The current COVID crisis highlights the importance of system resilience as IT and business leaders must ensure that their organizations can continue to operate through this disruption by quickly responding to critical systems vulnerabilities.
The global health crisis has sent a shockwave through global economic systems — one that will most likely reverberate for months, if not years, to come. While Covid-19 is first and foremost a health crisis, it is also a crisis of livelihoods and businesses.
For CEOs, guiding their organizations through the steps to survival is going to require some long-term thinking. Starting with addressing the immediate challenges of Covid-19 to surviving the shutdown and then moving on to returning their businesses to pre-Coronavirus production levels and possibly even reimagining their business models, they have a long journey ahead of them.
Content related: Covid -19: Time to review your current crisis management plan
CIOs have a similar journey to take, although it is much more focused. Covid-19 is unlike any disruption that has ever come before. It brings an unprecedented pressure on systems — the processes the business relies upon to get work done, plus the underlying systems that support those processes. That includes everything from applications, data, and infrastructure to architecture, cloud, and networks.
In the pandemic world, systems are even more critical for survival
From business applications and unified communications to remote access to apps and data, today’s business environment is nothing if it is not digital. The pressure on these systems is driven by the enormous importance they play during the pandemic. In a world where the in-person meeting has all but vanished and customer touchpoints are limited to the online realm, companies who manage to continue their operations are relying on virtual connections more than ever.
Thus, CIOs have an enormous responsibility on their hands: ensuring their organizations continue to have access to the digital tools that are crucial for surviving this global crisis.
The pandemic highlights the importance of systems resilience
If there is an immediate takeaway from all this for enterprise CIOs and their IT counterparts at smaller organizations, it is the importance of systems resilience. For many, their resilience has already been gauged by how quickly they were able to respond to system vulnerabilities when under pressure.
The pandemic is driving home the fact that, when major upheavals like this occur, resilience is a critical component of a healthy system. And as such, it plays a key role in determining whether an organization will be able to get through a major disaster like the Covid-19 crisis.
After quickly addressing the immediate challenges of the pandemic, such as supporting a newly remote workforce and perhaps other accelerated digital transformation initiatives, what can IT leaders do? In this new reality, they face a number of challenges.
Challenges to systems resilience during Covid-19
The pandemic brings to light a number of IT challenges for companies, all of which require fast action and a quick response.
- Traffic surges. Shelter in place orders and social distancing have caused a surge in online shopping overnight. According to a Salesforce report, digital commerce growth was 20% for Q1 2020. E-commerce is not the only source of traffic spikes, however. Call centers and other surges in digital touchpoints with consumers are causing traffic spikes, too. This is on top of pre-pandemic explosive growth in online shopping, which was 14.9% higher in 2019 than it was in 2018, according to a Digital Commerce 360 report. A quick response will help companies capture that value, which is even more critical in an uncertain world.
- Using real-time data. IT teams struggle to monitor their systems and use real-time data to generate reports and make decisions in a dynamic environment. The pandemic crisis only heightened this struggle, as the business environment shifted overnight.
- Security. System vulnerabilities can go undetected without good security protocols in place. With an already intense cyber threat landscape to worry about, security teams have even more at risk during the pandemic. Inevitably, bad actors will seek to leverage the current crisis and devise new ways to carry out their cyber attacks. With the increases in remote working, e-commerce, and other consumer-based digital interactions, now is not the time to ease up on security concerns.
Take a look at this: The 5 most critical web application security risks
- Remote workforce. A newly remote workforce has been an immediate challenge as IT workers struggled under pressure with a wide range of connectivity and security issues. Again, a timely response is key, as remote work went into effect virtually overnight for many organizations.
For each of these challenges, the severity of each of them is directly related to the degree to which the company has addressed systems resilience in the past.
What resilience looks like
In its simplest form, systems resilience is easy to understand:
“Basically, a system is resilient if it continues to carry out its mission in the face of adversity” Donald Firesmith, Carnegie Mellon University
But what, exactly, does that mean? One way to look at it is that, in the face of the pandemic, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have a fast response to critical systems vulnerabilities. But how do you achieve that?
One way is to focus on mindset and look at resilience through the lens of innovation. Companies who build an innovation mindset into their culture are better equipped to leverage technology and weather the storms of adversity.
In other words, resilience stems from investing not just in the technology required to run a 21st-century organization but also in ways to incorporate digital systems and processes into company culture. To fully leverage technology, companies must cultivate an innovative mindset in their organizational culture. This is what closes the gap between innovation investment and actual realized value from that investment.
Conceptualized this way, only 10% of companies were “systems resilient” before the pandemic, according to Accenture. After the onset of Covid-19 and its aftermath, we can only speculate that this figure might not look very positive in the months to come. However, this might be the perfect time to make the leap and move forward. The bar has changed, after all, and what sufficed for “resilience” in the past might not be up to par in today’s pandemic world.
To Sum Up
In a world that has suddenly become even more thoroughly digital overnight, the availability and reliability of systems is more important than ever. The speed with which Covid-19 spread, and its disruption in the business world, brought to light the ultimate differentiator for business leaders: how fast their IT departments were able to respond to system vulnerabilities brought on by the pandemic crisis environment.
Nowadays, CIOs and other IT leaders play (and should play) a key role in steering the company through the current crisis. What they are doing right now will set the path to stronger and solid systems that will defeat virtually any circumstance. Building a secure foundation for resilience will impact your business now and in the future, beyond the crisis.
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