Article by Sandra Bell, Head of Resilience, Sungard Availability Services
Organisations are built upon complex and diverse networks of interconnected players. However, the technology that has enabled these players to work together can also make them vulnerable.
On one hand, the globalisation of information systems has provided the means for organisational growth and economic prosperity through the easy access of highly available information. On the other, it has facilitated the democratisation of the cyber threat by making the skills and knowledge to exploit information systems widely available.
Likewise, disruption, of any type, at one end of the chain can reverberate throughout the entire network. For example, the so-called ‘NotPetya’ attack originated from a single implementation targeted at Ukraine but ultimately spread well beyond its borders along supply chains to affect numerous companies globally, causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damages.
But organisations do not have a monopoly on these communication structures and social media has enabled highly public two-way conversations between those at the root of the disruption and those impacted by it, providing a platform for the latter to voice their grievances.
Unfortunately for organisations, this can have potentially devastating consequences for their relationships with stakeholders and the reputations on which they are built. Competition is fierce, and these stakeholders can, and will, take action to cut businesses out of their global supply chain if they are considered a risk.
Mitigating supply chain risk
Business Continuity teaches us to minimise our supply chain risk by having multiple suppliers for key products and services.
It has also become common practice to try to further reduce risk by arms-length contracting and “incentivising” supplier performance with hefty fines for non-delivery. These are both excellent strategies if all you want to do is “survive” a disruption.
However, the modern consumer, who has access to the global marketplace, is no longer satisfied to wait for an organisation to execute a heroic recovery and will vote with their feet at the first sign of trouble.
Organisations, therefore, need to be able to “thrive” despite uncertainty and disruption. To do this, they need friends.
Best practice for networked operations
There are three key ingredients to being able to thrive. First, businesses need to be adaptive, knowing when to change and optimising operations according to the outside environment. Leadership is also crucial – with leaders instilling in people the will to succeed during challenging times. The third and final area - one which is frequently neglected by organisations - is their network.
Forging and maintaining effective relationships with stakeholders, customers and suppliers is a key component not simply to being able to maintain successful operations, but also to maintaining a competitive advantage and achieving profit and growth.
This is where an IT can really help. We saw earlier that globalised IT systems facilitated growth and how it has been used against us to create a vulnerability. But if organisations have resilient IT both internally and with their partners, they can also use it to ensure that relationships do not crack under pressure.
Using IT resilience to promote trust agility and collaboration
How can organisations move from arms-length adversarial relationships to one where they are mutually supportive without placing themselves at undue risk? The first thing to do will be assessing the value of each relationship.
For example, if the value is measured simply by the commercial contribution that each person makes, the relationship will only be safe when a hard value is being provided.
In contrast, closely coupled networks - where parties help each other out when things go wrong - will be more resilient. Highly collaborative relationships where knowledge and insights are shared mean that people will think twice about dropping you like a stone when things go wrong.
Here are five ways organisations can use IT resilience to create collaborative relationships and boost resilience:
Weathering the storm
A simple software glitch somewhere in your supply chain is all it takes for you to experience disruption. While most organisations will invest time and money drawing up contingency plans to get the business back on its feet in as short a time as possible, attention must also be paid to the impact a disruption can have on the networks in which they are embedded.
A robust and agile IT infrastructure can not only be used for transactional purposes between customer and supplier but can also be used to ensure that key relationships with other components of the supply chain are nurtured. A truly resilient organisation will invest in building strong relationships 'while the sun shines' so they can draw on goodwill when it rains.