As resilience professionals it’s useful to reflect on 2020, especially as we now look to the challenges ahead in 2021.

With the help from highly respected voices in the field, this blog considers some of the experiences we’ve had, and what they mean for you and your organisation.


Expectation of Resilient Strategic Direction

Firstly we look at the relationship between resilience, business continuity and strategic leadership. According to the BCI 2020 Future of BC & Resilience survey[1], most practitioners think BC is recognised by senior management.  But fewer believe senior management understands the ‘role BC plays in making organisations more resilient’. With the potential for BC to play a leading role in building resilience for an organisation, 2021 might be the time to seize this opportunity.  Strategic leaders now have an opportunity to work with the experts in the field to better understand how their organisation fits together, where its vulnerabilities may be and how it can continually improve. Some have even speculated on appointing Chief Resilience Officers to drive change.  

 

Developing good practice by leaning into flagship standards such as ISO22301 and (for responder organisations) the National Resilience Standards, is a great place to start to build answers to questions such as “how can our organisation thrive as we move forward?” or “how do we diversify?”. EPC Associate Martin Fenlon who has been involved in the industry for 20 years contributed a few thoughts on how BC can shape the strategic direction of our organisations:

“an effective holistic business continuity management system can contribute to informing and shaping the strategic direction of the organisations by:

  • Helping senior leaders to be clear on the ‘priority activities’ of the organisation, so that coherent plans to manage a disruption are developed.
  • Identifying non-prioritised activities and resources that can either be used to support prioritised services following a disruption or directed to develop new markets and products.
  • Using an effective BIA process, following the Quality Management process of plan, do, check and act, (ISO22301:2019) to highlight duplications and contractions in business processes - which strategic managers can address to build a more efficient organisation.
  • Enabling public sector and regulated businesses such as utility companies to provide critical services.”

Takeaway: Embracing BC at the strategic level can lead to better decisions on the future of organisations.


Diversity and Inclusion

We have experienced a pandemic that has impacted us all.  But for some individuals and groups, the impact has been especially severe. Now is the time for leaders to recognise

how resilience can reduce inequality.  Practitioners have an opportunity to help leaders make diversity and inclusion a priority when strategic decisions are made.  Most organisations are likely to have a lead for equality, but how is this aligned with BC and resilience? Incorporating robust equality impact assessments into resilience processes may a positive move. We are well rehearsed at impact mapping, and we are aware of the criticality of transparent and fair decision making, but do our organisations innovate this key link between the two?  There is a greater focus on the ethics of organisations (Edelman 2020 Trust Barometer)[2] and an expectation that inequalities will be addressed. To move forward, we need good data where variables have been considered, an innovative approach to its use, together with a curiosity and a challenge for the possible narratives.

Takeaway: Take an organisational approach and seek expertise to align diversity and inclusion with resilience and BC.


Data & Technology:

Many actions and decisions this year have involved large volumes of data. The World Economic Forum 2020 Future of Jobs Report[3] reflects the growth of data analytics and our journey forward in tech and AI.  Business continuity is no exception to this trend so we would be remiss not to seek to exploit data that our BC, resilience and risk structures present to greater inform key strategy organisational decisions.  

Last year I led an EPC public sector stream at the first ever BCI World 2020 Virtual Conference. I was fascinated with the democratising effect this delivery had for those BC leads who would not normally attend.  But how do we use data and technology to grow as BC practitioners? What for instance, does this mean for our relationship with supply chain resilience? EPC Associate John Frost provided his thoughts on the future direction of BC:

“Whilst Business Continuity has added enormous value as an industry to organisations across the globe for decades, it must continue to adapt at pace to meet the future Resilience Challenge. For me Business Resilience is not just a risk, incident/crisis management or Recovery function that is used ‘by exception’. Business Resilience is a “Service” that must form a part of the everyday operation of the organisation alongside other risk functions such as Cyber Security & Corporate Security.  That way we offer a single compelling Resilience Channel for colleagues/employees to assist them and enable them do business whilst also supporting them when things go wrong

How do we do this?

  • Never before have we had access to so much data & so many digital solutions, therefore, we must all look to embrace these tools to “bring our programmes to life” and demonstrate the value proposition that Business Resilience offers.
  • We can provide leadership teams with regular quantitative & qualitative analysis that demonstrates the return on investment that our Resilience programmes are offering to our organisations. This reporting sits alongside digital Resilience Programmes that say goodbye to old fashioned paper-based policy/procedure heavy programmes that are rarely engaged.  These programmes can be replaced with tools colleagues use in their day to day life – such as digital apps, data visualisation and web conferencing tools.

Takeaway: Grow skills and systems to utilise & understand key data to support decision making in resilience.

 

Trusted information

I recently presented on “Fake news, misinformation and disinformation” and I was astounded by the interest it gained. We are living in a world where technology has meant that we are surrounded by a sea of information. Even though, as resilience professionals, we are likely to be better linked to robust information and data, we aren’t immune to this multi-channel infodemic.

In a crisis, we have an important role in helping staff, service users, customers etc to navigate through the information jungle.  Critical to this is our relationship with and our use of comms. Establishing ourselves as trusted sources of information is one of the ways we can try to minimise these negative impacts – and of course, a proactive approach in setting this up ahead of time is the ideal, but it is never too late to strive to get meaningful information out.

Takeaway: Recognise the infodemic, consider how your organisation wants to fit into it and the skills required to navigate through. Link with organisational leads to broadcast and respond together with strength.  Coordinate with other resilience organisations to be consistent and aid clarity and confidence for those receiving the message.

 

So what can BC professionals do now?

We should see this time as an opportunity to demonstrate our knowledge of how the organisation works and where things can be improved for greater capability. There is a lot to be said for identifying and then learning lessons effectively, not least to support our organisations’ governance structures. This lends to our aspirational status as High Reliability Organisations where we have achieved a ‘safe space’ for the voices of our staff and stakeholders to be heard, and for our evolution and innovation to be nurtured.

Many hadn’t prepared for the particular challenges of Covid-19. However, preparation and establishment of a robust and innovative framework provided a foundation of resilience with its facets of good governance, information and communication amongst others.

Takeaway: Capture lessons, learn and reflect to strategise for the forward look. Create an environment without judgement that is collaborative in its nature.