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Securing Your Digital Workforce: What to Know and How to Prepare
July 21, 2021 Blog


Authored by: Zakir Ahmed, Senior Vice President & GM – Asia Pacific & Japan at Kofax

Organisations across industries are realising they can “win big” with digital transformation, both in the near term and in the future, as they scale its benefits across operations. This is not surprising since automation has been proven to be an effective way for businesses to optimise core and non-core operations as well as significantly boost productivity. In Southeast Asia, EY has found that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have generally initiated multiple digital activities in parallel across different lines of businesses and functions.

Indeed, countries in Southeast Asia have a lot to gain from embracing digital technologies, such as advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, but must balance the market opportunities with their vulnerability to disruption. For example, about 50 per cent of work time in Malaysia is spent on highly automatable activities, such as mortgage origination, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing. Even with the adoption of automation and the loss of some jobs, it is still possible to achieve a net positive number of new jobs created. In Indonesia, for example, the net number of new jobs could range from 4 million to 23 million by 2030.

To realise the full benefits of automation on workforces, and the new tasks and activities required by new technologies, countries in the region need to work together to retrain workers. In Singapore, for example, the Automation Support Package (ASP) was extended to 2021 to encourage more companies to adopt automation in their operations, and the Skills Framework provides industry-specific information on job roles and future demands to facilitate career and skills development so that workers can be employed in these new roles that will be required.

It is also essential that processes executed by automation are performed with a level of consistency and reliability that meets audit, operations and customer service standards. Therefore, savvy organisations are becoming just as focused on controlling and securing automation as they are on building and deploying automation solutions. The result is that identity governance over automation solutions has become more relevant than ever, as companies realise that application access rights for digital workers must be managed in the same manner as human employees.

Identity Governance—The Bridge Between Scale and Security

Although identity governance is not a new concept, it is becoming more relevant in the era of robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent automation. This is because research has shown that investment in RPA has been on the rise, with many companies indicating that they would increase investments in the coming years. This wave of RPA adoption will inevitably create significant opportunities for bots to be used without appropriate identity governance. Therefore it will be important to stay ahead of the security curve to maintain governance and audit standards. This means digital identities should be treated similar to human identities so that it is clear what data and applications the digital workforce has access to. Digital identities’ access should also regularly be audited to ensure that it is appropriate.

While identity governance has traditionally focused on how enterprises provision, audit and report employee access to enterprise systems and applications, it now should include identities for automation, which may impersonate human users on physical and virtual desktops to perform actions that people would typically perform. Identity governance for the digital workforce allows organisations to centrally manage and control assignment of access rights to the systems that automation interacts with. Modern identity governance can be thought of as a bridge between scale and security. Treating digital identities in the same manner as human identities helps organisations ensure that governance and audit standards are met. However, this modern form of governance involves multiple stakeholders, and requires a sophisticated system for monitoring access at scale, particularly when a substantial number of operations have been automated.

Organisations must also keep track of human and digital worker relationships to ensure that a combination of digital workers managed by an individual do not undermine company policy by giving that person too much access, especially for longer processes that span multiple business functions. Identity governance solutions automatically enforce these policies across the enterprise’s ecosystem of human and digital identities. The next generation of identity governance platforms now account for digital workers that support execution of processes, which is critical as organisations move toward governing all users. Identities can be managed and centrally enforced with policies along the entire lifecycle of the digital worker.

Ideally, identity governance should be a consideration from day one of any digital transformation initiative that grows in importance as an organisation’s automation footprint expands. A critical early step in any plan is to develop governance processes for automation so that policies can be enforced in environments that will increasingly have human and digital workers.