Having a backup plan is a given not a nice-to-have, writes Dzingira Matenga, Managing Director, CFO & Enterprise Value for Accenture in Africa

Whether you are automatically archiving historical client data or testing a new cybersecurity strategy, backup planning helps to keep the business running smoothly. However, simply being prepared is not enough – your business must be resilient. Able to withstand the shockwaves of unforeseen change by being flexible enough to make the impossible possible and survive through anything. A resilient business can recover its critical business services from a significant unplanned disruption, protecting its customers, shareholders, and ultimately the wider capital market’s integrity.

The right technologies and digital workforce are an essential first step to achieving business resilience, but what happens after your business has survived a crisis such as a disaster, pandemic or global recession? There needs to be a strategy in place to start moving beyond being resilient.

Reinforcing resilience

COVID-19 made us realise how important it is to have a robust business resilience strategy in place to survive. Whether a local or global organisation, a successful business resilience strategy relies on blending technology and talent by implementing processes to support continued business operations (like remote working). Success requires having the technology to continue running mission-critical systems (like data centres) and crisis management of conditions that threaten life, property, or operations.

At Accenture, we know how important it is to get new technologies working in harmony with people and have implemented our own resilience strategy.

Here are some things you might want to consider to reinforce your organisational resilience:

  1. Invest in everyone: We have modified our technology approach toward a “one person, one machine” strategy. We have more than 600,000 people, all using workstations and mobiles to communicate securely and reliably in every corner of the world and this means 600,000 people that need to be trained and educated around risk management. This mantra should be the same for other corporates and in fact, becomes more complex and goes beyond PCs and devices in manufacturing environments with Scada and controls systems and pharma and healthcare environments where sensitive patient data is used, for example.
  2. Commit to the Cloud: Accenture IT infrastructure is now 95% in the public cloud. That not only means we’re saving cost by spending half as much as our legacy delivery models but also gives us new IT potential through flexible and resilient capabilities. Given the drive towards increased sustainability by organisations, investments in data centres, shared services and outsourced cloud-enabled operations reduces carbon footprint and allows organisations to focus on their core client and supply chain responsibilities.
  3. Collaborate for continuity: We bring together specialists in various disciplines to deliver an integrated, cross-functional strategy and enjoy the shared success of a more robust, resilient business. Organisations can mimic a similar approach to drive a cohesive resilience culture, internally.

Operational resilience is financial resilience

Organisations are developing business services to meet growing customer expectations faster than ever. The need to adapt quickly and accelerate the pace of change increases the risk of operational failure. This makes operational resilience arguably as crucial as financial resilience.

Operational resilience is a multifaceted and diverse objective that has become more complex during the significant technological change in recent years. It goes beyond the four walls of an organisation, encompassing the entire complex ecosystem, including partners and third-party providers required to deliver services that meet today’s customer needs.

The impact of operational failure is now much more than just a question of system outages. Many organisations hold ever-increasing amounts of data, which brings more significant exposure to risk where a security breach threatens the reliability and validity of that data. Organisations would be expected to have processes in place so that sensitive data remains protected and uncompromised.

Therefore, maintaining and improving business resilience is a new way for an organisation to build trust with its customers, regulators, and the economy it serves. Without an effective and comprehensive resilience management framework, organisations may fail to identify and understand, let alone plan for and remediate, emerging internal and external resilience challenges.

Resilience is everyone’s responsibility

Making a business resilient is an ongoing journey of continuous improvement, and a vital element of a resilient business is its people. A cultural change is required to make operational resilience a priority across the organisation and that everyone is engaged and working towards that end. This includes training staff to understand what operational risk entails, alongside communication from senior management. Ownership of critical risks, and the controls that mitigate them, should be assigned to maintain resilience practices. Remedial actions should be identified and completed to create a more robust resilience framework.

In the broader economic ecosystem, business leaders are responsible for economic resilience beyond the narrow view that government must drive or provide enabling conditions. Although structural issues that impede economic growth exist – high unemployment, regulatory uncertainty – if you optimise your business, it opens a world of opportunity for you and for the Republic.

Making incremental improvements – bottom-up leadership – means improving your working environment, modernising it, embracing digitalisation, giving your colleagues more opportunities to shine and to thrive. It takes a shift in mindset. Development happens where you are. Sometimes you can’t fix everything, but fixing your own business contributes to the building blocks for Africa at large.

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