A McKinsey report defines business resilience as the ability of a business to withstand, adapt, and thrive in the face of shocks that are internal and external, as well as known and unanticipated.
Until now, the notion of business resilience has not been considered a top priority for companies to proactively integrate into their planning strategies but rather a reactive occurrence when disruption occurs. In the preceding years, there have been countless examples of businesses being negatively impacted due to their poor circumspection and foresight of potential crises and disaster preparedness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the importance of business resilience as organizations took a quantum leap in digital adoption over just a span of a few months last year. A recent report entitled “Why Today’s IT Leaders Are Choosing Open” found that 76% of 800 IT leaders say they feel under more pressure to deliver tangible outcomes for the business than 12 months ago (up from 67% in 2020), citing technology challenges such as maintaining security and data access controls (43%), demands on remote access infrastructure (34%), pressure to reduce operational costs (34%), maintaining service availability/performance (33%) and reduced IT resource/staffing (33%).
As digital technologies continue to drive and shape the way organizations do business, long gone are the times where an organization’s ability to control risk, respond to it efficiently, and conventionally restore operations was considered as business resilience.
A truly resilient business is not something that happens by itself in a particular aspect of business operations. It is crucial for enterprises to reassess digital resilience with fresh strategies and practices to navigate the new business and economic climate. To achieve successful business resilience, companies need to ensure they think modular, adopt a multi-vendor and multi-provider strategy, automate their IT infrastructure and embrace cloud native approaches.
In today’s digital world, robust enterprise software architectures undoubtedly underpin every organization and not just for technology vendors but any business that is building its digital capabilities. The increasing use of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Edge Computing, and Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR) poses the challenge of effectively harmonizing software applications that are distributed, across multiple clouds, at the edge, and in application-specific devices.
Organizations now need to forgo the traditional one-size-fits-all approach and embrace modular thinking. The enterprise software stack should allow for quick customization, tweaks, or even a complete software swap at every layer of the stack so that the business can change priorities and technology at a whim with low costs and close to zero downtime.
Adopt a multi-vendor and multi-provider strategy
Enterprises typically use applications and infrastructure solutions from a variety of providers ranging from traditional software vendors to public cloud providers. It is not uncommon for them to standardize a particular provider’s solution across their organization. Many have even standardized on their preferred public cloud provider.
There are several benefits that standardization brings such as consistency, cost efficiencies, and reduced burden on IT. However over-reliance on a particular solution or provider may impact an enterprise’s ability to respond to unexpected situations in an agile manner. Examples of this include a software vendor abruptly retiring a product, terminating its business or a cloud provider experiencing sudden outages and security breaches.
To ensure greater business resiliency, organizations should adopt a multi-vendor and multi-provider strategy. For instance, if they have standardized on a single operating system solution for all their workloads, they should look at incorporating an additional operating system as part of their overall IT landscape. Likewise, if they are relying on a single cloud provider for their applications, they should consider a multi-cloud approach.
Adopting such a multi-vendor/provider strategy will ensure that any issues or challenges arising out of a particular vendor/provider will not cripple an organization and ensures business continuity.
Automate your IT infrastructure
Many enterprises are still not fully automated and use manual approaches to manage their IT infrastructure. Security policies may also mandate that infrastructure management can only be done from within the confines of the data center and not remotely. This means having staff with intimate knowledge of the infrastructure on-site at the data centers. Such a situation can harm enterprises as we saw during the pandemic when the entire world was locked down and work from home became the default.
To gain operational resiliency, enterprises should incorporate IT infrastructure automation as a key part of their overall IT strategy. Manual and complex domain-specific knowledge pertaining to infrastructure provisioning, patching, and configurations should be encoded into automation templates which will ensure the infrastructure is orchestrated consistently every time the templates are executed. The templates should be complemented by tooling that enables you to manage and observe your IT infrastructure using a single pane of glass.
When such automation is put in place, enterprises will be able to remotely orchestrate and monitor their IT infrastructure with minimal or no human intervention. This ensures business continuity even in the absence of physical access to data centers.
Embrace cloud native approaches
Another strategy in building stronger resiliency is embracing cloud-native approaches to build applications. By using this approach, you can build fault-tolerant applications and eliminate infrastructure dependencies to enable application portability. This means that your applications will be able to run in a consistent, secure and reliable manner across different environments ranging from your data-center to the hyperscalers and even the edge environments.
Cloud native approaches can help businesses innovate faster and quickly adapt to changes in the environment thus making it sturdy and operationally resilient. The same study found that when it comes to running containers 72% plan to increase the proportion of production workloads that are containerized over the next 12 months, and a massive adoption is predicted to be seen in the coming years as well.
Today’s modern-day technology ecosystem demands that many enterprises turn towards building an automated and seamless infrastructure that will not only prevent any backlash in an unforeseen circumstance but also maintain steady progress throughout. Beyond a powerful security and risk management framework, it is imperative for businesses to also consider a new mindset and approach as a truly resilient business is not something that happens by itself in a particular aspect of business operations.