CIOs on the hook for governance as automation rises

Automation technologies are becoming woven throughout the fabric of virtually every company, raising the question of IT’s role in governing such capabilities. CIOs can and should provide guardrails to make sure automation technologies run properly — if the business will only let them, experts say.

That if is the sticking point: Most business lines procure technologies for their teams with involvement from IT. Some IT leaders welcome such independence, while others view it as a slippery slope that courts risk. Regardless, the democratization of technology services enabled by machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA) and low-code/no-code solutions is growing more ubiquitous across business lines. And it appears here to stay.

“It comes down to what is the best enabler for the business,” says Tim Langley-Hawthorne, CIO of Hitachi Vantara. “Sometimes you just have to get out of the way.” 

Getting humans out of the way is one of the main goals of the automation revolution blanketing businesses worldwide. Software bots automate routine business processes, such as populating insurance forms with data that humans traditionally entered via pen and paper, then keyboards. Physical robots move anything from parts to merchandise, while their robotic coworkers place it in boxes, and other machines clean floors. Chatbots retrieve low-level information for inquiring consumers throughout the customer service value chain. And that’s to say nothing of the various other tasks offloaded to high-caliber ML and AI algorithms.

With automation like this, who needs humans? Yet entrusting too many functions to automation without governance can be a bit like letting lunatics run the asylum; it’s destined to end poorly. “You can blow your leg off if you’re not careful,” says Dion Hinchcliffe, an analyst for Constellation Research, of relying on automation without proper guidance.

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