“Resilience is the ability to recover well from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.” – Harvard Business Review
In the context of IT, resilience is often tested by a variety of factors: natural disasters, cyber-attacks, human error, talent retention issues, unexpected service demands and even technology itself.
Should any of these happen and cause unplanned downtime, your business reputation and your profit may take a hit. As a business leader, you likely plan for any of these instances of unexpected downtime through a business continuity or disaster recovery plan, network redundancy, and cross-trained staff.
However, there is one more factor that is potentially far more crippling to any business than any of these challenges. It’s not one we can peek around the corner and assuredly predict, nor do we want to look back and say, “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.” And that factor is market disruption.
Understanding market disruption
One of the most prominent examples I like to reference when discussing market disruption is the traditional retail bookstore. What happened to that store when Amazon -- with its vast library, digital readers, and instant content delivery -- came along? Or how about taxi companies when Uber launched and gained popularity? That entire industry was disrupted when both customer and employee experience were revolutionized, leaving taxi companies scrambling to compete. Being business-resilient isn’t just about identifying and reacting to competitors, it’s also understanding and anticipating the potential for changes in customer and employee preferences while determining how your organization might survive -- or better yet, thrive -- in the face of such disruption.
The pace of market disruption continues to accelerate. This makes perfect sense, since fast-moving technology advancements and adoption are often the underpinning for much of the disruption we see today. We must continually challenge ourselves to consider how these technologies might change how we interact with our employees, partners, and (most importantly) customers. It’s no longer sustainable -- certainly no longer profitable -- to keep status quo. Those who don’t innovate, die.
Business resilience means being innovative and forward-looking. Companies face disruption not only from evolving markets, but from the threat of innovative startups capable of upending sectors. Today, the average lifespan of a company listed on the S&P 500 is less than 20 years; in the 1950s, it was 60 years. So, it should come as no surprise that innovation is a survival skill—and those that lack innovation could face extinction.
Stewards of resilience
If we can all agree that organizations today are built on technology foundations, then it’s reasonable to assume that those responsible for the technology, also have a responsibility to ensure resilience within the organization.
The good news for IT leaders working during this era of constant impending market disruption -- because it will happen in your industry -- is that you can drive so much of the innovation. No matter what role you play in your organization, CIO, director, account executive, solutions engineer, we can all serve as a “steward of resilience” and consider further how we might also impact the resilience of our customers.
To drive innovation in our business and ensure resilience, there are several things IT leaders need to do:
- Be aware: We need to be knowledgeable about what’s happening around us in our organization’s industry (as well as the technology landscape) and create that same level of awareness for our company or organization. Understand where your competition comes from. It’s not just from other companies you happen to sell against.
- Be responsive: Pay close attention to what is happening around you and consider how it might disrupt the market you’re in. Remember, if somebody else is trying it, they must have some reason. For example, it will offer customers more value or convenience. Don’t be caught off-guard. Determine if a response by your business is warranted and if so, what the response should be.
- Be proactive: As stewards of resilience, we should also challenge the status quo. Bring ideas to the table as you become aware of threats or possibilities. Engage your team in the conversation and experiment.
Being resilient isn’t a “set it and forget it” activity. It’s a relentless, often fanatical pursuit to be at the forefront of your industry. Your organization will be tested repeatedly and its level of resilience will be the difference between crumbling, barely surviving, or thriving despite market disruption. Better to be the disruptor than to be disrupted.
As SVP of Technology and Engineering at Carousel Industries, Chris is responsible for leading more than 120 engineers and architects and driving Carousel’s technology portfolio and solutions roadmap. Throughout his 20-plus year career, he has been a champion for helping organizations find new ways to solve problems and maximize opportunities leveraging technology. An accomplished public speaker and technology luminary in the vendor space, Chris has emerged as a champion for innovation in the greater community. Chris is a member of Vistage International and the Cisco Systems Americas Partner Technical Advisory Board. He was a former professional services special interest group leader for 1NService and Vice Chairman of the Rhode Island Tech Collective.