June 02, 2009, 3:44 PM — As enterprise software is increasingly used to automate complex business processes, IT is becoming an increasingly important factor for enterprise-wide risk management. Unfortunately, as process chains become more and more complex and cross multiple business silos, it is often unclear how various processes link together-- until a business function breaks down. If a business function (e.g. Month-End-Close) breaks down this is clearly a risk for the company. One method for companies to mitigate risk is to implement an automation solution to reduce the risk of errors and failures in IT-based business processes.
Any company which uses software solutions and wishes to control corresponding processes using external tools must be aware that not only the software needs to be audit-proof, but also all tools in the data center which are used for automation. Under current law, no auditor will certify annual financial statements if a retrospective manipulation of data records is possible.
There are many ways to look at automation as a key component of an organization's risk management strategy. Automation increases reliability and thus significantly reduces various forms of risks. Used properly, it always serves to save on costs. Optimized processes make better use of hardware resources, so that new acquisitions can be avoided, or at least deferred. Companies can get by for longer with the existing resources because idle time, e.g. when waiting for user entries, does not occur.
Better use of resources and optimized processes reduce overall processing time. This significantly reduces the risk of delays. As a rule, the results are available sooner. The management can respond more quickly to developments, and invoices can be sent off earlier – a direct financial advantage resulting from automation.
Surveys repeatedly show that more than half of the IT budget is spent on current operation; high operating costs act as a brake on innovation for IT, and thus for the entire company. Automation reduces operating costs, since fewer personnel are required for routine activities and better use is made of the existing infrastructure. The costs saved through automation are available for innovative projects. The risk for the company as a whole of missing out on current market developments due to outdated IT systems is reduced.
If the controls are automated, the workload involved in documentation is saved. Automation solutions automatically keep any records of the processes (e.g. controls, performance, user, and the result). An archiving tool which is included can be used to archive this data automatically for long-term storage, which complies with the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.