The imperative to infuse digital technology into your organization is not new, but it’s more essential than ever that organizations embrace digital transformation and business continuity to improve processes. I have recently written about the need for digital innovation in business continuity, outlining the steps every organization needs to take. These steps involve a close examination of the digital technology they can apply effectively for business continuity during a pandemic, natural disaster, cyber event or geopolitical situation.
The first step to achieving an adequate level of risk mitigation and effective continuity planning requires understanding the digital technology available — whether standalone or part of your organization’s applications and business processes. This step is essential to determining how your organization can not only streamline its digital network but ensure it’s operating in a more intelligent and automated manner. Then, of course, that knowledge will help you more adeptly identify gaps or areas of needed improvement in your current technology portfolio. The importance of addressing cybersecurity and digitally securing all levels of your operations and technology across the entire workforce is essential as remote workers and virtual operations can be a risk that should be remediated.
The first step to achieving an adequate level of risk mitigation and effective continuity planning requires understanding the digital technology available.
To ensure the best possible business continuity, I have outlined critical digital technologies that can help organizations become better prepared by connecting the workforce and business value chains from the front to the back office. Remember that good technology is about more than robust capabilities; organizations should consider the user experience and include evaluation areas such as usability and management.
Analytics and data are required technologies for every organization. When designed and implemented properly, analytics help organizations apply data science to all types of data to generate information and insights that can be used to improve outcomes. Now, as most organizations operate across dispersed systems and cloud computing environments, the role of analytics and data has become even more essential. Organizations face an imperative to monitor and guide the business and IT operations in a way that supports business continuity. To accomplish this requires competencies across the range of data technologies, including catalog, governance, integration, quality and the preparation and processing that supports both analytic and operational use. The data skills then enable analytics to be applied to the range of customer, employee, financial, product and sales processes to generate immediate information and insights through use of metrics and indicators to not just monitor but help guide future outcomes through predictive analytics. True business continuity demands more than an awareness of changes in operations; organizations should take advantage of machine learning to better employ notifications and alerts to drive collaborative action and decisions.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is the use of technology to process information in much the way humans do, including improving accuracy as more data is processed. AL and ML can deliver insights by detecting patterns and anomalies, and in black swan events that disrupt business continuity, these insights are especially essential to help an organization adapt to unexpected changes. AI can increase workers’ effectiveness by guiding actions and improving interactions to ensure efficient operations across the organization. In addition, organizations can use AI and ML to augment existing technologies and ensure that any RPA or other automation is providing optimal results. Organizations that desire business continuity should seek to take advantage of these powerful tools but should also scrutinize their AI and ML and be vigilant about identifying and eliminating bias, whether human or algorithmic.
Blockchain distributed ledger technology is a shared database of assets and their owners located on multiple nodes (sites) on a network. This interconnected and secure technology can provide value by supporting an array of financial and operational business processes. Its successful use requires effective data governance and integration methods and technologies to ensure data quality and smooth transactions. Blockchain technology can be a foundational element of business continuity as it enables uninterrupted processing that can streamline business processes. Organizations can optimize operations across cloud, on-premises systems and the extended enterprise to ensure continuous operation of the demand and supply chain.
Unifying messaging and conferencing isn’t innovative in and of itself, but the ability to instantly embed messaging and conferencing can introduce new levels of collaboration that dramatically improve productivity.
Collaboration in business involves technology-mediated digital communications to support workforce collaboration and thus organizational efficiency. Unified communications, now in a cloud computing environment, have clearly facilitated message-based collaboration but have become antiquated silos full of tools. A newer portfolio of open cloud communication technologies operate on platforms that include tools to support streamlined business processes and more efficient collaboration. To support business continuity, the use of real-time and recorded video can enable effective collaboration across the workforce; however, many organizations have learned the hard way that they must secure all communications to reduce risk and negative consequences. Unifying messaging and conferencing isn’t innovative in and of itself, but the ability to instantly embed messaging and conferencing can introduce new levels of collaboration that dramatically improve productivity.
Conversational computing enables people to use natural language to digitally interact, collaborate and take action. Business continuity means ensuring the organization can operate in a streamlined and efficient manner — at any time in any location. The use of conversational computing and natural language capabilities can enable the next level of productivity improvements in communication and collaborative technology. Organizations should seek to enable well-designed and applied natural language interactions on every channel in the workforce and extended set of customers and suppliers, whether the channel is independent or inside of business applications. Conversational computing technology can enable more effective interactions between people and machines — the foundation of the agility needed to support business continuity.
Internet of Things (IoT) operates by using devices and sensors to transmit data through messages, enabling new business services and operational improvements. Organizations that have embraced the use of IoT with connected, intelligent devices are able to process data in motion, often in real time. Utilizing IoT to monitor and detect how machines and people are operating can be the technological underpinning to ensuring effective business continuity. In addition, messaging and streaming technologies that are reliable and secured can optimize business processes and reduce the risks posed by discontinuous operations. Using analytics to analyze in real time the operational data from IoT devices makes it possible to efficiently monitor and adjust both machine and workforce operations. Autonomous operation is a key requirement for supporting business continuity and can help organizations achieve better operational efficiency.
Digital technology, properly enabled on smartphones, tablets and even wearables, enables organizations to connect people to the applications and information they need to perform their roles and meet their responsibilities. Effective use of mobile capabilities is essential to maintaining business continuity. This includes not just simple and easy access to applications but up-to-the-moment information and insights. In addition, collaboration and communications should be easy. Business continuity means a workforce can fulfill its roles and responsibilities from a home office, on the couch or the deck at their home. Any applications or technology that is not mobile-enabled to support the operations of the business should be replaced, as this is an essential requirement for ensuring organizational readiness.
The imperative for digital transformation has increased the need for robotic process automation (RPA) that can orchestrate the workflow of messages and transactions across the organization and the extended demand and supply chain. Robotic automation facilitates the effective use of digital technology in a business by operating across the range of cloud computing environments that support the applications and systems that fuel the enterprise. This is especially important in customer-driven workflows, which often involve a myriad of systems and people across departments and a need for speed and accuracy. RPA also helps ensure an organization can appropriately prioritize situations and take action or notify and engage responsible individuals. This automation and interconnectivity is critical for business continuity. RPA helps optimize processes in workflow technology throughout enterprise to ensure the business operates efficiently.
Extended reality (XR) is technology that combines augmented, mixed and virtual environments with worker experiences using mobile technology, including wearables. Extended reality can help the digital operations of businesses to virtually visit an array of retail, distribution or manufacturing facilities to evaluate machines or parts to improve or service a location. This virtualization can instrument more efficient methods to enhance consumers’ understanding of physical objects such as products and equipment in just about every industry. Virtual reality and wearables technology can help organizations better understand activities and optimize business efforts. These technologies can help organizations achieve better business continuity by enabling them to operate virtually across marketing, sales, and customer and field service and should be an investment priority.
Digital technology enhancements to underlying processes can have an immediate impact on top- and bottom-line results. Perhaps more importantly, innovative technology help enable meaningful business continuity. Determine your path forward by assessing whether your organization’s digital technology enables business continuity. This is an imperative for the entire executive leadership team, especially for those chief digital and innovation officers who have been allotted new roles to ensure an effective strategy is built on taking advantage of digital technology improvement opportunities that enable business continuity.
P.S.: If you missed my colleague’s perspective on business continuity, Fortune Favors the Prepared, check out this subtle but critical reminder on the importance of planning as part of any business continuity initiative.