Automation is essential to gaining efficiency in the digital economy. When the right processes and actions take place without having to be initiated or carried out by an employee, enterprises run more smoothly and workers can focus on higher-value activities that can grow the business.
Enterprise automation comes in digital and physical forms: Software code (or bots) that completes business processes, stores and backs up data, conducts security scans and more; drones that can deliver products or tools; and robots programmed with artificial intelligence that can “learn.”
Some of the advantages of automation are mentioned above (though there are more). But as TheCsuite contributor Nate Vickery explains, automation also carries a certain amount of risk, particularly automation in the physical realm.
“Automation advances and other new technologies represent huge possibilities for almost every organization, no matter the size of their operation, but each also has a huge potential for things to go wrong,” Vickery writes. “While automation offers a magnitude of benefits, naturally, there are also safety risks.”
The biggest problem, he says, “is that the safety risks from the automation processes are still largely unidentified and legal implications could be enormous.”
Indeed, nobody really knows how likely it is that drones, robots, driverless cars and other automated, intelligent machines can be hacked or malfunction in a way that creates dangerous situations or accidents that harm people or property. When that happens, who is liable? The manufacturer? The enterprise that owns the device? The CIO?
Tough questions all.
What enterprise decision-makers must do is approach automation with caution and a realistic grasp of the ROI.
“All of this points out to new management imperatives – keeping an eye on the direction and the speed of workplace automation, and afterward, determine when, where and how much to invest in this new technology,” according to Vickery.
I’ll add that enterprises also should develop detailed policies and best practices regarding use of automation. These policies and practices should be reviewed periodically as automation technology and case law evolve.
Real or sci-fi: Robotic software automation