There are countless tasks, tools, and processes that product managers juggle every day: from developing products to organizing their work. Needless to say, the PM's role is overwhelming and requires a lot of attention to many details. This is where automation comes into play.
Using automation in product development reduces human involvement and leads to higher efficiency, lower operational costs, and minimizes repetitive tasks within the team through artificial intelligence (AI). But how to do it right? We will dive deeper into the automation processes to identify the best approaches for PMs.
Take advantage of automation
From a helpdesk for customer interactions to the latest AI solutions for improving internal processes, automation wears many hats. It can be implemented in every product and process around its development. Slack, ChatGPT prioritize, tools for A/B testing, and IT support ticketing tools are just some simple examples that make PMs' lives easier.
Let’s list the advantages that make automation an important part of any business:
Increase productivity: Reducing repetitive tasks and eliminating human involvement, automation tools make teams more efficient. Plus, reducing the number of recurring tasks frees up time for more important ones.
Improve collaboration: Thanks to many SaaS products on the market, it’s now much easier than ever to communicate better with users and within teams. The right integration into external and internal systems and even just using a communication tool with clear procedures make interactions faster and simpler.
Minimize human errors: Many repetitive tasks can be easily automated, which sufficiently reduces human involvement. Computers have more tolerance for daunting recurring tasks, so why not delegate them?
Improve customer experiences: Customer service chatbots, helpdesks, and client onboarding tools make interactions with clients and users easy and fast. By helping them to get the best experience from using products, the client lifecycle shortens, and the average income increases.
Increase ROI: Summing up the advantages listed above, automating tools and automated processes directly leads to lower investments (financial, human, and inventory) and higher earnings.
Choose your type of automation tools
There are two main types of automation systems that you can use in your everyday work:
No code and low code automation
The automation tools sector has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry over the past few years. Google Docs, IFTTT, Zapier, Jira, and many more help to automate processes for many businesses. Ready-to-use tools are easy to implement, don’t require much development, maintenance, or support, and are usually ideal for startups and SMEs.
Many of them offer customization, which allows companies to tailor a universal solution to their unique business needs. However, at some point in the growth of the business, it might be more efficient to create your own solution, as not many automation tools in the market can handle a sophisticated request, or the price for it becomes higher than an internal product.
Developing their own internal solutions for automation tasks usually requires many more resources than utilizing SaaS tools. This approach works well when the job is complex, and the long-term benefits of the in-house development outweigh the short-term expenses.
Many corporations start developing their own internal tools when it comes to automation, yet the majority of them choose the combination of no code/low code and traditional development.
Identify opportunities for automation
Some process automation might look obvious, such as customer feedback processing or saving and sharing important decisions after meetings. However, PMs might face a problem where a solution doesn’t come easy.
There are three steps PMs can take to identify bottlenecks that should be automated:
1. Look out for patterns and behaviors
Behavior that is repetitive and resource-consuming. Start looking into the product development roadmap, user journey map, product go-to-market strategy, and existing workflow mapping (to-do list and calendar) and write down patterns and behaviors throughout the activities. For example, you keep getting identical customer requests about the same feature, cart abandonment is high, or release notes to stakeholders and users are always sent with delays.
2. Ask questions for every pattern and behavior:
- Is it repeatable?
- If yes, is it repeatable regularly?
- Will automation free up a fair amount of time?
- Does automating the process NOT decrease the value?
3. Discuss it with the team
Communicating problems and opportunities is an essential role of PMs. First, it might turn out that your colleagues are already using an automated solution to your problem. Second, you might find a bottleneck within your team or the whole company, and automation might become a priority task much sooner.
You successfully found bottlenecks, repetitive patterns, and behaviors within and around your product. After a discussion with your team, it is clear that you will benefit from automation for the tasks and processes. It’s time to move to the implementation stage:
1. Set automation goals: What do you see as a result of automation?
Choose a clear goal and objectives for each automation project. Keep in mind that automation goals should be aligned with the product goals. Otherwise, you will automate some tasks, but the results won’t lead to product enhancement. Then, prioritize the automation project accordingly.
So, if your team works towards a product launch in a particular region and you are up for automating some regulation paper procedures that differ from one country to another, focus only on those countries that are your goal.
2. Choose tools: What automation tools are you going to use? Or are you going to build them in-house?
A thorough research and possibly the involvement of automation experts is required here. Assess available products on the market and ensure they can solve your task. Evaluate resources and potential benefits.
It might turn out that it is more efficient in the long-term to build your own helpdesk that will be integrated with a CRM, and the final tailored solution will be cheaper than any available solution on the market (that is what happened in my company).
3. Change management: How do you work with people to ensure the transition?
Automation might sound like a sure way to make things easier, yet often, changes are met with resistance within teams, so be ready to work on stakeholder management. Make sure that everyone understands the goals, seek their feedback, and make them part of the automation project as early as possible.
Some cases might be more complicated than others. For example, if you automate client support, it will lead to the team reduction. The change management won’t end when the automation is successfully implemented; after that, transition management will come into play.
4. Measure and monitor: What KPIs and results will tell us it is successful?
Your automation development plan has to include KPIs and other measurements before it starts. Remember, automation should improve productivity, simplify processes, and reduce team involvement. Monitor chosen metrics, and if performance drops, it might be time to assess the process and re-evaluate the solution.
Designed to remove bottlenecks, reduce errors, and increase efficiency, product and process automation is an integral part of a PM's work. Some automation solutions can be easy to implement to improve several processes, such as ChatGPT, to better and speed up communication with users; others can be complex projects requiring a separate development team, such as an internal product for workload automation. Nevertheless, it calls for a strategic approach from PMs to get the expected results.