Last updated - September 28, 2021
Modern executives are expected to understand the role of automation in their organizations. It is crucial considering that automation has become a mainstay in virtually all industries, including ATMs, healthcare, and manufacturing.
“Business Automation” comprises a systematic approach to easing out manual processes in favor of open collaboration, just-in-time analytics, and intelligent rules-driven automation. It is variously known as “Business Process Automation,” BPA,
State-of-the-art automation systems employ artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) are the new drivers for business automation technology. It explains the word “intelligent” in “intelligent automation.” This powerful concept gives rise to new methods in human-machine interaction, enabling businesses to increase efficiency, grow revenue, and out-perform the competition in challenging markets.
For the avoidance of doubt, there’s ample evidence showing that automation enhances the bottom line. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, AI-supported automation will generate billions of dollars in labor value in 2022.
Despite its potential, business automation is replete with peculiar challenges. One of the most potent is the menace of cyber security threats that continually threaten trust in business process automation or the adoption of its systems. This article attempts to discuss these threats and how the modern enterprise may deal with them and pave the way for even greater success.
What is Business Automation?
In order to provide a broader definition for business automation, it’s essential to clarify what business automation represents in the context of today’s visionary organization. Business automation refers to the application of technology to handle repetitive tasks. It ensures that employees have room to focus on work of higher value.
Business automation encompasses:
- Business Process Automation (BPA)
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
- AI-Powered Automation
Indeed, automation has evolved from the tumultuous years of bulky mainframes and the army of experts required to maintain them. Modern cloud-based automation platforms enable companies of all sizes to have the functionality they need at their fingertips.
Here are a few types of business automation:
Many organizations are at a level where basic automation is enough to handle fundamental, non-advanced tasks and automate them. They often require minimal or zero coding expertise to digitize repetitive tasks, eliminating errors and accelerating transactional tasks.
Basic automation includes robotic process automation and business process management (BPM). It makes sense to consider that business automation involves aligning business process management (BPM) and business rules management (BRM) with cutting-edge application development to meet the market demands.
Process automation ensures that business processes are transparent and uniform. Dedicated software is at the heart of process automation, simultaneously increasing efficiency and productivity, along with valuable business insights.
Important examples of process automation include process mining, and workflow automation are examples.
Using advanced automation, humans and machines “collaborate” to integrate multiple systems across the organization.
The ability to support more complex processes derives from an engine room consisting of unstructured data melded with machine learning, natural language processing, and analysis.
Advanced automation promotes knowledge management and decision support where specialized work is involved.
Intelligent automation depends on the power of artificial intelligence or AI. Therefore, the machines can learn and make [critical] decisions by encountering and analyzing as many situations as possible.
There’s a growing application of intelligent automation in customer service, as AI-powered virtual assistants allow companies to reduce costs while enjoying more intelligent interactions between human agents and customers. It generally improves the customer service experience.
Pros of Business Automation
Asking why business automation matters in modern business are nearly inconceivable in the light of modern technological advancement. As far back as 1913, businessman Henry Ford popularized the idea of the moving assembly line. Ford’s assembly line made it possible to manufacture a fully-working car in two and half hours instead of twelve.
Modern business automation tools do the same for current business needs, enabling the development and deployment of processes within hours instead of months. BP automation solutions continue to simplify and speed up complicated workflows while leaving your organization transparent and with enough control over all parts of the process. With this freedom of routine comes the ability to focus on what counts.
Finding out where mistakes were made
Even the minutest workflow errors can be expensive as businesses must now spend time and resources to repeat tasks while delaying stakeholders. Automation reduces the possibility of human error and saves time through the centralization of the process.
Eliminating errors can make a difference in production output and service delivery.
These tools help to develop systems that learn from current events. With AI and machine learning, a business creates a model that can make critical decisions down the road with fair accuracy.
Efficiency (time, mistakes)
A system that relies on email alone quickly buries the details of an organization’s workflow in the rubble of old email. Automated business processes are the new paradigm shift from manual administrative and paper-reliant tasks.
It’s usually daunting and time-consuming to make copies, gather signatures and approval, transfer documents, and process paperwork, even though none of that is non-essential.
Besides minimizing errors, business automation enables the consolidation of all parts of the workflow into one dashboard. It’s an excellent way to track the current status of processes, allowing you to control the process by managing task review, approvals, timelines, and access.
Streamlining the information from all steps in the workflow makes informed decisions possible to give stakeholders clear timetables. In a nutshell, BPA shows you who’s working on a specific task at one particular time and the following steps to meet organizational goals.
Cons of Business Automation
There remains a palpable fear that job losses are inevitable as automation penetrates vital aspects of a business. There is a significant possibility of losing jobs, especially if employees are involved in manual and repetitive tasks.
Businesses are more likely to embrace automation to improve products, generate or enhance sales, and so forth. However, human judgment isn’t always thorough, leading to a more significant potential for error, raising risks instead of gain.
