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What is business resilience?

To define business resilience, it might be helpful to understand what it isn’t. For starters, it isn’t business continuity, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), business resilience is the “ability of an organization to absorb and adapt in a changing environment to enable it to deliver its objectives and to survive and prosper”, while business continuity is merely the “capability of an organization to continue the delivery of products or services at acceptable predefined levels following a disruption”.

If anything, business resilience is an extension of business continuity. If business continuity is a cold medicine that lessens symptoms until they pass, business resilience is the vitamin C that makes it harder for the illness to attack you in the first place and keeps you from getting as sick or taking as long to recover as you would have without it.

Read more from our “What Is” series:

Business resilience doesn’t eliminate volatility that can occur from threats and vulnerabilities, but rather helps you identify and prepare for what might come. It’s not all about keeping you cash flow positive either. It’s about aligning your organization’s strategies, finances, operations, and technology to give it the best opportunity for long-term success. It’s about looking toward the future and preparing for the what-ifs as much as it’s about learning lessons from the past. It’s something that should be established and communicated from the top-down with the understanding that it’s an investment in the company’s future and might require some up-front tradeoffs to execute.

How to Make Your Business Resilient

For a business resilience plan to be effective, several components of business operations need to be protected with emergency backup plans in case of failure. Let’s take a look at some of the areas to cover with a resilience management strategy:

  • Protect your power supply.
    This could include everything from uninterruptible power supplies to lightning protection and proper grounding to a generator and beyond. Ensure your method of power protection is adequate for your organization’s operational needs and tested regularly.
  • Back up your data.
    To be able to restore data, determine how much data you need to protect and how quickly you will need to be able to recover it in the event of an emergency. Then, define your data protection needs and methods accordingly. Finally, regularly test restoration of select data to an operating state that supports the business.
  • Establish a succession plan.
    Every employee plays a vital role in your organization’s success. But what happens when one of them is unavailable? Ensure you know who can step in with the required skills for various roles when needed.
  • Secure your systems.
    Take precautions to properly protect all systems. Cyberthreats should be a primary concern of any business resilience plan and should be addressed through a strategic cyber risk management plan. Ransomware, viruses, and other attacks can infiltrate just about any technology, so be sure to adequately protect all potential entry points. This protection should extend beyond network security to physical access as well for truly robust business resilience planning.
  • Embrace redundancy.
    Whether it’s having alternate methods of achieving the same end result or producing a “spare” end result (i.e., product), learn to classify any inefficiency or cost losses caused by redundancy as necessary for business resilience.
  • Consider modular systems.
    Although integrated systems certainly contribute to operational efficiency, modularity allows failed systems to be cut off from the rest of the infrastructure to contain the failure. It also helps define the parameters of the failure for quicker recovery.
  • Plan for the possibilities.
    Operate under the assumption that if something can happen, it will. Develop contingency plans. Execute stress tests. Conduct "tabletop" exercises to simulate deployment of continuity and recovery plans. Leave no stone unturned.
  • Follow change management procedures and be disciplined.
    When you establish any new policy or strategy, change is inevitable. Make sure any changes you make are not only necessary, but also well planned, clearly explained, and considerate of those they impact. And when your plan is defined and understood, commit to it. Do what you say you’re going to do, and your cohorts will follow suit.
  • Make resilience part of your culture through your leadership.
    Ensure employees understand why the business resilience plan exists and how it reinforces your mission, vision, and values. Align the company’s goals with the processes set in place. Set the example you want employees to follow and let them know the value they hold to your organization so they’ll be invested in its success. This includes embracing diversity in your employee base, because the more ideas you have for how to address an issue, the more robust your protection against it can be. It also involves creating a safe space for idea sharing and experimentation with an adaptive process for advancing the ideas that achieve the best results.

A solid business resilience plan gives your organization the ability to recognize threats faster and better resist and withstand their impact. It also allows you to recover from the shock of a disruption more quickly and provides tools to strengthen your organization further after recovery.

So, to sum it all up, what is business resilience? Business resilience, ultimately, is an organization’s ability maintain business operations while protecting its people, assets, and brand during and after an unexpected disruption through an established, strategic plan. Business resilience planning offers workflow-based strategies for securing vulnerabilities and avoiding downtime. Your organization’s business resilience plan should run the gamut of everything from detection and prevention to recovery.

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Jordan Heatwole headshot

With a background in technical writing, marketing communication, and web design, Jordan served as Mandry Technology's first in-house marketer.


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