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Why business resilience planning is key to surviving a crisis

remote working
(Image credit: Shutterstock / GaudiLab)

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis (and more generally during any crisis), one word is on everyone's mind and lips: resilience.

There are specific, tangible actions and strategies required for businesses to survive crises and emerge stronger. This is one of the key roles that outcome-driven Enterprise Architecture (EA) can play.

About the author

Robert Raiola is CMO of MEGA International

Resilience: A way to focus on what matters most

Even if there are signs that a crisis is looming, the outbreak generally happens quite suddenly following an initial trigger point. This was the case in the examples of both the US mortgage crash in 2006 which led to the global financial crisis in 2008, and the Covid-19 pandemic, which greatly inhibited the world’s economic markets in 2020 and into 2021.

When a crisis strikes, the best prepared organizations will be able to face it the most effectively. Those organizations are the ones that can quickly focus on the capacities most critical to their core business or function. This might seem obvious, but the reality of achieving it is much more complex. After identifying and defining the criticality of business processes and capabilities, the next important task is to identify the interdependencies between those processes and all the IT services associated with the delivery of them. Carrying out this fact-finding process ensures that organizations are well prepared to continue delivering on critical business capabilities even under restricted operational conditions that crises can lead to.  

When the Covid-19 lockdowns and other restrictions were first implemented in several countries in early 2020, the best prepared organizations were immediately able to implement well-rounded business continuity plans. These plans combined factors such as the ongoing management and security of physical sites during the restrictions, reducing employees’ hours or the ability to quickly implement flexible working arrangements for staff, contractors and partners. This rapid adoption of remote working or ‘teleworking’ – supported by an information system setup ready to integrate new ways of doing business in “downgraded mode – has proven to be one of the most crucial aspects of crisis preparation.

Transformation: How to adapt to the post-crisis world

All crises, whatever their nature, have one thing in common; they change the world, and by extension they alter the dynamics of global, regional and national economies and the way business is conducted. In the post-crisis world, economies do not simply return to the status quo of pre-crisis conditions. Changes can be wide-ranging across the whole of society, business and governments, and can impact everything from emancipating technological progress to the lessening or tightening of regulatory obligations. The ways that organizations transact, budget for and sign off projects, and prepare for future disasters is also likely to be changed permanently.  

Herein lays the power of a robust and effective business resiliency plan – it is not a case of waiting for the world to return to its pre-crisis state. Instead, a good plan is about positioning organizations and businesses to learn from the developments that have occurred during periods of crisis, and to use this knowledge to prepare for them now before the crisis has even fully subsided. In fact, resilience is not just about surviving, but being ready to execute with a clear plan of how to bounce back. The alternative to an effective business resilience plan is a lot riskier – it is the much less desirable proposition of emerging from the crisis unprepared for the new, post-crisis world. 

Throughout the crisis, organizations in the public sector and private industry must think about the evolution of their business models, structure, processes, products, and even the services they provide. In this context, the role of enterprise architecture is to be willing and able to consider several different scenarios, associate them with the needed evolution of IT services, and be able to communicate this information in clear and concise ways to be able to help management make the right decisions. Well-executed enterprise architecture programmes provide the catalyst for better informed, data-driven decision making.

Enterprise architecture: the heart of resilience

During the 2020 pandemic, enterprise architecture teams have been in great demand for the immediate and future migration of business applications to the cloud - depending on their business criticality, feasibility, security, budget, development strategies, etc. EA teams have also been crucial to accelerating the digitization of processes, like remote contract signing for example. 

Enterprise architects are part of a multidisciplinary team able to understand company structure, as well as the transformation projects that will support a rapid rebound once the crisis has passed. Enterprise architects can capture company strategy and translate objectives into the necessary business capabilities. While working alongside business analysts, application owners, IT and solution architects, enterprise architects can translate business objectives into clearly defined business transformation projects. 

As the digitalization of business accelerates, enterprise architects are increasingly becoming the essential interface between IT and the wider business. In times of crisis, they play a key role in facilitating business continuity by focusing resources on the organization’s critical capabilities.

A well-built and outcome-driven enterprise architecture function provides a bedrock of business resilience. This is necessary for organizations to be best placed to survive crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and to thrive post-crisis. This helps to accelerate recovery efforts once the crisis has passed, and for setting the foundations for making the most of the opportunities the new environment presents.