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2020: A year that will most certainly never be forgotten. While challenging, we can all agree that with challenge oftentimes comes growth. While it’s true that organisations and individuals alike experienced truly unprecedented times, many people wonder:

What is the takeaway from all that? Is it important to have a plan for operational resilience in times of chaos, or simply be willing to adapt and adjust as one goes? The answer: both.

About Operational Resilience 

1. Critical event basics

In simple terms, a critical event is when something out in the world or within the organisation threatens to impact something that one care’s about.

Critical events can cause a significant amount of financial damage if they aren’t mitigated and resolved quickly — causing increased pressure on organisations to do the right thing. In 2020 particularly, as everyone experienced a pandemic, global civil unrest, natural disasters, and extreme weather — to name a few.

2. Ever-changing events

There are discrepancies in terms of the vaccine rollout that need to be accounted for in terms of overall planning

In 2021, major civil unrest in the U.S. along with severe winter weather, causing a major disruption to power in Texas has been observed.

The company also has new information about the ongoing pandemic — specifically around new COVID-19 variants that are impacting people globally.

There are discrepancies in terms of the vaccine rollout that need to be accounted for in terms of overall planning all while businesses are trying to learn about the new normal and return to work.

3. The COVID-19 pandemic

Everyone everywhere was impacted by COVID-19. As the pandemic trudged along, it often felt as though one couldn’t see the future as clearly as they once did — both in personal lives and related to business continuity planning.

Given all that, operating in different geographies adds another layer to the challenge.

Seeing through a local lens

By being forced to consider what the local laws are and dealing with facilities in different phases of reopening, everyone is forced to really evaluate how they operate based on varying guidance and managing based on different regulations and procedures.

In short, everyone had to learn to manage with a global perspective while maintaining a local lens to be successful in 2020. The pandemic overlayed on top of other disruptions became very challenging from a logistical standpoint and planning perspective, and managing the response to new threats became increasingly tough.

4. Crisis management

Many workers moved to different or more remote locations in 2020 — but organisations still needed to know where remote workers were to make sure they were aware of an employee was impacted by a critical event. Coverage took on a totally different shape when thinking about remote work and duty of care simultaneously.

There’s definitely additional pressure on the ability to communicate and collaborate when you’ve got everyone so much more distributed than they were before. With that comes the importance to incorporate collaboration and communication technology to crisis management, activation, and response.

5. Accurate information = better peace of mind

Contract tracing seemed like a great bandwagon, but some questions still had to be answered with the products rolled out 

If one takes a look back at 2020, one will notice that tons of companies wanted to leverage the opportunity to solve problems related to the pandemic — especially around contact tracing. Contract tracing seemed like a great bandwagon to hop on at the time, but of course, there were some gaps and questions that still had to be answered with the products that had been rolled out.

When it comes to the complexity of tracking employee locations, unfortunately, it’s just not as simple as implementing Bluetooth proximity or mobile GPS location sharing.

Using broader information when it comes to how collecting location data leads to more accuracy. Vendors who are experienced in crisis management and critical event management simply have an upper hand; they’re more likely to understand holistically what the company might encounter and can predict what those gaps are based on experience.

6. Flexibility is critical

Anything can happen…and will happen! This was always the case; one just has to have a new perspective in 2021 than in 2020. One thinks that having lots of plans may actually be helpful or conducive to success during a chaotic time — but that is not always the case.

During COVID-19, customers who had lots of plans needed to re-work those plans, incorporate COVID-19 protocols, social distancing, and approval processes – causing lots of headaches. 

On the other hand, flexible plans can be localised or adjusted.

The best way to be flexible?

Create plan templates and allow them to be edited and updated on the fly. Incorporate mechanisms where one can push those new and updated plans easily out to responders, meaning that one can keep everyone up to date and more easily adjust to changing or evolving situations.

Focus on active crisis management, think critically about whom to collaborate with to mitigate, fix, or recover from a situation

Focus on active crisis management, meaning assessing how one communicates, who one needs to inform, and who needs to be notified. Think critically about whom one may need to collaborate with in order to mitigate, fix, or recover from a situation.

Keeping everyone informed and on the same page is not an easy task. In the future, it’s important to think about which tools and strategies will help in accomplishing that goal.

7. Automation to make life easier

It’s simple, easy, and effective. Automation is important so that one can more easily activate, more seamlessly coordinate across a number of stakeholders, and resolve critical events much faster.

One can also automate portions of the response, like the activation of the right team, sending notifications to the right people, and getting the right information out to the right stakeholders at the right time.

8. Start small

Here’s an advice: Pick a single-use case and focus on end-to-end completion of that single-use case. That way, one can build a model about how to use the tools moving forward. Don’t just think about major events that could impact one, like an earthquake.

Think about frequent minor events that can impact the organisation — like a power outage — and drive the adoption of those tools on a more frequent basis. One will then familiarise themselves with the tool so that one doesn’t have to only use it when there’s an emergency.

9. Operational resilience

The events of 2020 emphasise the importance of having a plan and how to activate, coordinate and orchestrate the response

Learn how to balance the health of the organisation with the privacy of the individual by ensuring one is working with vendors that take security and privacy seriously. Look for certifications like GDPR compliance, HIPAA compliance, FedRAMP in the US, and ISO 27,001.

Implement a need-to-know access control policy for all individual PII and ensure that the employees opt-in and are aware of how their PII is being used within the organisation.

The events of 2020 emphasise the importance of having a plan, but also the importance of being able to activate effectively, coordinate and orchestrate the overall response. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that being flexible is essential — because situations can and will always shift and change and we can’t predict everything.

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