Automation and worker displacement have become so important in the national discourse. As globalization and technology advance, many companies have opted to grow their competitive edge by switching to automation. Here are a few statistics linking automation and worker displacement:
- Around one-third of related activities in close to 50 percent of occupations can be automated.
- Twenty million manufacturing jobs will not exist by 2030.
- Robots will replace around 8.5 percent of the global manufacturing force by 2030 too.
- Automation has impacted chiefly factory and manufacturing roles. Other jobs with similar fate include customer service, data entry, delivery, fast food, research, and service industry roles.
While it’s possible to retrain employees to fill other roles, a displaced person will, at the least, experience some immediate hardship. They only operate a specific piece of equipment or fulfill one type of task. It can be challenging to become accustomed to the new role, even where the individual displays resilience.
Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of business automation, high costs are a deterrent to broader adoption and sustenance of business process automation. The substantial capital outlay isn’t always affordable, explaining why small companies still depend mainly on humans instead of computers to fulfill tasks and projects across departments in the company.
Interestingly, people seem to forget that automation is never available at zero cost. While some solutions are less expensive than others, the cost savings are often reflected in overall performance.
It’s important to note that cost is not always about automation. The complexity of an automation system is usually significant, warranting a deep understanding of your system and the solution to avoid creating entirely new maintenance costs that were the case.
Investing in automation while maintaining and operating the technology can be expensive, especially for businesses with meager resources and minimal labor supply.
It’s typical for automated systems to cost a few thousand or even million dollars to outline, build, and install. Some automation systems require more maintenance than traditional machinery. Therefore, small manufacturers may be unwilling to cough up the investments required when their present machinery works.
Less expensive automation tools are often optimal replacements for manual workflows. Intuitive and low-cost solutions have helped many businesses earn.
There are inevitable consequences in a data-driven world where businesses are increasingly exploiting valuable information to win new customers, increase sales, and enhance productivity.
The use of automated tools to manage large volumes of company and customer data (a.k.a. big data) exposes critical endpoints to cyber attacks. The cyber threats of automation are so real that even with seemingly adequate protection mechanisms to prevent fraud, many businesses are not as keen on risking data theft.
Malware attacks are on the rise, and as companies engage more automated solutions, it eventually becomes the culture to transmit files and information via various networks. Sooner than later, some unwanted software could make its way onto an organization’s systems and lead to data or financial loss. Malware is the malicious software used in implementing these attacks.
Attackers could also gain access to an organization’s systems and encrypt the data there. They will then demand ransom (usually cryptocurrency) with the promise of decrypting the data. Automation makes ransomware a grim possibility.
Internal Threat (Human Sabotage)
It becomes impossible for external forces to sabotage an automated business system; internal threats can make it possible. Collaborating with an insider is one way to effect cyber attacks on business automation. They are usually effective too.
Managing a mountain of paper documents, transactions, and receipts provides opportunities for fraud and theft. For this reason, organizations purchase locks and invest in security measures to protect valuable financial information and records from unauthorized persons.
An unauthorized individual can misuse paper-based records, but the same is possible with computerized systems. Yet, even with more protective measures, business automation represents a higher risk from cyber threats. The possibility of social engineering and phishing attacks are just some of the perils of adopting large-scale business automation. Under such evil schemes, valuable data may land in the wrong hands who’ll exploit them for selfish gain.
Weak Passwords And Weak Encryption
Access control employing passwords and encryption helps to ensure that only the right individuals access company data or information. However, employees may use weak passwords that hackers can easily decipher. Sometimes, it’s because they do not want to forget the passwords. But, it’s one way to open your company up to attacks.
One can say the same for weak encryption. Encryption serves to scramble data to become unrecognizable to unauthorized parties. However, some encryption methods and tools work better than others. Not getting or using the best encryption available ensures that a persistent attacker with the right mix of tools and techniques can easily decrypt valuable information.
How to Deal with Threats
There are a few ways to handle threats to business automation. These include:
#1 – Up-to-date Cybersecurity Measures
It’s best to use cutting-edge security measures simultaneously as an organization expands its adoption of business automation.
#2 – Identifying PotentialRisks Before Automating Processes
Understanding the possible risks in automating an approach makes it possible to prepare a plan of attack if or when things go wrong. You’ll at least know what you’re getting into and be better prepared for it.
#3 – Controlling Access
It’s advisable to limit who has access to what data or information at your organization. Segregating access control ensures that everyone can only access information relevant to their position and responsibility, ultimately keeping everyone safe.
#4 – Implementing A Precise And Detailed Audit Trail
Audit trails ensure that everything can be tracked as and when due. With a comprehensive audit trail, it’s easy to see when something is amiss or fishy.
#5 – Industry-Specific Compliance
Compliance with regulation is essential as it helps keep companies safe and secure. HIPAA is an example of this, and as organizations strive for automation compliance, they arm themselves better for the future.
Automation improves productivity, efficiency, revenue, and profits for businesses. While these benefits exist, there are also notable downsides. A well-rounded understanding of these implications will help a company prepare better to use suitable business automation to its strengths. The organization will also learn the best ways to handle the accompanying threats of business automation that could hamper long-term business.