deluge–is also quietly transforming the discipline of product management. I say quietly because this tools-way-of-thinking hasn’t entirely caught up with the need. Go ahead and ask a product manager what’s in their stack they’ll just as likely look at you funny as prattle off a litany of vendor names.

The reality is that a profusion of point tools has quietly emerged in the service of product leaders, from roadmapping tools like Aha! and ProductPlan to design and prototyping tools like InVision and Balsamiq to, frankly, product analytics and guided user engagement tools like Pendo, my employer and the publisher of ProductCraft.

So we asked the question to product leaders at the recent Pendomonium conference in Raleigh: What tools do you use? What categories comprise your product stack? At first, attendees proceeded cautiously, but then found their rhythm as they spent the next couple days busily co-creating the product stack during hallway migrations between sessions.

Product Stack Exercise at Pendomonium

From this community effort, we’ve produced what we believe to be the industry’s first crack at a product stack, a comprehensive visualization of the categories of tools and specific vendors that serve the modern product manager. We’ve added our own editorial lens to the output of this community effort for clarity and to eliminate duplication and the sort of general-purpose tools (think PPT, XLS, etc.) that we all use (product leaders or not). But the spirit remains true to what product leaders tell us. These are the tools they use:

ProductCraft Product Stack

The purpose of this exercise was more than idle curiosity; it’s meant to instigate a conversation on how these tools come together as product management practices mature. Just as we’ve seen in marketing and other adjacent disciplines, there are three phases to this evolution:

  1. First, point tools emerge to satisfy discrete needs;
  2. Next, practitioners get smart about integrating these point tools to streamline larger chunks of a process; and,
  3. Eventually, these tools converge around a system of record and a cloud is born.

We’ve seen the pattern play out in sales, marketing, finance, HR, manufacturing–more or less every business-critical discipline. In my view, product management is next. Watch this space!

In the meantime, go ahead and share the product stack and weigh in below on the parts we’ve missed. We’ll make this a living artifact and publish updates from time to time.

Oh, also: we’d like to better understand how you think about the tools in your product stack. If you have a few minutes, take this short anonymous survey. We’ll share back the aggregated insights here soon.

About the Author

Jake Sorofman is CMO of Pendo. Most recently, he spent five years as a VP and Chief of Research at Gartner, Inc., before returning to his startup roots. His writing has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, CMO.com and other business and industry publications.