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How to Know If Your Business Needs Automation

It uses technology to not only “automate” business processes, but also optimize the workflows for improved efficiency.

How to Know If Your Business Needs Automation?

Few key elements that can help you find out if your business needs automation. You can think of developing a custom BPA software if your business has processes that are:

  • Repetitive
  • Involve a series of predictable steps
  • Consistent across the organization
  • Needs to be error-free 

Business Process Automation facilitates businesses to

  • Execute recurring tasks
  • Cut costs
  • Make processes error-proof and transparent,
  • Increase productivity and
  • Streamline operations

Is Business Process Automation Suitable for Small and Medium Businesses Too?

Well, it’s a common misconception that Business Process Automation is useful only in cases of complex business tasks. Every business can benefit from Business Process Automation. Business Process Automation is about making every work process better – even simple tasks like mass emailing or sending notifications, for that matter.

Depending on the work process to be optimized, Business Process Automation can either be wholly stand-alone or be part of a larger initiative. 

Let’s take a look at different approaches for Business Process Automation that you can apply:

  • Business Process Improvement (BPI) – It’s about automating to improve the lackluster processes.  
  • Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) – BPR works just like BPI, with the critical difference being that it focuses on tearing down and rebuilding business processes from scratch. At times re-designing happens because of new technologies.
  • Business Process Management (BPM) – BPM is about continuous improvement – unlike BPI or BPR, which are more of one-time initiatives. BPM is something a company does systematically. Accordingly, BPA will streamline and automate outdated processes.

Based on the approach you choose to apply, you can use any of the following types of automation:

  • Basic automation – You can create a central server to store all the essential business info. With all the critical data in one place, you’ll be able to improve the speed of work and its system.
  • Process automation – it can help your business achieve consistency and build effective task management. This type of BPA is achieved by using custom software or purchasing off-the-shelf business tools.
  • Artificial intelligence automation – You can use a bot (a piece of software designed for a specific function), in this case, that is trained using machine learning to perform high-volume, repeatable tasks. They are used for data entry, form checking, or rekeying the interface between a system and the user into something streamlined and easy to use.

Let us now understand why you must invest in a custom Business Process Automation platform. 

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What is business process automation?

What Is Business Process Automation (BPA)?
Business Process Automation is a tech-based process of automating activities run within your organization, with the aim of simplifying, reducing running costs, increasing efficiency, and improving service delivery, just to name a few benefits.

It involves a thorough or comprehensive study of how businesses operate, identifies areas that can be improved, and creates viable solutions that will transform the business in question.

The Elements of BPA

  1. Knowing The User – The kind of BPA you choose to adopt must capture the needs of the end-users. All the stakeholders must be comfortable and satisfied with the automated process. There is no point in adopting a method that will totally change the way things are done just because you want to automate. Rather, it should enhance and improve on the set methods in use.
  2. Planning – Creating a visual map or blueprint before automating is key. Document and write down the flow of the process in question so that at a glance, you will be able to pinpoint areas where automation would be more beneficial.
  3. Keep It Simple – The specific techniques, methods, and tools used to enhance the processes involved in automation should be kept to a minimum. Yes, it can be exciting when you start but don’t get carried away. Automate only processes that really take well to it.
  4. Documentation – In the beginning, you will have everything running smoothly and have no issues. But sooner or later, when you run into problems, you will need to troubleshoot, and if you have been documenting with notes and logs, then it becomes easier to address problems in detail as needed.
  5. Testing – Before you actually start using or running your automation, you should have it tested in real-time. This will give you the opportunity to detect any bugs or missed steps and put them in order before you begin fully.
  6. Training – Getting the users trained is a must. One good way to do this is to use the “Train the trainer” approach. What is required here is to train the team leader and allow them to pass on what they learn to other team members. This leaves everyone involved well-grounded in its usage and they can also refer to team leaders for guidance when challenges arise.
    These six elements are key to the performance of your BPA, but there’s more. There are certain principles that should also be adopted which we’ll look at in the next section.

7 Notable Principles of BPA

Developing a good Business Process automation is based on certain principles, which will ensure that you have a well-laid out blueprint suitable for your business.

1: Training Of Developers

If you plan to outsource the development of your automation software to developers, you need to ensure that the developers understand the different tasks that need to be automated within your organization. This will help them develop the right codes and scripts to capture the processes.

2: Develop A List Of Tasks

Ensure that you make a list of all the tasks that need to be automated. This will help you capture sensitive steps required to develop proper automated processes. Doing this will not only cut down on errors associated with humans but also enhance your progress.

3: Keep It Simple

If something sounds difficult, then it probably is. Do not over-complicate your processes in a bid to automate them. Break down the tasks into manageable bits to make it easier to automate. Analyze your existing process and redesign complex parts to accommodate automation.

4: Be Consistent

It is important to maintain consistency. You cannot start automation and then stop halfway. You need to use the automation process setup regularly and maintain the same procedure.

5: Proper Integration

BPA needs to blend in nicely with the entire system within your organization, especially when it comes to integration via APIs. You can integrate your automation at different levels of the process, as long as you maintain the desired output.

