According to a survey by the Intelligent Automation Network, 64% of organizations currently leverage Intelligent Automation, with an additional 36% planning to implement it by 2023. Intelligent Automation (IA) has emerged as a powerful tool that enables organizations to automate end-to-end business-critical operations, transforming the way they work, increasing productivity, and supporting exponential growth. However, as businesses embrace this disruptive new technology, it is crucial to consider the ethical aspects in intelligent automation.
While the operational improvements offered by IA solutions are evident, organizations must also address the ethical side of the equation. In fact, enterprises must thoroughly examine the consequences of implementing Intelligent Automation to stay relevant and trustworthy.
The Ethics of Automation: Considerations and Implications
- Algorithmic Bias: Intelligent Automation systems are driven by algorithms, and if these algorithms are not carefully designed, they can perpetuate biases and discriminate against certain groups. For example, biased training data can result in discriminatory outcomes when it comes to hiring decisions or loan approvals. To mitigate this, organizations must ensure that their algorithms are developed with fairness and impartiality in mind, carefully considering the impact on diverse user groups.
- Transparency in Automation: Transparency is vital for maintaining trust in Intelligent Automation systems. Users and stakeholders should have a clear understanding of how decisions are made and what criteria are used. Providing explanations for automated decisions can help build trust and allow individuals to challenge outcomes if necessary.
- Data Privacy: Intelligent Automation relies on vast amounts of data to function effectively. Organizations must prioritize data privacy and take appropriate measures to protect sensitive information. Clear policies and procedures should be in place to ensure compliance with relevant data protection regulations, and individuals’ consent should be obtained for data collection and processing.
- Fairness in Decision-Making: Decision-making processes should be fair and unbiased. IA systems should be designed to avoid favoring one group over another and should not perpetuate social inequalities. Fairness metrics and ongoing monitoring can help identify and address potential biases.
- Human Oversight in Automation: While Intelligent Automation can streamline processes, it is essential to retain human oversight. Human judgment is necessary to review and interpret outputs, particularly in sensitive domains like healthcare or legal matters. Human intervention can also prevent unintended consequences or errors caused by automation.
- Discrimination and Equal Opportunity: Intelligent Automation should not contribute to discrimination or limit equal opportunities. Organizations must ensure that automated systems do not perpetuate or exacerbate existing inequalities. For instance, automated hiring systems should be carefully calibrated to avoid bias and ensure fair assessment of candidates.
- Job Displacement: The automation of certain tasks can lead to job displacement. Organizations must consider the impact on employees and proactively address the ethical concerns associated with workforce changes. Strategies like reskilling and upskilling programs can help mitigate the negative effects of job displacement. Employees should be allowed to move away from mundane and repetitive tasks to more critical business tasks.
- Re-skilling for the Future: Intelligent Automation liberates employees from data-intensive, repetitive tasks better suited to digital workers, allowing human workers to focus on tasks better suited to human intellect and creativity. However, this shift is going to have a massive impact on relevant skills required in the future workforce. There will be a significant impetus for people to upskill and re-skill to meet these new requirements as all the data-intensive grunt work will be left to digital workers. Perhaps organizations should consider initiatives to explore skillsets that will be required in the future and point their teams towards the direction allowing them to be equipped for the change.
- Business Agility through Transformation: Intelligent Automation characterizes the whole journey from basic automation – automating actions with the least potential business impact – to fully autonomous processes. It incorporates the power of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and applies a set of methods and algorithms from which, with the right set of data, machines can learn and adapt. While Artificial Intelligence for Operations (AIOps) enables organizations with insights about something that happened and facilitates better insights and analysis, Intelligent Automation takes it a step further. This technology enables organizations to explore steps to enhance business results, with automated actions such as Predictive (see failure coming), Preventive (stop failure from happening) and Prescriptive (suggest fixes to enhance results).
Best Practices for Ethical Intelligent Automation
- Ethical Design and Development: Organizations should embed ethics into the design and development of IA systems from the outset. Ethical considerations should be part of the development process, including assessing potential biases, testing for fairness, and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations.
- Diversity and Inclusion: Promoting diversity and inclusion within the development team is essential for avoiding biases in IA systems. A diverse team can bring different perspectives and identify potential ethical pitfalls that might otherwise be overlooked.
- Ethical Use of Data: Organizations must adopt a responsible approach to data collection, storage, and usage. Data should be anonymized where possible, and consent should be obtained for data processing. Organizations should also establish clear guidelines for data retention and secure data management practices.
- Continuous Monitoring and Human Oversight: Regular monitoring of IA systems is necessary to identify and address any ethical concerns that may arise. Human oversight and intervention should be integrated into the automation process to ensure accountability and prevent harmful consequences.
- Stakeholder Engagement and Transparency: Organizations should actively engage with stakeholders, including employees, customers, and regulators, to gather feedback and address concerns. Transparent communication about the deployment and use of IA systems helps build trust and credibility.
- Keeping Humans in the Loop: In critical decision-making processes, humans should have the final say. Intelligent Automation should augment human capabilities rather than replacing them entirely. Human judgment and ethical reasoning should remain central to complex and morally significant choices.
- Partnering with Proven Automation Partner for Better Intelligent Automation Standards: Collaborating with an automation partner that adheres to high ethical standards can help organizations ensure that their Intelligent Automation initiatives align with ethical considerations. Such partnerships provide access to expertise and industry best practices, enhancing the ethical implementation and governance of Intelligent Automation.
AgreeYa Driving Ethical Intelligent Automation
At AgreeYa, we understand the immense potential of Intelligent Automation to reshape organizations and foster growth. However, we believe that this transformation must be anchored in ethical considerations. With our expertise and commitment to ethical practices, we help businesses navigate the complexities of Intelligent Automation, ensuring trust, privacy protection, and fairness. We enable organizations to transform business processes and reap benefits of Intelligent Automation by combining the power of AI tools, RPA (Robotic Process Automation), Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP) Process Mining, Analytics with other advanced decision, process, or automation tools. Through this approach we can automate virtually any repetitive task executed by business users.
Leveraging award-winning and acclaimed industry tools (such as HuLoop, QuickApps, AgreeYa Chatbot, Power Automate and Power Platform) along with partnerships with industry-leading technology providers (Pega, and UiPath) we empower organizations to democratize Intelligent Automation technologies responsibly. Partner with AgreeYa to build a future that merges technological advancement with ethical principles, driving meaningful transformation and sustainable success.