A Call for Technology Resilience

Rapid changes in how business gets done also are changing how IT thinks about technology resilience.

Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data

April 11, 2024

5 Min Read
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Technology resilience historically has been defined as “an organization’s ability to maintain acceptable service levels through and beyond severe disruptions to its critical processes and the IT systems which support them.” 

Over time, tech resilience has been linked to disaster recovery. But what does technology resilience mean in 2024? 

In addition to DR, today’s definition includes protecting the enterprise from volatility, which could be financial developments, staffing, new technology, change management, acquisitions, or any number of business events that the organization encounters but may not have anticipated or planned for.   

The dynamics of business changes today are striking. In a 2024 Pulse of Change C-suite survey conducted by Accenture, 88% of respondents said they thought the rate of business change would accelerate in 2024 with new technology such as generative AI playing a significant role.  

This is why many CIO’s have technology resilience listed as a major IT objective, but how does this resilience manifest itself in projects, initiatives and budgets? 

Technology Resilience Today 

For the past six years, organizations have fostered digitalization initiatives with mixed results. The easy part of digitalization projects was installing them. However, adapting them to ever-changing business conditions has proven to be more difficult. 

Related:Improving Supply Chain Security, Resiliency

Companies can expect this same experience with emerging technologies like generative AI. So how do CIOs build technology that is resilient because it can rapidly adapt to business change? 

A major inflection point in application development has been the adoption of Agile. With iterative, Agile application development, an application or system is never finished. It’s continuously changing as business conditions and circumstances change. Both users and IT accept this iterative development without endpoints. 

On the other hand, end points (and more of them!) in IT projects also can foster technology resilience. They achieve resilience because a large project that gets interrupted by an immediate and overriding business necessity is more easily paused if it is structured as a series of mini projects that deliver incremental functionality. 

This can be done by segmenting projects into a series of smaller mini projects that can deliver incremental functionality and be tied off and later resumed if project priorities change. 

Staff Resilience 

Korn Ferry projects that by 2030, “85 million jobs could go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them.” Companies talk about this, but few list staffing or skills shortages as threats in their corporate risk management plans. 

Related:Why Your Organization Needs to Embrace Data Resiliency

It’s up to CIOs to bring this issue forward since training is usually the first thing to be placed on hold when budgets are tightened. 

Here is a way to explain this risk: 

Your network goes down under a malware attack, but your network guru has just left the company for another opportunity. Do you have someone who can step in and do the work? Or, what if your DBA leaves? How long can you delay defining an AI data architecture, and will it harm the company competitively? 

To achieve IT roster depth, staff must be trained in new responsibilities, or at least cross-trained in different roles that they can assume if needed. 

For each of your mission-critical IT functions, you should assess staff roster depth and then describe the holes and the risks. If training or cross-training can’t address them, outside recruiting or consulting services might be needed. Whatever tack you take, this assessment enables the board, the CEO, and other C-level executives to see the risk, and they can understand why investments in key skills and personnel are necessary for corporate success. 

Budget Resilience 

Related:Quick Study: Cyber Resiliency and Risk

Most CIOs still approach budgeting by 1) presenting an initial budget that contains at least 20% more than is actually needed for operations, and 2) negotiating down to what the IT budget ends up being. This is a popular strategy because it shows that you’re “giving up” something while you’re getting the budget that you actually need. Of course, it’s an old game that the CFO, CEO, and your other C-level peers also understand and play well. 

There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but it doesn’t necessarily give you the agility or the scalability needed when business conditions can change overnight. 

For instance, if you envision that your company might do something that changes the budget calculus during the year, such as acquiring another company, you could build an IT budget scenario that addresses that situation, and it could be immediately plugged in should the situation occur.   

In this way, you can roll out different IT budget options that align with various business scenarios that potentially could emerge. This creates budgetary resilience and agility that is ready to be scaled to any situation. 

Final Notes on Resiliency 

The concept of IT resiliency has long been associated with disaster recovery, but increasingly it has come to mean resilience in the face of rapid business change. 

Change can come in the form of a technology or operational disaster; in the emergence of a new competitor; in a dramatic drop-off or increase in sales; or in a corporate acquisition. 

You never can know exactly what’s around the corner, but you do know that technology and IT will have a hand in it. This is what makes it so important to think about technology, staffing, skills and budgeting in a variety of different business scenarios. You need to be ready for all of them. 

About the Author(s)

Mary E. Shacklett

President of Transworld Data

Mary E. Shacklett is an internationally recognized technology commentator and President of Transworld Data, a marketing and technology services firm. Prior to founding her own company, she was Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturer in the semiconductor industry.

Mary has business experience in Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim. She has a BS degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MA from the University of Southern California, where she taught for several years. She is listed in Who's Who Worldwide and in Who's Who in the Computer Industry.

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