Resilience – what is critical to your customers right now?

When things get tough, resilient businesses can survive where others cannot. In this article, Helen McMillan discusses how taking a new approach to resilience, and thinking like a customer, can make the difference between success and failure.

It is predicted that the UK economy will shrink by at least 6.5% in 2020 and business growth will not get back to pre-virus levels until at least 2022. So, in these unprecedented times, how do we flex our strategies and operating models to become more resilient?

Resilience has always been about longer-term planning and how we respond to events of a magnitude that we never expect to happen. The measures that we put in place now will not only enable our businesses to continue to operate short term; they will deliver a more agile strategy that allows us to change direction more easily in the longer term.

Standing still is not an option; we need to react and adapt and do it quickly. The key to real-time stability and enabling longer-term sustainability – and growth when the time is right – is to look at what is critical in our business today and which parts can take a back seat in the short term.

One way to achieve that effectively is to think about what is critical in your business:

1. Become your client and understand what is critical to your customer

Forget about what you think is critical to your business, and instead, focus on what your customers need and want right now. What is important to them becomes your blueprint to flex how you operate. Look at your critical customer functions and the end-to-end customer process collectively rather than thinking about your operations in silos.

Most business resilience models look at disparate functions and develop a siloed approach to recovery. This can mean that there are different resilience and recovery models for each key business area, and this ultimately causes problems – not just for the customer, but for the whole business as it becomes increasingly difficult to identify what is critical and where the focus should be. Instead, think about how it feels to be in the customers’ shoes and use that as a starting point to critical process evaluation.

2. Streamline your operations, not your people, and identify where your critical processes are

Think about processes that still need to be completed to protect your business assets, meet a critical need, or satisfy regulatory or mandatory obligations. These are often:

  • processes that are risky and could expose the business to harm if they were stopped
  • processes that make an essential contribution to the business
  • processes that interact with the customer to deliver real client value

These are the functions that we should concentrate on, the essential activities to prioritise, and the processes which are critical to be performed.

Everything else is secondary and should be less of a focus in the current environment. Understanding and concentrating on critical processes protects our ability to deliver the same level of service with potentially reduced resources and capabilities.

3. Understand who your critical people are, and the key skills they have

The people who deliver critical customer functions are vital for your business. When external events happen that cause turbulence, the parts of your business that do not perform critical functions can be deployed elsewhere. Think about using your resources more effectively and identifying functions that are non-essential when business is significantly disrupted.

Evaluate the skills that you need to deliver critical processes and customer outcomes and focus your training efforts on these. Cross-training and collaboration have always been important in business; however, shifting this to concentrate on your critical skills and upskilling people based on this means that you can quickly and effectively flex how you operate when resilience events occur, by deploying people to the places they are needed.

Think about the skills you need to be able to adapt your business and who the critical thinkers are. These are the people who can help diversify your products when significant disruption impacts demand for your usual services.

4. Focus on the critical risks that could stop you doing business

When events of magnitude occur, it becomes even more important to have effective risk management. Risks are not static; they are always changing and the controls that were in place prior to disruption are often no longer fit for purpose.

By assessing the new operating environment and understanding how it has impacted your business, you can refine your risk profile and check that the 'riskiest' risks to your business, across people, process and technology, are adequately captured, that the controls you have in place are providing assurance, and that your governance framework is making sure your key risks are discussed, challenged and acted upon.

Concentrate on the ‘here and now’ to deliver for the future

If we focus on the critical activities right now, we stand a much better chance of ensuring our business survives, and through this process, we may identify other opportunities for our business and our people to grow. By looking at what is critical across our people, processes, customers and risks, we can potentially diversify our offerings and create a new way of doing things.

Defining what is critical to our business and our customers lets us streamline the way we operate, which ultimately improves our efficiency and capacity. Evaluating our customers’ view of our business and the products and services we provide, lets us understand their journey and the ways we can improve their experience. Focusing on the critical skills we need delivers better knowledge management, helping us make sure that the right people have the right knowledge at the right time. Finally, identifying where our critical risks lie enables us to understand our opportunities, become much more proactive in how we service our customers, and ensure we are doing it all in a safe way for them and our business.

Jisc | Data Matters

26 January 2021

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