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Editor’s question: Advantages of using automation technology and how it’s secure

Editor’s question: Advantages of using automation technology and how it’s secure

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Intelligent automation will play a critical role in shaping a new, technologically-enabled, post-pandemic future of work, according to new research by Pegasystems, the software company empowering Digital Transformation at some of the world’s leading enterprises. The global study, conducted by research firm, Savanta, surveyed over 3,000 global senior managers and frontline IT staff for their thoughts on technology’s future role in a significantly altered business landscape.

The research found that preparedness for future pandemics or similar disruptions was still the main focus for many, with an overwhelming majority (84%) of respondents identifying it as a high priority – an unsurprising figure when you consider that nearly one in three (31%) said they were either totally unprepared or ‘not very prepared’ for the impact of COVID-19. It also found that intelligent automation has emerged as one of the key technologies used to future-proof businesses against disruptive events.

A total of 76% of respondents said the pandemic will cause them to increase their intelligent automation investment. Meanwhile, 74% of survey participants agree that further external shocks that temporarily remove people from the workplace will result in more intelligent automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) investment, while 76% also say that unpredictable mass illness and/or self-isolation will drive increased business demand for intelligent automation. Over half (51%) of respondents also said they would increase investment in AI and cloud solutions to guard against the business impact of future pandemics.

More broadly, the study found that technology will have a profound effect on the way we work in the future, with 86% of respondents expecting technology to either ‘significantly change’ or produce ‘quite a lot of change’ in the way people in their organisation work over the next five years. Tellingly, 0% of respondents said that technology would drive no change over that period.

Additional findings highlight how other types of technology could also profoundly change the way we work, our job satisfaction and who – or what – we work with:

  • Technology is now ‘one of us’: 84% of respondents say they would be comfortable working alongside intelligent machines, with 73% agreeing that the term ‘workforce’ should include both human employees and intelligent machines. Sixty-one percent say they would even be happy being managed by an intelligent machine. Sixty-six percent of respondents said employees are asking for better technology to improve the way they work, while 76% agreed that increased use of technology is improving employee satisfaction.
  • Low-code is on the rise: 82% of respondents say IT should provide platforms and systems that allow employees to build and implement their own technology solutions. Meanwhile, more than half of respondents (55%) say that either ‘everyone’ or ‘the majority’ of the workforce within their industry will need low-code skills in the next five years.
  • Intelligent automation can save time and improve creativity: 80% say that intelligent automation is helping them to reduce human workloads, with more than one third (36%) saying it has already saved them between one and nine working hours per week over the last two years.

We talked to the experts who offer their best practice advice on how automation can provide business advantages and how such capabilities are secure.

David Shepherd, Global VP of Sales Engineering at Ivanti: “As the business landscape continually evolves, it’s important that enterprises can keep up and investing in automation is key to achieving this. The current global pandemic has placed more impetus on businesses to digitally transform in order to continue supporting their employees while they work from home, in the same way as they would be supported working on-premise. The shift to fluid working has increased the demand on IT and security teams, which they must continue to meet at the same level as before, even though they may have less resources available.

“Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the remote working shift and will likely continue to do so as the equilibrium between remote and office-based working is eventually reached. Remote working places much more responsibility in the hands of employees to protect their corporate networks, which has led to a rapid rise in cyberattacks – an increase of 63% according to the Information Systems Security Association. What’s more, with cybersecurity pros moved from security onto other tasks, such as IT support to enable the smooth transition to remote working, this invaluable business practice risks being left to the wayside. 

“This is where automation comes into play. However, due to the current complexity and dynamic nature of IT and security, it needs to be taken further than basic workflow automation and conversational bots. Businesses should therefore invest in hyper-automation in order to secure their assets and infrastructure, which Gartner defines as ‘the combination of multiple Machine Learning, packaged software and automation tools to deliver work’. With hyper-automation, businesses will be able to self-heal, self-secure devices and self-service end-users proactively, predictably and continuously.

“Promoting a ‘shift-left’ approach with hyper-automation and moving problem resolution as close to the end-user as possible can do much for cybersecurity. At its peak, hyper-automation can enable devices to autonomously self-heal and will help businesses react more quickly to real threats. Hyper-automation means autonomous discovery can take place to continuously monitor for changes to the IT environment, giving security teams maximum visibility. Algorithms will then use this information to anticipate and prioritise threats – responding to the most critical first – and proactive and adaptive remediation will take place autonomously in response to this information. In practice, this capability can respond to a critical patch being released by identifying those devices that need it installed, prioritising it above other updates and proactively installing it before any vulnerabilities are exposed.

“With the addition of hyper-automation, security teams can take advantage of automated and predictive analytics to keep on top of their business’ cybersecurity, despite battling with limited resources. Ultimately, this means security alerts will be responded to faster, and security teams will face less pressure as devices self-heal without alerts or tickets crossing the desks of staff.”

