Zapier: My Personal Product Management Assistant

Nick Fields

Nick Fields
Associate Product Manager at ProductPlan

Integration Zapier

As a product manager at ProductPlan, I’m particularly proud of our new integration with Zapier because of the impact I know it can make. My appreciation of Zapier’s capabilities started years ago when I worked in Customer Success here at ProductPlan. Back then, we used Zapier to automate how we shared NPS feedback across the company. It was empowering to reduce the time I spent in spreadsheets, and I felt a connection with our customers who had similar pain points. I remember thinking how much time they could save by integrating Zapier’s app with ProductPlan’s roadmap platform.

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The Challenge With Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a natural part of my and many product managers’ workflows. Yet, the manual work they require can be at the detriment of my more strategic work.

During my research and customer interviews, I continuously heard conversations like the following, “I have 40 product managers in ProductPlan. I need to quickly and reasonably see what everyone is doing entirely in ProductPlan. Yet, a lot is still happening in Google Sheets and requires a manual transfer, which is time-consuming.”

This type of scenario is where setting up the Zapier integration fits seamlessly. The automatic updates will support the workflow of product managers much more cohesively (including my own). So the choice becomes: do you spend the afternoon populating a spreadsheet or unshackling your roadmap data and syncing it effortlessly across your organization?

Moving roadmap data automatically with Zapier feels I have my own personal product management assistant.

Before I geek out further on the benefits of having Zapier automatically working with my roadmap, I want to be clear; it’s not an end all be all ‘magic solution.’ You still have to make intelligent decisions for Zapier to connect all the data dots into your roadmap effectively.

Do the work properly, and with the help of Zapier, you will stress less about how you’re going to organize your work.

4 Ways Zapier Can Improve Your Work

1. Less manual effort, more time and energy.

The number of product stack apps is growing every day. Getting your data moving from one place, like a project management tool, to your roadmap can be a lot of manual effort. You can export and import using spreadsheets, but that involves much data reformatting and room for error with each manual input. If both tools in question have an API, you could use that to keep data in sync, but that will usually require engineering resources.

Despite your best efforts, data in your roadmap becomes static. I could spend my time manually updating and reimporting regularly—but that’s counterintuitive to the nature of roadmaps.

I know from speaking with my peers, this manual workflow left us unsure that the version we were sharing with our key audience was, in fact, the latest and greatest. There’s always the looming question, “What if changes are being made elsewhere and not reflected in ProductPlan?”

The time and energy I spent on remedial tasks felt so ingrained in my work but ultimately took away from the time and energy doing more important tasks, like talking to our customers.

2. Confidently manage a standardized, single source of truth.

I’m constantly plagued by the feeling that as a PM, there can be a constant influx of information from various sources, all organized differently—Slacks, emails, research, talking to customers coming from everywhere. Sure, I can track it all in a notebook or my head, but to get it into a presentable format, I need to organize it manually. With the Zapier integration, standardizing your input sources is much easier to maintain. Inputs from Slack and email are funneled through Zapier into the ProductPlan roadmap and repository format: ideas, descriptions, sources, and where those ideas are coming from all in the same formatting. Zapier, the dubbed product management assistant, has it all done for you in one central place automatically.

I can export and import, prioritize, and share my roadmap. Then, the Zapier integration spits it out in a format that’s easy to manage. What are the critical decisions I can make because of this information? Previously, standardizing my work would take me an hour or two on a Friday afternoon. The beauty is you have Zapier, an execution tool, efficiently collaborating with, ProductPlan, a more high-level tool.

3. Rethink how you execute things.

Take a moment to ask yourself, what are the time-consuming or frustrating tasks that you can offload? The Zapier to ProductPlan integration helped me rethink my work in many ways, but here are two examples.

  1. We use Pendo to track NPS. I used to export the feedback into a spreadsheet every week. I’d read through all of the input. Not anymore. Zapier automatically culls through keywords and pulls out the scores I’m looking for.
  2. We started using Zapier for our Sales “Deals Closed” announcement to unify the team and foster excitement and celebration when deals were closed. Slack’s post included how each deal closed, with a summary paragraph that mentions the feature or product use case that won the deal.

Here’s another example that I heard from customers. They have a Google Form on their website for requests. Once a week, they would export, review, and then manually transcribe it into the roadmap—spending about an hour every week doing this.

Zapier and ProductPlan’s integration automatically combs through the requests. It reformats them in a way you want. Hop in the roadmap, see who sent the form, what plan they are on, and who they are. All that information is in real-time on your table.

I am executing the action of data entry. That time spent thinking about those feature requests and prioritizing those requests was manual overhead.

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4. Support collaboration with your broader team.

Last but not least, this integration empowers me. I’m not a technical person. I can’t build something with an API. Yet, with Zapier, I can skip the phase of sheepishly asking one of my developers for help to build an API. This opens up so many possibilities.

At larger companies, it can take forever to get things done. Some of the work I’ve done in Zapier would take months to get done at a larger company. From securing engineering resources to actually building the sync, you could easily spend a quarter just trying to get the data you need instead of focusing on your core responsibilities. If a bunch of processes bogs you down, then you can’t achieve the job you’re actually trying to do. Do the thing instead of waiting.

Any product manager can set this Zapier to ProductPlan integration in a matter of minutes and not dedicate all your resources. That way, you have a quickie proof of concept with Zapier, and you’re not pulling engineers off of something more substantial.

When I develop a plan with the rest of my team, Zapier will help me execute that plan with the tools that other teams, like marketing and sales, are using. This opens up possibilities for folks outside of the product. When we have feature requests, it can automatically pull these into our table view and comments through Slack, bringing visibility to anyone. It’s picking things up for me from all of my apps while working on my roadmap.

Takeaways

Zapier is a productivity tool. It’s a means to an end, but not a solution itself. Before, there was a disconnect between the ever-revolving cast of tools and our roadmap platform. Zapier integrating with ProductPlan won’t make you a better product manager; you still have to make good decisions. What it did for me was change how I think about where I’m spending my time. Whether you use Zapier or not, I hope these examples help people think about how they can automate tedious processes or think about how they can be more efficient in their day-to-day tasks.


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