How to survive disruption: an IT leader’s guide to business continuity

High availability (i.e., system redundancy) and disaster recovery (i.e., backup and restore) are common topics for IT leaders and practitioners. On the other hand, topics about business continuity might not have been a high priority a few months ago. Now, in a time of a major disruption, it’s all anyone can talk about.

Business factors that have held steady (e.g., commercial demand, supply chain predictability, stable regulatory environment, a healthy and available workforce, etc.) have been whipsawed into volatility one way or another. Now business leaders and systems professionals are collaborating like never before. It’s one thing to recognize the chaos when it comes, it’s another to put programs in place to help your organization weather the storm. 

Actionable ideas that IT can align around

Different organizations are responding in various ways based on their competitive and operational context. However, there are some tactics that are general enough to be applied across industries and specific enough for practical actions to be queued up in an expedited manner. With COVID-19 as a catalyst for these types of conversations, here are four practical ways for IT to keep their business viable and preserve the value they create for customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders in the short- and long-term. 

#1 Open your ecosystem: 

Now more than ever, businesses of all types and sizes must adapt their value proposition and delivery models to stay viable and relevant by exploring opportunities in new channels. IT leaders may not be in the position to pioneer a new channel, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t uncover new opportunities through targeted unbundling and engaging the ecosystem to co-create value for their customers.

By leveraging an application network based on a secure API-led approach to connectivity to connectivity, forward-thinking enterprises can create plug-and-play ecosystems of capabilities and data to both: 

  • Allow other enterprises to tap into their ecosystems to build unique experiences and services that are responsive to the needs revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic and future disruptions.
  • Leverage the ecosystems and capabilities of other enterprises for compelling and responsive applications of their own. 

For example, one of the world’s largest fast-food retailers is leveraging MuleSoft to deliver directly to doorsteps via food delivery apps, such as Uber Eats and DoorDash. With some of its largest markets limited to delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, this fast-food retailer was prepared for a potential surge in online and mobile orders through the food delivery apps without deploying its own delivery service.

#2 Automate and integrate: 

Teams around the world are finding new ways to collaborate now that co-location is viewed as a risk during COVID-19. A deeper commitment to automation and integration work is no longer just advisable. For many enterprises, it’s existential given that so many processes developed and investments made have been based on the bedrock of dependable co-located labor.

Automation and integration efforts often go hand-in-hand because integration delivers the context necessary for programmatic execution of tasks; i.e, each one needs the other to deliver business value. Automation and integration efforts have been in the spotlight for the last decade with a mixed bag of effects upon businesses, employee engagement, customer loyalty, and society at large. Noting this, initiative leaders in this space would be wise to ensure that automation and integration efforts deliver not only improved efficiency but also improved service quality. With current unstable conditions, predictable productivity and high-quality service delivery may be key factors that keep some enterprises viable. MuleSoft customers from around the globe are moving forward with this charge to benefit the world around them. Here are a few examples:

  • One of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies launched a COVID-19 test that promises to speed up patient testing. They brought this test to market faster than any other company by using existing APIs in partnership with MuleSoft to accelerate the quality and regulatory controls required to launch, as well as to quickly set up test order tracking.
  • With thousands of small businesses in the US vying for $350 billion in government-backed loans, the MuleSoft team is helping a U.S. bank automate the loan application process by connecting systems like Box to Salesforce to cut down on manual processing and increase the likelihood of securing government-backed loans for clients.
  • In what has been the greatest challenge ever to the airline industry, the dramatic increase in flight changes and cancellations have left many airlines to handle increased call volumes. One of the largest commercial airlines in the U.S. is teaming up with MuleSoft to deliver self-service cancellation options to reduce call hold times and improve customer satisfaction. 

When defining your automation and integration programs, look to your enterprise’s core values and charter. Helping teams see that their work (when it accomplishes both higher efficiency and improved service quality) can set your enterprise up for a return to growth is a crucial component of community leadership.

#3 Track and manage your risks: 

It’s critical for enterprises to develop a detailed and systematic approach to mitigating risk amid so much uncertainty. Diligent leaders can develop an enterprise-wide commitment with foundational efforts aimed at cataloging, tracking, and acting upon known risks. Tracking risks collectively across the enterprise ensures resilience and business continuity. Aligning on frameworks for tracking and managing risks sets the stage for budget conversations that can clarify the appetite and fortitude needed to make business resiliency a core aspect of a response plan for COVID-19 or any future crisis. 

Organizations across industries can take a page from the banking sector’s book. While banks have used the latest technologies to provide new customer experiences, they have also encountered greater exposure to IT and operational risks associated with the increase in digital services. Leading banks are adopting a business-first approach in partnership with IT to mitigate risk and creating specialized teams within the enterprise-risk-management group. McKinsey & Company put together six principles to guide best practices for technology-risk management in the digital age that can apply to banks and companies across other industries. 

#4 Get disciplined on debt: 

Legacy systems carry operating costs beyond basic financials. Brittle infrastructure and legacy code can lead to defects and incidents. Isolation, reproduction, and remediation activities inhibit and distract enterprises from completing planned activities that are tied to achieving financial goals. In a pandemic context, these types of issues can be existential for business or lead to even greater consequences. Understanding how system and process debt allow incidents to happen and defects to linger can be a much-needed lever to allow product and service teams to focus. Teams need to pay attention to solutions that deliver mission-critical capabilities designed to adapt their business models for our current crisis context or to serve communities at risk. 

Enterprises committed to infrastructure transformation have yielded strong financial benefits as well as positioned themselves to be more nimble and responsive in the face of challenges. Australian workers’ compensation insurance company, icare, aligned their infrastructure transformation with an API and integration strategy to improve its insurance claims processing speed by 2-3x. By surfacing data from multiple systems through a single claims insurance interface, icare was also able to benefit from a new basic capability “to gain added oversight over the pattern and nature of injury claims” – cited as a key aspect that has led to icare’s ability to sustain operations at a time its customers and the Australian society need it most.

One thing IT leaders can do immediately is require all product and business leaders to attend and participate in root-cause analysis (RCA) sessions and backlog grooming efforts. Being familiar with friction points and brittle systems is a core requirement to keep trust between disciplines high, allowing teams to operate smoothly in trying times. When practiced at scale, participation in debt cataloging activities allows for a multi-discipline, enterprise approach to retire debt items based on shared advantage and community impact, rather than local biases. 

Challenging times call for pioneers who can partner

In this new and precarious context, IT leaders must continue to marshal the forces of people, process, and technology, but also align with courage, community, and commitment. With the stakes higher than ever, we don’t have much room for command and control mindsets that can’t collaborate across organizational boundaries. In any of the concepts detailed above, there are a set of leadership traits that are required to bring these ideas to life:

  • Ability to understand and align with top priorities.
  • Be practical enough to ensure work is scoped reasonably and gets completed within a relevant time frame.
  • Be clear and compelling to rally teams around a common vision and execution plan.

Leading through change is never easy. Enterprise technology pioneers who are brave enough to lead, connected enough with their communities, and committed enough to stay the course in volatile times will emerge with a multidisciplinary effort to turn concepts into action at scale.

Check out more examples of MuleSoft customers who are rising up to today’s challenges to quickly deliver on mission-critical projects and ensure business continuity. 



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