Mark Anderson, Senior Director, Global Solutions Architecture EMEA, Equinix: “Discussions around robots taking over human processes traditionally conjure up images of a dystopian world where machines reign supreme. While this may be the basis of countless Hollywood scripts and science fiction novels, the reality of using robotics to automate human processes is far more useful.

“Machines that automate everyday processes today often focus on simple tasks like packing boxes and monitoring inventory. Because these robots are pre-programmed and assigned specific tasks, supply chain issues can arise when they encounter previously unseen variables. To embrace the next generation of robotics and machine automation, companies across the technology sector have been investing in the development of complex machines capable of leveraging applied sensor-based technology and AI capabilities.

“Maximising the future of automation is dependent on a distributed, hybrid multi-cloud IT architecture with low latency and ultra-secure connectivity for the exchange of highly sensitive data. This type of infrastructure provides unrivalled computing power and storage resources to enhance autonomous machine capabilities far beyond the current level. 

“The term ‘cloud robotics’ is often used to describe the technology that improves the core AI models in the cloud with insights gathered by connected robots at the digital Edge. This ultimately allows machines to offload all data-intensive tasks to the cloud – including image recognition, mapping systems, Machine Learning and software updates. This convergence of IoT, AI and their supporting IT architectures can infuse greater intelligence into robots and will be vital in optimising the autonomous capabilities of machines and delivering better business outcomes.

“Cloud robotics will be key in realising the true potential of Industry 4.0 (the next phase of the Industrial Revolution), which aims to improve processes via increased automation, machine-to-machine communication and Internet of Things (IoT) deployments. Ultimately, this maximises efficiency in the overall manufacturing process. The advent of 5G is set to accelerate the true realisation of Industry 4.0 as enterprises from a wide range of sectors look to take advantage of its increased download speeds.  

“Equinix’s flagship cloud connectivity platform, Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric (ECX Fabric), directly, securely and dynamically connects distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems on Platform Equinix. Via ECX Fabric, enterprises can quickly add connectivity to hundreds of cloud providers, network providers and other ECX Fabric participants, ensuring access to the systems and applications they need to remain competitive.

“This solution also provides a superior level of security because it is based on interconnection – the direct and secure transfer of data between businesses, away from the public Internet. The highly secure, scalable nature of interconnection will be fundamental in delivering the next generation of automation as companies look to move, store and process data at the digital Edge to bring about better business outcomes.”

Vijay Kurkal, CEO at Resolve: “Today’s cyberthreat landscape is extremely complex and streamlining security operations with automation is indispensable to ensure effectiveness.

“For instance, patching continues to be a thorn in the side of many organisations: patching is risky as it means things can break, while not patching means being exposed to security breaches. Then there’s the decision of which patches to deploy and the risk of an installation failure. Luckily, automation can take the pressure off IT teams by investigating which patches are most appropriate for each system, cross-referencing previous successful patches, managing the full process – including post-patch verification and testing. This helps reduce the chance of human error and ensure effective patch deployment.

“A tricky aspect of patching is that it’s incredibly time-consuming – its never-ending cycles require end-to-end orchestration and thorough system monitoring. It can take months to install a required patch throughout an environment, with staff trying to patch thousands of vulnerable servers, having to perform specific steps manually each time. Automation can come in handy here as it enables simultaneous patches to be applied across multiple vulnerabilities, dramatically accelerating operations and eliminating the risk of failure.

“Patching also requires post-patch tests and verifications. Once a patch has been deployed, installation failures can occur, leading to services being interrupted or entirely new problems arising. With automation, IT teams can swiftly perform health checks, identify and log issues and quickly resolve problems pre- and post-patching – no more post-patching anxiety.

“Another way automation – alongside AI – can enhance security is AIOps. It harnesses AI, Machine Learning and advanced analytics to aggregate and analyse immense volumes of data collected from a wide variety of sources across the IT infrastructure. In doing so, AIOps quickly identifies existing or potential issues, spots anomalies (the needle in the proverbial haystack of data) and pinpoints the root cause of problems. Through Machine Learning and advanced pattern matching, these solutions can even effectively predict future issues, enabling IT teams to automate proactive fixes before issues ever impact the business.

“AIOps technologies also offer advanced correlation capabilities to determine how alarms relate to one another. This separates the signal from the noise and ensures IT teams focus their attention in the right place, streamlining operations. Additionally, many AIOps solutions can automatically map the dependencies between dynamic, changing infrastructure components to provide real-time visualisation of the relationships between applications and underlying technology. This makes it much easier to see how things are connected when troubleshooting and significantly reduces the time to solve problems.”

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