6: Training

As you automate you should carry your staff or team members along by providing the necessary training required to help them transition into the new process. This can be arranged prior to the automation process to streamline moving to a new way of getting things done.

7: Keep Evolving

Setting up your BPA process is not a one-time thing. As your business grows and evolves, you’ll need to revisit existing processes to improve efficiency and maintain a healthy competitive edge. This means that your BPA process should be able to accommodate these new changes in your business.
Following through with these principles will ensure that you stay on track.

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What is Secure Software Development Life Cycle

Security is an important part of any application that encompasses critical functionality.
Security applies at every phase of the software development life cycle (SDLC) and needs to be at the forefront of your developers’ minds as they implement your software’s requirements.
It requires a mindset that is focused on secure delivery, raising issues in the requirements and development phases as they are discovered.

Let’s review 5 phases of the Secure Software Development Life Cycle
Phase 1: Requirements
In this early phase, requirements for new features are collected from various stakeholders. It’s important to identify any security considerations for functional requirements being gathered for the new release.

Phase 2: Design
This phase translates in-scope requirements into a plan of what this should look like in the actual application. Here, functional requirements typically describe what should happen, while security requirements usually focus on what shouldn’t.

Phase 3: Development
When it’s time to actually implement the design and make it a reality, concerns usually shift to making sure the code well-written from the security perspective. There are usually established secure coding guidelines as well as code reviews that double-check that these guidelines have been followed correctly. These code reviews can be either manual or automated using technologies such as static application security testing (SAST).
That said, modern application developers can’t be concerned only with the code they write, because the vast majority of modern applications aren’t written from scratch. Instead, developers rely on existing functionality, usually provided by free open source components to deliver new features and therefore value to the organization as quickly as possible.

Phase 4: Verification
The Verification phase is where applications go through a thorough testing cycle to ensure they meet the original design & requirements. This is also a great place to introduce automated security testing using a variety of technologies. The application is not deployed unless these tests pass. This phase often includes automated tools like CI/CD pipelines to control verification and release.

Phase 5: Maintenance and Evolution
The story doesn’t end once the application is released. In fact, vulnerabilities that slipped through the cracks may be found in the application long after it’s been released. These vulnerabilities may be in the code developers wrote, but are increasingly found in the underlying open-source components that comprise an application.

What are the benefits of Secure Software Development?
– Higher security
. continuous monitoring for vulnerabilities results in better application quality and mitigation of business risks.
Cost reduction. early attention to flaws significantly reduces the effort required to detect and fix them.
Regulatory compliance. encourages a conscientious attitude toward security-related laws and regulations. Ignoring – – them may result in fines and penalties, even if no sensitive data is lost.
– Development teams get continuous training in secure coding practices.
– Security approaches become more consistent across teams.
– Customers trust you more because they see that special attention is paid to their security.
– Internal security improves when SDL is applied to in-house software tools.

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Software Development Life Cycle

Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a process used by the software industry to design, develop and test high-quality software. The SDLC aims to produce high-quality software that meets or exceeds customer expectations, reaches completion within times and cost estimates.
SDLC is a process followed for a software project, within a software organization. It consists of a detailed plan describing how to develop, maintain, replace and alter or enhance specific software. The life cycle defines a methodology for improving the quality of software and the overall development process.

A typical Software Development Life Cycle consists of the following stages:

Stage 1: Planning and Requirement Analysis
Requirement analysis is the most important and fundamental stage in SDLC. It is performed by the senior members of the team with inputs from the customer, the sales department, market surveys, and domain experts in the industry. This information is then used to plan the basic project approach and to conduct product feasibility studies in the economical, operational, and technical areas.
Planning for the quality assurance requirements and identification of the risks associated with the project is also done in the planning stage. The outcome of the technical feasibility study is to define the various technical approaches that can be followed to implement the project successfully with minimum risks.

Stage 2: Defining Requirements
Once the requirement analysis is done the next step is to clearly define and document the product requirements and get them approved by the customer or the market analysts. This is done through an SRS (Software Requirement Specification) document which consists of all the product requirements to be designed and developed during the project life cycle.

Stage 3: Designing the Product Architecture
SRS is the reference for product architects to come out with the best architecture for the product to be developed. Based on the requirements specified in SRS, usually, more than one design approach for the product architecture is proposed and documented in a Design Document Specification.
This Design Document Specification is reviewed by all the important stakeholders and based on various parameters as risk assessment, product robustness, design modularity, budget, and time constraints, the best design approach is selected for the product.

The Design Document Specification could consist of:
Architecture – Specifies programming language, industry practices, overall design, and use of any templates or boilerplate
User Interface – Defines the ways customers interact with the software, and how the software responds to input
Platforms – Defines the platforms on which the software will run, such as Apple, Android, Windows version, Linux, or even gaming consoles
Programming – Not just the programming language, but including methods of solving problems and performing tasks in the application
Communications – Defines the methods that the application can communicate with other assets, such as a central server or other instances of the application
Security – Defines the measures taken to secure the application, and may include SSL traffic encryption, password protection, and secure storage of user credentials
Prototyping – it is like one of the early versions of software in the Iterative software development model. It demonstrates a basic idea of how the application looks and works. This “hands-on” design can be shown to stakeholders. Use feedback o improve the application. It’s less expensive to change the Prototype phase than to rewrite code to make a change in the Development phase.

