COVID-19 won’t be the last of the disruption businesses must contend with. It’s important for them to re-evaluate and rebuild their business models to be more resilient. Yet resilience is no longer about having the cash reserves and resources to weather disruption right now – it’s about building an IT infrastructure that is flexible, cloud-based and automated to deal with constant, unrelenting change.
The paradox of resilience
Enterprise resilience comes in two parts. It’s about having the foresight to identify areas of risk and causes of disruption. But it’s also about having the agility to quickly transform operations to adapt to what’s coming down the track. The mantra is expect the unexpected, respond and adapt.
However, the pursuit of resilience is full of challenges, especially today. BSI and Cranfield School of Management recognize that businesses face a host of different tensions that pull them in different directions. They need to walk a tightrope, balancing the need to protect the business and progress it through innovation. Too much weight on either side, and the business is in danger of being blindsided by a challenge it didn’t predict.
The paradox of a resilient organization is that it needs to be both flexible and firm under pressure. That’s at all levels – including the people and systems that make up the company. To accomplish this, companies need an empowered workforce supported by a flexible and integrated infrastructure – leveraging cloud computing, big data, automation, AI and machine learning.
A bottom-up revolution
When times are difficult, a company is only as resilient as its people. A truly strong business is a resilient community of employees, customers, partners and suppliers, able to adapt quickly when faced with disruption. Resilience isn’t the CFO’s job or the CHRO’s job – it’s everyone’s.
That being the case, the organizations that will thrive and survive will be the ones that devolve responsibility – putting power in the hands of ordinary employees, suppliers and customers. They have to be able to make decisions on the frontlines of disruption – and to do this they need tools that give them the insight and ability to make decisions with confidence. With the right support, every employee becomes an agent of change.
Investing in technology is one of the best ways for organizations to create a resilient, adaptable community and foundation for their business. Technology is the great enabler for people, processes, and systems to understand new demands and transform to meet them.
Data is key to every decision, giving frontline actors an overarching view of the health of the organization and unrivalled insight into the changing market context. It should be widely available at all levels and among all partners. Digital applications and cloud solutions give them access to credible data that can be used to pivot in real-time. From streamlining processes to identifying new opportunities, data can help direct the company’s decision making at the key moments that matter.
In this context, cloud-based applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Human Capital Management (HCM) are very important. These systems provide insights and improved control over factors like inventory and value chain management, allowing for rapid changes and resolutions for problems detected in advance.
The benefit of cloud-based applications is that they integrate systems and information so that data becomes transparent and accessible to everyone. Not only do employees have easier access to data, but customers can expect a joined-up customer experience tailored with information from both the front and back offices.
Resilience in action
When supported by the right technology and insight, people can do incredible things to boost resilience in the face of disruption. Lines of business can utilize a single pool of shared insight to collaborate and rapidly transform how the business operates.
Delivery companies were heavily disrupted at the onset of the pandemic, with supply chains buckling under the weight of unprecedented demand and many vulnerable drivers unable to perform deliveries. FedEx Services was in the process of transitioning its financial infrastructure directly to the cloud. Yet instead of pausing plans and relying on the legacy system, the company accelerated its schedule to gain greater financial visibility into the crisis. Over 30,000 employees now use cloud analytics tools for data-driven decision making and automation, which has proven essential to helping the company navigate the disruption.
Resilience is a team effort
Resilience isn’t merely a buzzword. It’s more important than ever to look at the flexibility and adaptability of every system, process, and team in your ecosystem, from how you engage with customers and employees to how you work with suppliers and manage your finances. Preparing your organization for the unexpected not only mitigates risk, it helps you stay ahead of your competition.
- Richard Petley is Senior Vice President of Technology at Oracle UK and Ireland.
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