What is technology resiliency? It’s not as simple as you might think
Believe it or not, resilience is not the same as stability or reliability. Knowing the difference can help futureproof your organization.
“A company built for resilience is a company that is structured to last forever,” – Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game
When COVID-19 disrupted the world, most organizations scrambled to stay afloat with patchwork remote solutions. They sent employees home with a laptop and cheap webcam – if they could find any in stock – and crossed their fingers hoping their network wouldn’t collapse from the influx of external connections.
A select few organizations saw the disruption not as a moment of panic, but as a moment of opportunity.
These organizations leveraged their newly remote workforce to battle test and update their zero trust security policies. They optimized their daily workflows by automating tedious manual processes. They reduced the stress of their at-home call centers by replacing outdated telephony with modern tools.
These organizations were resilient. They wouldn’t call the shift to remote work a disruption – they’d call it a change. Therein lies the real power and value of resiliency. It’s not about surviving the punches and returning to business as usual. It’s about coming out the other side better than you were before.
That all sounds great – but what does resiliency actually mean, and what steps can you take to make your organization more resilient?
Resiliency doesn’t mean stability or reliability
Too often, organizations correlate resiliency with business continuity. They assume, for example, that surviving a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack with a time-to-uptime of three hours makes them resilient. After all, they read an article about another organization being down for more than six hours during a similar attack. But if this organization restored its services without deploying measures to proactively prevent more attacks in the future, then they weren’t resilient at all.
Resiliency is not the same as continuity, stability, or reliability, because those three qualities all imply a desire to stay the same. On the contrary, resiliency is the ability to actively learn and benefit from change and disruption.
With so much change coming from COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, supply chain constraints, and more, many CIOs and CEOs are asking the same burning questions:
- When something bad happens, will our critical teams and services be available, and how?
- What are our plans if services X, Y, and Z become unavailable?
- How do we make sure we never get caught off guard again?
Having a resiliency strategy not only helps answer your leadership’s tough questions, but also drives solutions that are growth-oriented, rather than simply being defensive measures.
As author Simon Sinek says in The Infinite Game, “A company built for resilience is a company that is structured to last forever.”
How to strengthen your resiliency muscles
To truly be resilient, your organization must have the foresight and readiness to tackle whatever the future throws at you. While most organizations have some plan in place for the future, their strategies often don’t extend past what SHI’s Corp Field Chief Technology Officer, Matt Schneider, calls Horizon 1, or 0-18 months into the future.
Schneider recommends having specific actionable plans for not only Horizon 1, but also Horizons 2 (18-36 months ahead) and 3 (36+ months ahead). Think deeply about what your organization’s and industry’s four T’s – technology, trends, transformation, and techniques – will look like over the course of your three horizons. Doing so can involve:
- Annual or semiannual disaster recovery (DR) assessments
- Annual hardware strategy evaluations
- Market analysis and prediction sessions
- And more
And while the actions you take and plans you make will be unique based on your specific industry and business case, one thing remains true across the board: resiliency isn’t just a buzzword to check off your nice-to-have list. It’s a muscle you must continually exercise to ensure you’re at peak strength when you truly need it.
Global consulting firm McKinsey & Company details three umbrella actions you can take to build your resiliency muscles: you must prepare, perceive, and propel.
Preparing for changes means investing before those changes happen. That sounds simple enough, but can you honestly say your organization was prepared to shift to nearly 100% remote work before COVID-19? The pandemic’s spike in demand for webcams, laptops, docking stations, and VPN software told us most organizations were not.
According to McKinsey, you can prepare for change in three ways:
Ensure you have multiple alternative suppliers across all your geographic regions. If, for example, you’re a construction company, don’t rely on one paint supplier for all your North American business. If their production unexpectedly halts, having a plan B saves you from suffering the consequences.
Maintain higher stock levels of critical resources. Increasing the redundancy of your product availability empowers you to sail smoothly during sudden demand spikes, manufacturing changes, and global supply chain constraints.
Build relationships across your industry. Learn how your partners are preparing for the future and gain a wider perspective on market forecasts. Preparing for change is all the more difficult if your organization is trapped in its own echo chamber.
If preparing is investing in reducing the impact of change, then perceiving is accurately predicting when that change will happen and to what extent it will impact your industry. You can perceive change in two ways:
Build capabilities within your organization to detect changes before they become disruptions. Our hypothetical construction company, for example, can achieve this by setting up automated alerts when snow is detected in the 10-day forecast, or by deploying tools that measure the quarterly and YOY cost of lumber to anticipate supply fluctuations.
Assemble a planning team that can effectively account for and anticipate uncertainty. This team should battle test strategies across multiple social, political, technological, and geographic disruptions.
Your ability to propel dictates how quickly you can respond to disruptions. Having an effective response to change isn’t enough – you need to act early enough to pivot before your organization becomes crippled. You can propel your organization in two ways:
Establish team cross-functionality:
When disruptions happen, you need to enable business continuity while responding to change across all levels of your organization. Your teams across legal, procurement, support, operations, and more must all be in sync to limit the uncertainty of change.
Accelerate and improve:
Ensure your organization can rapidly shift from defense to growth. Remember, if your organization is to be truly resilient, you won’t simply return to normal once a disruption is mitigated. You will have learned and grown from it.
Jumpstart your journey with intuitive resiliency workshops
Because resiliency is so entrenched in an organization’s foresight, figuring out where to start your journey can often be the most difficult part. To be able to prepare for, perceive, and propel from disruptions, you must first know the current state of your organization, such as:
- How does your organization handle risk management?
- Where does your organization currently lack redundancy?
- The last time something went wrong, was your organization reactive or proactive?
- Do your teams know each other’s hierarchies and functionalities?
These are just some of the questions you must answer to gain a true sense of your organization’s current resilience and how and where you need to improve.
To help you on your resiliency journey, SHI offers intuitive resiliency workshops. We help you visualize, categorize, plan, and test the best resilience strategy for your organization. Our workshops include:
- “Terrible day” scenario planning
- Resiliency awareness
- Risk management approaches
- Can risk lead to innovation?
It’s not a matter of if, but when the next big disruption will affect your organization. But with resilience backing your organization, you can better predict when those disruptions will happen and have proactive plans in place to not only mitigate interruptions, but also learn and grow from them.
Ready to solve what’s next for your organization’s resiliency? Speak with SHI’s risk management experts today.