Management requires a whole new set of tools to those you use as a software developer. Here are more than 20 essential tools to get you started.
Engineering managers have a lot of additional responsibilities, from running one-to-ones and organizing staff meetings, to assessing software vendors, and working with HR on hiring and onboarding new team members. Many of these tasks require whole new categories of tools to those you may have used throughout your career.
We combed through the best lists (including this excellent one from frequent LeadDev contributor, Pat Kua) and software review sites to identify the essential tools for software engineering managers.
More than anything, engineering managers need to take and manage their notes. At every product meeting, client call, and one-to-one, something will almost certainly be said that you need to note down and follow up on later. The only way to keep track of these things is with some kind of powerful notes app.
- Depending on how you like to handle notes, Notion can be a great option – especially if your team already uses it. You can set up a private Notion workspace and still be able to easily access your existing team documents. Also, it’s simple to share things like feedback or meeting minutes with other team members, even if they start out as documents in your private space.
- If you want to get more technical, tools like Obsidian and Roam Research are both part of a new trend towards linked notes databases that make it easy to map connections between your notes.
- Or you could buy a nice new notepad and pen.
Writing and documentation
Writing words, not code, is often a big part of an engineering leader’s job. Everything from a job description for a recruiter, to a detailed breakdown of how the product stack is integrated requires clear, concise writing skills.
- Google Docs and Microsoft Word are popular, tried and tested word processors for a reason.
- For something that you can also use to collaborate with your team, give Coda a try. It has all the features you need to write anything from a team wiki or project roadmap, to a detailed how-to guide for your product or a technical explanation for the legal team.
- Or, if you want something more air gapped and private, Ulysses is a great Mac-only option.
Metrics and dashboards
While the specific individual, team, and company KPIs engineering managers need to keep track of varies hugely by what kind of product, team, and company you work with, there will always be some numbers that are more important than others to you.
Whether you need to stay on top of website uptime, Google Ad conversion rate, or if your team is delivering on time, a metrics dashboard will likely be an always-on part of your day-to-day work. Plus, they’re way better looking and easier to scan than a Google Sheet.
- Klipfolio and Geckoboard both offer dozens of integrations with apps like Amazon AWS, GitHub, Jira, Shopify, and Stripe, so whatever it is you need to keep tabs on, you can likely do it here.
Project and time management
While your team’s tools will likely keep track of all the important tasks that need to be done on your product, engineering managers can have a whole host of adjacent jobs to do which don’t neatly fit into Jira. To keep on top of all the extra tasks, it’s a good idea to have your own personal to-do app.
- Project management apps like Todoist or OmniFocus might be the easiest option. You can then combine your personal to-do and professional odd-jobs lists in one place, while still relying on your team project management tools at work.
- If you prefer a Kanban board, Trello is an easy choice. You can use it to take an Agile approach to all your non-dev tasks.
- If you want to see how you are splitting your time between all your different responsibilities, an app like RescueTime can keep track of how you spend your day. That way, you can get some hard numbers to back up the feeling that you’re spending too much time in meetings.
Hiring is one of the most important tasks any manager has to do. Making sure that new employees are technically competent and the right fit can make or break your team. If you work at a larger company, you will likely have a dedicated HR department to lean on. But if you work at a smaller company, there’s a good chance that you will get tasked with scaling up the engineering team.
- Lever provides applicant tracking and candidate relationship management for companies of all sizes.
- UKG also provides talent acquisition tools for any size of company, plus a full human capital management package, including HR, payroll, and other similar tools.
As the number of people working on your codebase goes up, it’s important to have an effective continuous integration, continuous delivery (CI/CD) setup. You don’t want two developers working on the same code to accidentally create conflicts because one of them was working on an older version.
- Most major cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud offer their own CI/CD pipeline platforms.
- Jenkins is the most popular open-source CI/CD tool.
- GitLab, Atlassian Bamboo, and Travis CI are all viable options depending on the needs of your product.
Security and password management
You’re going to want to keep important information safe and databases secure. After all, as both a technical lead and a manager, you can often have all the keys to the kingdom. Not only do you have control of the production database, code repository, and API keys, but you may also have access to corporate credit cards, payroll, and even simple things like social media passwords. If you get hacked, bad things can happen.
Ironically, password management company LastPass demonstrated this perfectly when it was hacked last year. The attackers targeted a senior DevOps engineer and were able to gain access to basically everything – including poorly encrypted customer passwords.
While targeted attacks will always present problems, a good password manager and secure notes app can go a long way to prevent opportunistic attackers, disgruntled employees, and data loss because of stolen devices. All three of the below have solid security credentials and will allow you to keep everything from API keys to your Zoom credentials secure.
Presentation and meeting management
Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, and Google Slides are mediocre presentation apps. They’re bloated, dated, hard to use, and have pretty terrible templates. If you regularly have to give presentations or lead meetings and don’t have the help of a designer to put together a solid slide deck for you, then you need to look elsewhere
- Both Canva and Beautiful.ai offer much more powerful tools and better templates for building beautiful slide decks. Best of all, they’re also much easier to use, so throwing together a few slides for an upcoming client call doesn’t become a huge burden.
Finding your own tools
This is far from an exhaustive list of all the tools an engineering manager will need to use throughout the day. Hopefully, though, it has got you thinking about the key management tasks you have to keep on top of and some software to apply to the problem.