I decided to start with Craft.io as this is the latest tool I've been working with both as a product manager and product operations. Below you'll find my impartial product review together with a description of some of the best qualities of Craft.io
This review will be structured according to the most important activities product managers and their leaders are doing to create delightful products and bring success to their businesses.
Product vision, strategy and goalsWhen it comes to defining and communicating product vision and strategy, Craft.io can offer a separate section in the product. It's a flexible area where you can describe your
- Product vision and strategy (for example using a business model or product canvas)
- Product goals (for example using the popular OKR method)
- Target audience (or build personas)
- Competitive landscape
- and so on.
Product discoveryIn terms of product discovery Craft offers a separate product (part of every package) called the Feedback portal. You can share it with your stakeholders, both internal and external if you want, and get their feedback and product ideas. The slight downside of the Feedback portal is that your customers will need an account to leave feedback, however, it comes with the benefit of updates on any changes to the feedback they've provided.
In the main Craft tool, there are enough capabilities to run an effective discovery process. You can easily create discovery backlogs, collect your customers' feedback and market intelligence or run design sprints. Perhaps in the future Craft might do with several integrations to the known user research tools on the market to make it easier for discovery teams to build product intelligence.
PrioritisationIt's fairly easy to prioritise your work in Craft. At your disposal, you have plenty of templates for popular prioritisation techniques such as value/effort, RICE, KANO, opportunity scoring and so on. However, if you don't want to use the template - it's fine as well. You can create custom fields in Craft (and even custom formulas) to make up any prioritisation method you want. Those custom fields will be shared across your workspace so your colleagues could benefit from them as well. This way you can align prioritisation across your organisation.
PlanningWhen it comes to planning - Craft is quite flexible. First of all, it supports the concept of sprints and those can be synced with Jira if needed. Secondly, in Craft, you'll find several handy ways to make and present your plans such as releases, Kanban boards and different types of roadmaps (a more detailed description of roadmaps is below).
In terms of sprint management, Craft can offer different ways to present information. You can show your sprints by time horizons, by people involved, or by importance. The data could be presented in multiple dimensions and there are powerful filters to get the exact view you need.
Craft also has a special view called Capacity planning. It could be really useful to plan your work in accordance with your resources and limitations. However, if you run a multi-squad organisation with numerous releases - this view might be a bit overwhelming.
Product deliveryCraft has an integration with Jira to track the delivery of your product. All epics, stories, and sub-tasks could be synced between both tools so as the statuses and releases. Moreover, Craft offers a flexible mapping between dev statuses and statuses in Craft so you can simplify the reporting to cater better for your audience.
The integration of Craft and Jira has also some quirks that you need to know. I'd recommend reading Craft support materials before using the integration - it will save you some headaches in the future. Also worth noting is that the sync between Jira and Craft is automatic and almost instantaneous. While the reserve sync between Craft and Jira is manual. This is not a bug but a feature though as it helps to keep Jira clear of unconfirmed work providing clarity for engineers.
RoadmapDifferent kinds of roadmaps are available in Craft. The default one is the good old time-based roadmap. It's fairly easy to create and manipulate. Releases could be either created manually or synced from Jira. Then you'd add epics to the corresponding releases and get the progress displayed. However, you can show different progress on the release, options vary from % of time spent, % of epics/features done or % of story points done. You can also opt for manual progress if you're not satisfied with any of the above options.
In addition to the time-based roadmap, Craft offers some alternatives. You can have an impact roadmap, or product one focused on either your objectives or your teams or even your major features. Any table-based roadmap you can imagine - Craft can support it.
When you need to share your roadmap, you have several options in Craft. For internal stakeholders, you can produce a private view of the roadmap to share. Or you can share the generic roadmap if you so wish containing all the releases by all the teams. Your stakeholders can then use filters to explore the upcoming work and dig deeper into the scope and status. Sharing the roadmap with external stakeholders is a bit more tricky. The easiest option is to export the roadmap and share the document. However, you can share the online view and track all the share links you've created. You can protect the roadmap with a password and limit the amount of information your external stakeholders will be able to see on your roadmap.
IntegrationsCraft integrates with the most popular tools for managing software lifecycles such as the Atlassian suite (Jira, Confluence) and Microsoft Azure. In addition, you have options for integration with Google Cloud and GitHub. Many more connections are available with the versatile Zapier integration. In addition to the number of integrations, it's important to consider the quality and depth of the integration. Here unfortunately it's hard to make a judgement call until trying it for yourself. When it comes to Jira integration that I am using myself, I could say it's solid but not without its quirks you'd need to know. Definitely, there is room for improvement, especially in the logs and debugging domains.
Special sauceWhat sets Craft apart from other similar software is its Portfolio view. It's designed for bigger product teams and portfolios offering a global roadmap and tools to overview the work for all teams. Unfortunately, the Portfolio view is only available in Craft's highest pricing tier (enterprise). This feature allows product leads at your company to have a bird's view of their portfolio while keeping individual workspaces simple and clutter-free.
ConclusionCraft.io is a comprehensive and solid product management tool that could accommodate both smaller (<10) and bigger (<100) product teams. For huge portfolios, you will need to go for the enterprise tier and structure your work in multiple workspaces. Craft has all vital integrations to other crucial tools to discover and deliver winning products to the market. Craft's feedback portal makes it easier to gather insights from your stakeholders and the various "Guru" templates will help you prioritise work, create and report on product roadmaps. Where I see the room for improvement for Craft is the overall UX and the responsiveness of the platform. Sometimes, especially working with a big roadmap, it feels pretty slow and clunky. Finally, Craft is a very flexible product, where you can create almost any process you want. However, this being a plus for some teams might make other teams struggle to adopt a good process. It makes sense to have people in product operations roles that could support the implementation of Craft and promote the most effective ways to use it for your organisation.
- Feedback portal to collect user and stakeholders insights
- Flexible views to support all the most popular discovery and delivery frameworks
- Robust integrations with the complementary SDLC tools
- Various ways to present product roadmaps
- Portfolio view for large product teams
- Friendly and effective support even on cheaper tiers
- Flexibility comes with a cost of confusion, especially for junior PMs or teams without product ops
- Some integrations require special treatment to work well
- Portfolio view only available in the most expensive pricing tier