Business continuity planning isn’t something businesses in the modern world can afford to ignore. A strong business continuity management program (BCMP) is essential to ensuring an organization can continue through and bounce back from an incident.
The world is changing. New technology, fervent geopolitical movements, and a shifting climate are reshaping the world. And what’s following this transformation is an evolution of the risks businesses and organizations need to plan and prepare for.
Risks today are increasingly interconnected, and the future forecasts a tighter bond will form between them. And thanks to the modern world’s web of risks, businesses and organizations can never be sure which dominoes will fall when an incident kicks off. Preparation, through business continuity planning, is essential for any entity hoping to have a lasting impact.
The modern risk landscape
What does a modern web of risks really mean?
AXA, in partnership with the Eurasia Group, published the 2019 AXA-Eurasia Group Future Risks Report in October 2019. The report, stemming from a survey the two organizations jointly conducted, identifies the most prominent risks facing organizations today.
The top risks are the ones we identified above: climate change, technological risks, and geopolitical instability. The report also identifies the following as emerging risks for the immediate future:
- Social discontent and local conflicts
- Natural resources management
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data
- Pandemics and infectious diseases
- New threats to security
- Macroeconomic risks
This list doesn’t immediately present the biggest catch of this list. In what’s a seemingly growing trend in recent years, all of these risks share connections with one another.
AXA and the Eurasia Group use two of the biggest risks outlined in the report to demonstrate their biggest finding.
“Technological risks” is a bit of a catch-all term; many risks are recognized within this category, including cyber security threats, data regulation and practices, and more. Say a cyberattack were to occur at a company that holds millions of people’s private information. The result of those people’s information being stolen, disseminated, and used with ill intent could easily cause social discontent.
Here’s another angle that gives credence to this thesis. Climate change, and the other risks associated with it, like the loss of biodiversity, easily branches into geopolitical instability. Calls-to-action by populations to governments, the forced migrations of peoples, and resource scarcity all piggyback on climate change. These all also stir the geopolitical pot, generating a whole gamut of risks that organizations would need to prepare for alongside the immediate impact of a changing climate.
What does this mean for business continuity?
For business continuity and its practitioners, this new understanding of the nature of risks is an important concept to grasp. Look at it through these lenses:
When a tree falls in a forest, the effect is mostly contained. The tree may take down branches of other trees, or take down a weaker neighboring tree altogether on its way down. But, for the most part, the tree’s area of effect is small; every tree in the forest won’t fall because a singular tree within the forest fell. This is how risks used to be perceived.
Now, risks are much more like a carefully placed string of dominoes. Each domino that falls hits and knocks over the next domino in line. This continues, even if the line is branched. One instance or incident, however, is all that’s needed to set everything in motion. The effect of one domino falling reaches far beyond the world of that one domino; this is how risk is now, and will continue to evolve in the modern world.
Business continuity planning for modern risks
Why is it important to understand the new nature of the world’s risks? For business continuity professionals, knowing this reality is key to constructing a successful BCMP for an organization.
Without a comprehensive BCMP, the chain reaction of incidents possible of the modern world’s risks may spell serious damages and losses for an organization. Business continuity planning is the antidote for the uncertainty these risks deliver.
A key player in a program that will be successful is a built-in understanding that risks are no longer siloed; risks are connected to each other more than they ever have been.
For example, social discontent may generate geopolitical instability. A practitioner who doesn’t account for the domino-like nature of modern risks will be building a BCMP less optimized for handling disruptions to business.
What pushes the importance of establishing a strong BCMP in this landscape even further is the immediacy of risks and their associated incidents.
Many of these risks can develop with little to no warning. Combine the sudden on-set of an incident with the possibility of it snowballing into other incidents, then imagine the impact this fusion would have on an unprepared organization.
This would be a prolonged disruption no organization, much less an unprepared one, would want to face. But some organizations may have to, and it would be best to approach it with a tried-and-true game plan.
The risk environment modern organizations face is markedly different from the one of years past. Now risks branch into each other and often chain together. One risk coming to fruition means other risks could do the same.
The only way for businesses to stay ahead of this risk landscape is to plan. Business continuity planning will position an organization well in this environment and limit the impact disruptions from these modern risks and incidents have. Risks may be inherently unpredictable, but planning will help any business contain them, their resulting incidents, and their disruptions to business.