Robot control: managing a non-human workforce

SailPoint

By Chern-Yue Boey, Senior VP, APAC
Tuesday, 12 October, 2021


Robot control: managing a non-human workforce

What was once a sci-fi fantasy of a dystopian future, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has now become integrated into our working environment. With technology creating demands at a speed that humans cannot keep up with, many businesses have begun implementing RPA in efforts to modernise business processes.

RPA technology enables businesses to automate repetitive, structured tasks and data-intensive processes by mimicking most human-computer interactions at a high volume and speed with digital workers. Not only does it cut down costs, but it will maximise efficiency while boosting employee engagement by allowing the human workforce to focus on higher-value and interesting duties.

The RPA market is forecast to be worth $2.9 billion in revenue this year, with big players Automation Anywhere, UiPath and Blue Prism forecast to control 32% of the market in 2023. Forrester notes RPA’s popularity is making way for “yet another technology gold rush”.

The benefits to people and the changes it will make to the workforce

With burnout and additional hours becoming prominent issues within the workforce since the pandemic hit, organisations need to find efficient ways to utilise emerging technologies in order to ease the burden for employees. In fact, ELMO Software reported 68% of Australian workers believe great technology will assist them in their role.

There is a fear that technology will be replacing jobs; however, it will have more of an effect on job reallocation and creation rather than elimination. It’s not going to make people unemployed, but instead provide opportunities for retraining or upskilling in order to effectively work within the demands of a modern organisation.

What is the risk of an RPA?

Digital workers routinely require access to sensitive data and collect data from various sources — holding potentially more information than its human counterpart. This includes credentials, passwords and other types of data pulled from sources such as applications, customer bases and service desks.

Much like the human workforce, digital workers should be monitored and protected. They have the ability to evolve and act independently, which is why, without the proper management and governance in place, it can be a magnet for cybercriminals. With cybercriminals becoming more sophisticated in attacks, a growing list of administrative tasks and an increasing amount of data protection, privacy and regulations to keep up with, businesses need to leverage technology in a reliable and secure way.

How to manage and secure digital workers

Digital colleagues have identities too, hence why they should be managed the same as human staff as they follow a similar lifecycle process. This includes on-boarding, off-boarding and different levels of privilege when it comes to accessing data, applications and information as functions and roles change. Any change in the cycle will have implications on the systems it’s included in and any data it owns.

Without boundaries in place, it can create security gaps; accidental privileges may be given to users, enabling unauthorised workers to access sensitive data or obtain accounts that may violate policies. Each digital identity, human or not, is a potential gateway for a cybercriminal to enter — how do you ensure a bot doesn’t wander past its authorised parameters?

Transparency is key in managing a workforce effectively and it has become increasingly challenging to keep track of all activity while protecting data as organisations continue to digitise. By implementing a well-executed digital strategy to include an identity security management system, businesses can define policies and lifecycle events to ensure specific bots get the correct number of access privileges. Managing RPAs can also increase confidence internally and with stakeholders by generating real-time access reports.

Through using an identity security management system, organisations can have all the answers to the following:

  • Which people (or bots) should be given access?
  • How long will they need access?
  • Should they have access while using another system?
  • What is the process to shut down access when someone leaves or changes roles?
     

Often, a centre of excellence (COE) is set up to help manage the governance, policy and operations of a digital workforce. These individuals can leverage identity security platforms to manage the identity security of digital workers in critical areas such as adjusting credentials and least privilege access, compliance management and access recommendations.

Deploying RPA gives employees much-needed breathing room and minimises friction between workers in order to maximise organisational growth and innovation. As organisations look to address overall cybersecurity with greater capability, the identities of workers, human or not, should be protected with an increased level of sophistication.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Andrey

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