Stage 4: Building or Developing the Product
In this stage of SDLC, the actual development starts, and the product is built. The programming code is generated as per DDS during this stage. If the design is performed in a detailed and organized manner, code generation can be accomplished without much hassle.
Developers must follow the coding guidelines defined by their organization and programming tools like compilers, interpreters, debuggers, etc. are used to generate the code. Different high-level programming languages such as C, C++, Pascal, Java, and PHP are used for coding. The programming language is chosen with respect to the type of software being developed.

Stage 5: Testing the Product
This stage is usually a subset of all the stages as in the modern SDLC models, the testing activities are mostly involved in all the stages of SDLC. However, this stage refers to the testing only stage of the product where product defects are reported, tracked, fixed and retested, until the product reaches the quality standards defined in the SRS.

Stage 6: Deployment in the Market
Once the product is tested and ready to be deployed it is released formally in the appropriate market. Sometimes product deployment happens in stages as per the business strategy of that organization. The product may first be released in a limited segment and tested in the real business environment (User acceptance testing).
Then based on the feedback, the product may be released as it is or with suggested enhancements in the targeting market segment.

Stage 7: Operations and Maintenance
At this point, the development cycle is almost finished. The application is done and being used in the field. The Operation and Maintenance phase is still important, though. In this phase, users discover bugs that weren’t found during testing. These errors need to be resolved, which can spawn new development cycles.
In addition to bug fixes, models like Iterative development plan additional features in future releases. For each new release, a new Development Cycle can be launched.

SDLC shows you what’s happening, and exactly where your development process can improve.

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What is Application Security Testing

Application security testing is the process of making applications more resistant to security threats, by identifying security weaknesses and vulnerabilities in source code.
AST started as a manual process. Today, due to the growing modularity of enterprise software, the huge number of open source components, and a large number of known vulnerabilities and threat vectors, Application security testing must be automated.

Static Application Security Testing (SAST)
Static Application Security Testing tools use a white box testing approach, in which testers inspect the inner workings of an application. Static Application Security Testing inspects static source code and reports on security weaknesses.
Static testing tools can be applied to non-compiled code to find issues like syntax errors, math errors, input validation issues, invalid or insecure references. They can also run on compiled code using binary and byte-code analyzers.

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)
Dynamic Application Security Testing tools take a black-box testing approach. They execute code and inspect it in runtime, detecting issues that may represent security vulnerabilities. This can include issues with query strings, requests and responses, the use of scripts, memory leakage, cookie and session handling, authentication, execution of third-party components, data injection, and DOM injection.
Dynamic Application Security Testing tools can be used to conduct large-scale scans simulating a large number of unexpected or malicious test cases and reporting on the application’s response.

Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)
Interactive Application Security Testing tools are the evolution of Static Application Security Testing and Dynamic Application Security Testing tools—combining the two approaches to detect a wider range of security weaknesses. Like Dynamic Application Security Testing tools, Interactive Application Security Testing tools run dynamically and inspect software during runtime. However, they are run from within the application server, allowing them to inspect compiled source code like Interactive Application Security Testing tools do.
Interactive Application Security Testing tools can provide valuable information about the root cause of vulnerabilities and the specific lines of code that are affected, making remediation much easier. They can analyze source code, data flow, configuration and third-party libraries, and are suitable for API testing.

Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST)
Mobile Application Security Testing tools combine static analysis, dynamic analysis and investigation of forensic data generated by mobile applications. They can test for security vulnerabilities like Static Application Security Testing, Dynamic Application Security Testing and Interactive Application Security Testing, and in addition address mobile-specific issues like jailbreaking, malicious wifi networks, and data leakage from mobile devices.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA)
Software Composition Analysis tools help organizations conduct an inventory of third-party commercial and open source components used within their software. Enterprise applications can use thousands of third-party components, which may contain security vulnerabilities. Software Composition Analysis helps understand which components and versions are actually being used, identify the most severe security vulnerabilities affecting those components, and understand the easiest way to remediate them.

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP)
Runtime Application Self-Protection tools evolved from Static Application Security Testing, Dynamic Application Security Testing and Interactive Application Security Testing. They are able to analyze application traffic and user behavior at runtime, to detect and prevent cyber threats.
Like the previous generation of tools, Runtime Application Self-Protection has visibility into application source code and can analyze weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It goes one step further by identifying that security weaknesses have been exploited, and providing active protection by terminating the session or issuing an alert.
Runtime Application Self-Protection tools integrate with applications and analyze traffic at runtime, and can not only detect and warn about vulnerabilities but actually prevent attacks. Having this type of in-depth inspection and protection at runtime makes Static Application Security Testing, Dynamic Application Security Testing and Interactive Application Security Testing much less important, making it possible to detect and prevent security issues without costly development work.