What Does Operational Resilience Mean in a Crisis Response?

crisis response operational resilience

Only a few years ago, business continuity was considered the gold standard of crisis response: If an organization was able to continue operation following an emergency situation, it was considered well-prepared for potential threats. However, today many organizations aim to go beyond  business continuity to achieve operational resilience—to not only come back from a crisis, but to continue day-to-day operation with minimal changes to the business.

Resiliency refers to the capacity for a company to thrive, despite the inevitable challenges that it will face over time. IBM has defined operational resilience as “the ability of an organization’s business operations to rapidly adapt and respond to internal or external dynamic changes—[including] opportunities, demands, disruptions or threats—and continue operations with limited impact to the business.” This includes crises such as severe weather, unplanned IT outages, violent incidents, public relations gaffes and everything in between.

Many organizations are not effectively prepared for potential crises. And when one does hit, they struggle to get back up and running. 

If your organization was struck by a significant crisis tomorrow, how resilient would it be? Would you merely survive the emergency, or come through it as strong as you are today?

To find out how well your organization can weather a crisis, let’s take a look at what operational resilience actually means in the context of a crisis response:

1. Stakeholder preparation

To ensure your organization can bounce back from an emergency, you must ensure that each employee is prepared for any potential crisis. This minimizes the impact of an emergency situation and ensures a more seamless return to normalcy.

One of the best ways to be fully prepared is to effectively distribute emergency response plans to all stakeholders. Simply storing your plans in a physical binder is no longer enough; today, a growing number of organizations are ensuring operational resilience through a crisis by leveraging advanced technologies. For example, using a mobile crisis app or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform enables you to disseminate your plans directly to every employee’s mobile device.

Training is another key to preparation. Ensure that all employee are up-to-date on the most current plan, and revisit it with them regularly.

2. Communication

Effective communication with stakeholders—employees, partners, investors, the media, etc.—is vital for maintaining operational resilience. When people have the most relevant, up-to-date information about a crisis, they can react accordingly. This keeps panic and rash decisions to a minimum, which improves crisis response.

This is another way in which mobile technologies are helping today’s organizations. Mobile crisis management tools enable companies to send real-time alerts and notifications to stakeholders’ mobile devices, which enables you to reach more people more quickly than traditional methods such as manual call trees and emails.

3. Incident response

Of course, quick and effective incident response is a top priority for thriving through a crisis. Emergency response plans should be well established, approved and practiced before an emergency ever occurs. Resist the urge to become complacent; in today’s heightened risk landscape, it is not a matter of if, but when, a crisis will strike.

3. Service continuity

Part of your incident response plan should provide for continuity of key service functions, which helps ensure resilience. Make a plan for all aspects of operations and services to enable them to continue—as seamlessly as possible—during and following a disruptive event. Be sure to assign roles and responsibilities to the appropriate people, and test the plans before they are disseminated. When possible, have back-up personnel for each key responsibility.

4. Ongoing program management

Remember: Operational resilience isn’t a one-time task to check off your to-do list. It’s an ongoing responsibility that must be revisited time and again.

One of the most effective ways to streamline crisis response it to digitize your business continuity plans and related documents. This makes referencing and updating the plans easier, and mobile crisis management tools enable you to distribute new information to all employees and other stakeholders instantaneously. Most importantly, these technologies allow you to rest assured that your plan is up to date, and in the hands of every employee, at the moment the next crisis hits.


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