Earlier this year, Amazon Web Services went down for approximately four hours. Although to some this was only a minor inconvenience, to others this was disastrous. It was reported that S&P companies saw a loss of $150 million in this time, with financial services in the U.S. reporting losses of $160 million. The cause according to Amazon? Human error. A tiny bit of code was incorrectly entered and left businesses annoyed, Amazon apologetic and I am sure, one red faced team member.
From Computer Mishaps to the Loss of Life
With technology advancing and changing each day, it is no surprise that human error appears prominent in any industry depending on tech. A StorageCraft survey saw nearly 30% of IT professionals blame human error for data loss, while organisations held human error accountable for approximately 50% of data security incidents, BakerHostetler reports.Within the finance industry, human error is connected with the biggest downside associated with technological dependence. It is said that in 2013 nearly $7 billion was owed in IRS civil penalties in America. The main cause of this was the manual inputting of incorrect data into a company’s enterprise system.
However, human errors can cost more than just money. A study conducted in the U.S. showed that human error was the third highest cause of deaths in America. Whereas in aviation, human error is known to be at least partly accountable for 70% of accidents, with maintenance issues named as one of the leading causes. Some mistakes may seem small such as forgetting to take the duct tape off a plane when washing it, but the consequences are tragic; when a maintenance worker forgot to remove tape off of static ports on an airplane in 1996, 70 people lost their lives due to the pilots not being able to read their instruments properly.
I’m Only Human
So how do seemingly bright individuals end up costing their companies big? Well according to the HSE to find out if you are liable for a human error you should ask yourself three questions concerning three areas:
- The Individual – What is the person’s overall attitude like?
- The Job – Does the individual have the skill set to complete the task at hand?
- The Organisation – What is the organisation’s culture like?
If the individual has a lazy attitude, with little experience concerning their current task in an organisation that has a laid-back attitude on performance measures, it is safe to say some errors may occur. However, if these errors are a repeat occurrence, the processes within an organisation are primarily to blame. This is explained through The System Approach. The System Approach emphasises that errors are mainly a result of organisational causes rather than human shortcomings. Since we cannot change the human, we should change the practices used.
Don’t Blame, Just Change
You have probably heard the phrase “when you point the finger, there are four fingers pointing back at you”, and yes you have just tried it and yes, it is correct. However severe the mistake, it is best to look at the situation and understand what went wrong to prevent it from happening again. Some ways others have prevented human error include:
- Automation: No, I do not mean replacing all humans with robots (we have all seen the movies) but applying software and applications that carry out basic tasks that team members may forget, such as simply backing up work. When working in a fast-moving environment, or in industries that are highly regulated, change is a common thing. It has been proven that misinterpretation of data is one of the leading causes of human error. However, from finding changes within documents to automatically calculating finances, there is most likely a suitable application that can complete tasks more reliably, in less time.
- Encryption: You click on an unknown email only to unleash a devastating virus or someone saves company data on their personal device that gets hacked. Encrypting your data gives you confidence that your secrets will stay exactly that, secret.
- Back-Up: And then back up again. Back-ups can be unintentionally deleted and modified just like their original counterparts, keeping spares of the same data only makes sense… just make sure you keep them in different places.
- Assess: After Amazon’s epic blunder, they analysed the situation and made sure that no employee could create that mistake again. But do not just assess the situation that happened, assess what could happen. Analyse your current procedures and prepare for the worst. Are you covered if something goes wrong?
- KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Human error was found to be the lead cause of network outages according to the study conducted by Dimensional Research. However, 59% claimed network complexity was a top contributor. Having overcomplicated procedures are only going to confuse and slow down the brightest minds. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best, and in the possibility of reducing human error, you should hope so.