IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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Five ways to improve risk management through effective process automation
Thu, 25th Jan 2024

As businesses plan for a new year ahead and formulate strategies for growth, one factor that should be high on executive to-do lists is risk mitigation.

This is especially true for businesses that operate in highly regulated sectors, such as financial services or healthcare. In these areas, even the slightest error can have significant financial and legal consequences. 

Experience shows that an important component in successful risk management strategies is process automation and process management. These activities lead to increased consistency, efficiency, and accountability across the business.

In essence, automation ensures that processes are carried out in compliance with established policies and regulations, thereby reducing legal risks. Automation allows for real-time monitoring and reporting of operational activities, enabling businesses to identify and address risks promptly.

There are five key steps that should be taken to ensure that a process automation project will be a success:

1. Begin with incremental steps:
Even though the objectives of the project are likely to be significant, it is best to start small. Rather than trying to automate an entire process, narrowing the deployment team’s focus is the best approach.

By starting with incremental change, it’s possible to highlight the positive impact on the organisation, customers, and employees. Each micro-innovation highlights the value of automation, helping people embrace a future-forward, automated business.

This approach also allows for gradual transformation and creates a culture of continuous improvement as well as lean process improvement. This methodology focuses on continually reviewing a process to identify waste or opportunities to improve process efficiency.  

2. Communicate the payback from the process improvements:
When staff start to see the benefits of process automation and process management across the business, they will be more open to deploying its benefits even further. However, first documenting and creating a shared understanding of business processes is crucial.

By effectively documenting processes, it’s possible to ensure that everyone involved has a clear understanding of how tasks are performed, the roles and responsibilities involved, and the overall workflow. Also, it helps to even further identify areas for improvement, streamline operations, and mitigate risks by reducing procedural variations.

3. Remain people focused at all times:
To ensure the success of a process automation project, it is vital to remain people-focused at all times. The true value of automation is only realised when staff understand how it enables them to use their time more effectively.

Automation should be seen as a tool to supplement employee efforts and save valuable time, allowing them to focus on high-value aspects of their role.

4. Don’t shy away from introducing new technologies in highly regulated sectors:
It’s common for organisations operating in highly regulated areas to be reluctant to introduce new technologies. However, the potential benefits derived from process automation can be even higher here than in other business sectors.

Automating the complex, error-prone steps of a process ensures they are executed properly every time, reducing the risk of human error and costly consequences.

5. Fully evaluate existing processes and identify where technology may introduce new risks:
Understanding existing processes is an essential part of any automation project. By using process management tools, teams can highlight bottlenecks that need to be removed. This is important to ensure that the resulting automated process is as efficient as possible. 

While it’s clear that process automation can significantly reduce business risk, process automation can sometimes inadvertently introduce risk in the form of data breaches, privacy concerns, and regulatory non-compliance.
  
However, by establishing governance mechanisms and data hygiene practices, it becomes possible to identify and assess these risks, implement controls to mitigate them, and ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations.

As well as reducing risks, process automation can deliver large business benefits. Taking time from the outset to carefully plan deployment and then implement ongoing monitoring will allow businesses to achieve these benefits as quickly as possible.