How RPA Can Streamline The Product Development Process

RPA (Robotic Process Automation), the process of automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks using robots, has long been invaluable in different sectors, big and small. In banking and finances, it proves helpful in procedures like loan processing and account reconciliation. In customer service, in the form of chatbots, ticket routing, and call-center support. 

RPA is also increasingly put into use by companies looking to streamline the product development process—the process of building and bringing new products to the market, relaunching an existing product, or taking an old product into a market it had not existed before. 

The Product Development Process

The product development process varies from product to product but almost always happens along these six stages:

  • The identification of customer needs,
  • Market research 
  • Design and prototyping of the product 
  • Testing and refining the product 
  • Launching the product into the market
  • Gathering feedback on the product 

This product development process, demanding and time-consuming, can be streamlined by robotic process automation tools at every stage.  

Here is how RPA can streamline every stage of the product development process:

1.RPA In Identifying Customer Needs

The design project’s first step is identifying customer needs and anticipating customer experience. This identification stage is one of the most data-intensive stages in product development. Some of the questions you may need to ask in this stage are:  

  • Does the customer need this product?
  • How do they intend to use this product
  • How is the customer currently handling the task or problem this product aims to solve?
  • What inconvenience exists about the current existing product that my product will solve?
  • How would the life of the customer change when they use this product? 

Considering these questions, the company’s main task is to collect and analyze customer data to determine the product’s market fit. This is where RPA tools come into play. RPA can help automate tasks like data collection, analysis, and reporting. Companies can use RPA tools to scrape the web and collect data from relevant websites, PDFs, and documents. They can also create surveys to weigh the target group’s sentiments and predict how they will likely respond to the product in development. The data collected by RPAs can provide valuable insight to help you identify patterns, trends, customer behavior and preferences, and other vital data points. 

RPA tools can be set up to glean data from, among other places, the point of sale, company website, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, apps, and help desks. You can hire 1Rivet’s RPA consulting services to guide you on where best to set your RPA tools for optimal data collection.

2. RPA In Market Research

Market research works both on the side of the consumer and your potential competitor. When it comes to market research, RPA can play a crucial role in pricing analysis, trend analysis, and competitor analysis.

Pricing analysis is the process of evaluating the prices of products to determine which will be the best fit for your product. In contrast, trend analysis analyzes patterns in consumer behavior, along with the changes recorded over some time. Competitor analysis is the evaluation to identify your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses to gain insights that you would use on your business. 

The amount of data required for this process is immense and tedious. Data must also be collected, cleaned, analyzed, and reported. These time-consuming and repetitive tasks can benefit from automation by RPA to save time and resources. 

RPA can help in most of these tasks and even go further to provide insight into customer behavior, preference, and other information through data and web scraping on social media, forums, and websites.

3. RPA In Design and Prototyping of the Product

RPA can streamline the product development process when designing and prototyping the product. The design and prototype phase is where stage in the production process where the team will create a primary or first version of the product before its official launch into the market. The essence of this design and prototyping of the product is to help detect and resolve any issues on the product before it hits the market. 

RPA is not only valuable for collecting data but also in creating digital models helpful in creating prototypes of the final product. Some existing RPA tools can help you prototype the product by offering easy-to-use drag-and-drop features and analytics tools that can help you create, test, and efficiently track your prototype’s performance. Other RPA tools also provide templates that are easy to customize and launch, streamlining this stage in the product development process.

4. RPA In Testing and Refining The Product

If the product you are developing is software or a mobile application, RPA can help streamline the testing and refining product process in the two fundamental methods of product testing; regression testing and user acceptance testing. 

  • Regression Testing

Regression testing is a repetitive and time-consuming activity. It is the test conducted to ascertain whether a program or code that has changed has had an adverse effect on other existing features of the software. The first process in regression testing is often debugging a code to identify bugs that need fixing. There are a series of RPA tools that can help in monitoring real-time data and variables. Some RPA tools can also allow you to pause, stop, and resume the execution of a bot and monitor data and variables in real-time.

Regression testing can be time and energy-consuming. RPA bots can play a role in executing test cases and the results compared with the predicted/expected outcome. This would ensure that any new changes have not affected the general functionality of the product. 

  • User Acceptance Testing 

User acceptance testing is the last stage in any software/application development cycle before it is allowed to go public. A small batch of users is allowed to test the product at this stage. Their feedback helps to improve the product in readiness for public release.  

RPA bots can be programmed to handle most of these roles and give appropriate feedback by filling out forms, clicking buttons, and many other requirements programmed into them. The output from the bots informs changes needed on the product. RPA tools prove invaluable in the product-testing role by identifying where the errors might be by collecting and processing data and even suggesting fixes. RPAs used in user acceptance testing are often easy to use, with some employing codeless features and drag-and-drop interfaces that you can then use to create user-case scenarios.

RPA tools can streamline the product development process by generating the needed feedback on the testing process, information that would inform the product-refining process. RPA tools do not necessarily discount human testers but instead automate tedious and repetitive tasks, leaving the human testers to focus on more critical parts of the product in development.

5. RPA in Launching The Product Into The Market

Regarding launching products into the market, some roles that RPA can handle include automating sales and customer service by creating quotes and proposals and customizing them to fit customer requests. RPA can also help process sales orders, guide the customer through the sales pipeline, and respond to customer queries about the product through chatbots and web forms. 

RPA tools can also help streamline communication between the manufacturing and marketing departments, automate advertising and marketing activities by running automated email campaigns, and handle social media activities like post-scheduling and optimization, reporting and analysis, segmentation, and more.

During the sales process, RPA tools can optimize the levels of stocks in response to customer demands and even adjust prices in relation to customer reaction to the product. If the product is physical, RPA tools can optimize and automate the supply chain processes to make it easier to ensure the products are delivered on time and as requested.

6. RPA In Gathering Feedback on the Product

Some avenues through which RPA can collect feedback include creating and administering automated surveys to the customers, interacting with the customers in real-time, and asking targeted questions to get information on their interaction with the product through chatbots. You can also use RPA to scrape websites, forums, and social media for feedback regarding the product you have launched and similar products using the keywords you have set. 

This feedback would inform the overall customer sentiments about the product. Data collected by RPA tools will then provide your company with valuable resources guiding how future products launch. It will also provide a helpful guide on where to tweak the product in future updates. Remember, the product development process encompasses new products and the relaunch of existing products.

Parting Shot

Robotic process automation has streamlined the product development process from start to finish. It is worth noting that just as the products vary, so would the RPA tools employed to help the development process. Ensure that your tool matches your needs and that its usage is where it would have the maximum impact on the product development process. Also, ensure that the RPA tool is secure enough so that it will not compromise your product development process. Also, look out for the tool’s scalability to ensure it can expand or contract with customer demands for your product.