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BlogWhy it is crucial to understand the challenges of Resilience in Digital Environments

Why it is crucial to understand the challenges of Resilience in Digital Environments

Shearwater Group plc., who has a base in Preston, has partnered with the Institute for Strategy, Resilience & Security (ISRS) at University College London (UCL) to release a ground-breaking digital resilience focused White Paper. The Paper is entitled Digital Resilience – Understanding the Challenges of Resilience in Digital Environments and it explains why it is crucial to understand the challenges of Resilience at a Senior Management/Boardroom level.


The Paper highlights seven key messages for Senior Executives:

1.   Digital resilience is about the resilience of your organisation and its business processes in an all-pervasive digital environment, not the resilience of your IT function. Organisations must acquire a dynamic state of continual evolution and learning and the capability to use new challenges not merely to rebound but to bounce forward – crises become pointers towards opportunity and catalysts for evolution.

2.   Digital resilience is one of the most valuable long-term properties of your organisation and it must be managed at senior leadership level, and understood throughout the entire organisation, as both a business and a technical matter. It must not be conflated with cybersecurity or disaster recovery. It defines your capabilities for forward evolution and survival in the light of a changing environment, through the successful implementation of an evolving business strategy.

3. The core business processes of most firms and 100% of digitally native businesses are now entirely dependent upon digital technology. Reversionary modes of operation, for example, switching to processes that are less dependent upon technology, are often no longer possible in the event of disruption or failure. If your assessment is that significant digital disruption may disable your core business processes, then digital resilience has become tantamount to business resilience.

4. Digital resilience is about opportunity and risk in equal measure, with new technologies generate novel modes of both resilience and irresilience. Equally a failure to adopt new technology that delivers superior customer value leads to poor competitiveness versus more nimble rivals is a resilience issue as a determinant of business survival or failure.

5. More secure does not mean more resilient. While a less secure technology solution may pose access vulnerabilities, a more secure solution may introduce flawed assumptions, irresilient processes or lead to catastrophic business inflexibility. Any new digital infrastructure must therefore be assessed in terms of its overall impact on business resilience, both in terms of opportunity and risk.

6. The networked interactions of processes, people and technologies generate complex non-deterministic, emergent and unforeseen resilience vulnerabilities. In a fully connected environment, the more tightly coupled, rapid, and efficient digital processes are during normal operation, the more disruption poses a threat and the greater the risk that cascading failure will render core processes inoperable.

7. Digital resilience requires a fundamental shift in how you manage both risk and opportunity. Traditional models of atomised risk mitigation and impact analysis are no longer sufficient. Digital resilience must be assessed in terms of combinations of long-tail effects and capabilities to anticipate, respond, learn and evolve appropriately to shifts in a hyper-networked digital environment. Digital resilience thinking ensures that the entire organisation is considered and challenged in the light of enabling and balancing growth, evolutionary change and security needs appropriately.

Commenting on the report, The Rt Hon. Lord Reid of Cardowan Executive Chairman, ISRS said: “Since its foundation, ISRS has focused on addressing complex, existential challenges within government, business and the public sector.

“Today we are witnessing an inexorable and accelerating shift towards a pervasively interlinked world of systems and supply chains that touch virtually every aspect of our lives. Goods, services, people, organisations and information are becoming globally interconnected and accessible in ways that were previously unimaginable. We are merely at the start of this digital journey − emergent fields such as machine learning and quantum computing will advance, combine and be applied in ways that will render today’s technologies as antiquated as a manual typewriter.

“Immersion in this digital environment presents organisations with the strategic imperative to generate value and take advantage of an unparalleled abundance of new opportunities. Yet increased reliance and the expectation of continuous availability come at a price, predicating operations on the assumption that underlying systems will always be present and functional.

“This white paper attempts to draw out some of the most important issues of both opportunity and risk and illustrates the need for consideration of digital resilience at the most senior levels. I believe that there has never been a more important time to do so.”

Added Michael “Mo” Stevens CEO, Shearwater Group PLC:

“In 2016, Shearwater Group agreed its transformation strategy to build a leading UK based digital resilience group. This forward-thinking strategy was designed to address the complexities and challenges of the future that enterprises will need to meet if they are to survive, evolve and succeed in the expanding global digital business environment.
We see that many enterprises have yet to move beyond a traditional, defensive “lock-down” approach to corporate perimeters, or to embrace the ongoing viability and vitality of their enterprise within the context of customers, suppliers and partners.

“Cyber security has at last been elevated to the boardroom, however, business resilience remains poorly understood, with digital resilience in particular, seen only as a property of the strength of an IT system’s security.

“This traditional approach fails to recognise digital resilience as an enabler of today’s entrepreneurial and fast-moving digital business environment, and the resultant competitive advantage it brings. Digital resilience is the very foundation of the modern business and should be recognised as the most valuable long-term property of an organisation.

“We are delighted to have supported the development of this white paper by ISRS, which sets out a framework for the challenges of a new generation of leadership thinking in the digital environment. As we stay abreast of the ever-changing digital business environment, we look forward to building on the frameworks, challenges and questions presented and to participating in many further discussions with the business community that we serve.”

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