Over the past several months, the phrase “the new normal” has become little more than marketing jargon used to sell IT software and remote work solutions during the Covid-19 crisis. Truthfully, if 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that there’s no leader, analyst or visionary in any industry that can predict what comes next. Additionally, the definition of “business continuity” has dramatically broadened. What was once traditional disaster recovery planning—e.g., making sure data centers could survive a hurricane—now includes enabling remote workers, supporting a seamless user experience and bridging the gap between the virtual and physical world.
Today the idea of “continuity” oversimplifies the complex challenges that executives are facing. Rather than trying to get back to ‘normal’ or attempt “business as usual,” CEOs must focus on building resilience into every single aspect of their business. Resilience starts at the top of an organization and is fortified by a corporate culture that encourages and rewards creativity, problem solving, communication and flexibility. Leadership must help employees understand that there is no challenge so new or so great that it cannot be overcome.
I am honored to lead teams that support frontline technology across healthcare, public safety, education and enterprise communication—from 9-1-1 call routing to emergency-response technology that school districts rely on for real-time updates during crisis situations. For most frontline companies, resilience is naturally baked into the business model—there’s no choice but to face every crisis head-on, with confidence because the ramifications of failure are far too great.
Over the years, I’ve learned that a resilient business infrastructure is more than inspiring words and charisma. Employees must have the resources and tools that they need to work quickly and effectively and executives must focus on technology that drives connectivity and communication. Moving forward, a company will only be as resilient as its tech infrastructure.
Here are the four key elements of business resilience that I’ve learned from working on the frontlines:
Scalability: Business leaders often think about scale in relation to the size of their workforce: new offices, new roles and building teams strategically to meet customer demand. However, the past few months have demonstrated that every business must scale their technology infrastructure to support remote access – minimizing downtime, outages and delays. Transitioning business processes to the cloud is no longer optional; it’s the only way to scale quickly and ensure continuous delivery of mission-critical applications.
Transportability: Whether your employees are in the office, at their kitchen table or traveling the world, resilient businesses enable and empower mobility. This means that the CIO and IT teams are tasked with reimagining “the office” and ensuring that virtual work environments meet the same standards as physical ones. Every organization within the company must be considered: billing, customer care, systems management—all now require remote capabilities and mobility.
A strong example of this is essential workers, like 9-1-1 operators that were never meant to work outside of a controlled office environment and required access to remote systems overnight to prioritize social distancing. These life-saving services are dependent upon technology, and with lives on the line, they cannot afford glitches, delays or downtime. Regardless of industry, CEOs must think of their business as an ‘essential’ service and leadership must plan for situations where every single employee may need to pick up and change locations in a moment’s notice. Moving forward, businesses must fully transition to a cloud infrastructure that ensures always-on connectivity, collaboration, engagement and mobility.
Accessibility: Back in March – accessibility meant that remote workers could use basic connectivity tools like VPN and simple collaboration software. However, a resilient business enables its ecosystem of stakeholders to have consistent access to the information they need, when they need it, empowering the ability to transform information into insight. From investor relations to virtual events and conferences to using video for webcasts and live-streaming, CEOs should work to ensure that communication methods are agile and adapted for hybrid digital/physical model.
Adoption: Recent data from McKinsey shows that “we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.” Businesses must invest in the right products, paying close attention to both security and user experience (UX). Over the last few months, Covid forced highly confidential meetings to take place remotely. From earnings preparation to M&A, conversations that are meant to occur in a secure office behind closed doors are taking place virtually on remote networks. As leaders, we need to ensure our employee and client confidentiality agreements are abided by and that information is protected regardless of employee location. Lastly, it’s important to remember that technology is only as effective as its end user and the transition to remote work has placed an incredible burden on employees. Consider initiating training programs to upskill and reskill workers so that they’re able to use the tech productively.
Finally – a resilient business prioritizes health and safety. As states re-open and employees begin to report back to the office, leadership must proactively support this transition by offering solutions that will assuage fears and encourage wellness. Technology can play an important part in ensuring that workers have consistent access to important healthcare services.
When faced with adversity, resilient businesses are able to bend without breaking. The only constant that CEOs can expect is change—and we must lead the charge in ensuring that systems and infrastructure are adaptable to overcome any future disruption and uncertainty.