As we reflect on 2020, one thing is clear: managing uncertainty will continue to be at the forefront in 2021.

When it comes to operational resiliency and risk, leaders must continually think about risk intelligence through the lens of critical events, especially when almost 50% of the US workforce in major cities is working from home. From a global pandemic to civil unrest, severe winter weather, flooding, wildfires, power outages, and active shooter scenarios, the frequency of these sudden, and often unforeseen critical events change rapidly. They have a direct impact on an organization’s resilience strategies and oftentimes a company’s bottom line.

Here are some stats:

While challenges of 2020 and 2021 thus far have propelled organizations into driving operational resiliency, the volatile environment businesses find themselves in today has forced companies into being better prepared for uncertainty, especially in a remote working environment. Nearly every organization has operational resiliency as a top priority.

Business leaders now know they need to run their organizations in a state of constant risk identification and mitigation: planning for the unpredictable now, more than ever, must be business as usual. Not only is it important to create and execute stable crisis plans, but resilient leaders today will be focused on using risk intelligence which prepares their people (and subsequently, operations) for the unknown. How fast and far their business can move before, during, and after a crisis is the new standard of marketplace survival.

Organizations must look at how emerging technology can improve risk intelligence. By leveraging risk intelligence that actively monitors critical events in real-time using AI and machine learning (ML), businesses can stay one step ahead of uncertainty.

Leveraging relevant data sources to measure the impact

One imperative element businesses should consider this year is the data they are using to inform risk management.

Duty of care has become more complex. Companies have gone from needing to monitor the locations of their office and facilities, to needing to monitor operations and property housed within the homes of employees and workers. At any moment in time, there are countless data sets that are related to the security of your people and property – data such as severe weather, pandemic-related outbreaks, civil unrest, or riots. While risk intelligence is vital to risk management, it is nearly impossible for an analyst to constantly, in real-time, determine how such crises occurring around the world translate into an operational risk to their company’s own people, places, or property.

Organizations need to quickly identify and understand which events will impact their operations. When thinking about risk intelligence, your organization may be monitoring intel coming from police department feeds, weather feeds, media sources, and more. Having a system in place that can rapidly sift through and select the most relevant, verified data sources, then surface what is most important to your organization, can help leaders quickly measure the impact of crises, make informed decisions, and take action. 

Using AI for timely risk intelligence

It is impossible for a human to monitor, understand, and analyze all the data that is relevant to your organization, especially in times of a critical event, where every minute counts. Forward-thinking business leaders are using risk intelligence approaches which include artificial intelligence to speed up decision making.

Through machine learning, computers can scan and interpret large sets of data and identify critical events which matter most to an organization much faster than a human-only crisis team. AI and ML also can help to quickly sift through sources to find the ones already validated and ensure the insights are accurate. This intelligence is then set to overlap with a company’s people, places, and property to assess which critical events to monitor and which pose a risk to a company.

The benefits of this AI approach to risk intelligence can easily be seen in crisis scenarios related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, a leading consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand’s COVID-19 response team needed to decide what data was relevant to assessing risk posed to their employees and operations across 12 locations in North America. From global, national, and local news, to public health sources documenting the fluctuating COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the U.S., and changing local and national health mandates, no one analyst in the organization could handle the influx of information while also trying to manage other security operations imperatives.

The crisis team needed an artificial intelligence solution with a geographic overlay which could sift through the data and instantly provide relevant information that posed a risk to where their people and operations were located. Armed with this information, incident managers could better understand what was happening in the areas near their operating facilities. The team could then predict possible pandemic-related disruption and determine which facilities were impacted and which facilities should close. They shifted employees and production to different operating facilities without operational interruption, keeping employees safe. With the right approach and technology in place, businesses can move faster and make smarter decisions to resolve critical events.

Integrated technology platforms to speed up response recovery time

When it comes to making decisions during critical events, every minute counts. According to a CS&A/ PR NEWS 2019 Crisis Management Survey, 41.4% of corporate executives believe reacting quickly is the most difficult aspect of crisis response for their organization. In just a few minutes, business leaders must quickly assess the situation, where it is taking place, its severity, and how it will impact their organization. This intel informs the next step: activating business continuity plans. Business leaders need to inform the right people of crisis management next steps via pre-determined communications channels.

As the unpredictability of critical events intensifies, organizations need to be prepared to react quickly and communicate to a growing number of internal and external stakeholders in real time throughout the crises. A critical event management platform can help your organization stay in control. Software that integrates risk intelligence, critical communications and incident management in one platform and connects with your other business continuity solutions can help ensure your business is informed, connected, and safe during critical events.

Critical Communications

Communicating during a crisis has become increasingly more challenging, as remote working leads to unprecedentedly dispersed personnel. Remote employees’ attention is divided among a myriad of communications devices and channels, all of which have become increasingly important in a remote-working environment. That is why it is imperative for business leaders to have a central platform, trusted and familiar to their organization, to send both targeted and mass communications from one place. Leaders should also leverage solutions’ two-way communications capabilities to ensure a dialogue on critical updates is established between management and employees – the integral, cultural component of effective business resiliency.

Incident Management

“Incident response” used to be a term which referred mostly to IT crisis management, but incident management has evolved to encompass all the plans and processes that help to anticipate and mitigate risk from incidents of all kinds – from workplace disruptions to severe weather. At the core of a good response plan is incident management. It offers a simple way for geographically dispersed crisis managers to quickly communicate information and instructions which mitigate risk in critical incidents.

Looking Ahead

Without question, business leaders must be quick to prepare for what can be anticipated in 2021, such as a new wave or outbreak of COVID-19 or continued civil unrest. However, this approach alone will not make our organizations operationally resilient. True resiliency is achieved when we orient our crisis management infrastructures toward what is unknown, unpredictable, and improbable – embracing risk intelligence approaches which include AI and ML to reduce those risks.

To this end, leaders need to explore how technology can ensure more targeted, relevant data sources which inform their risk intelligence approaches; explore the combination of pairing automated analyses with in-house analysts for quicker decision making; and integrate their various business continuity solutions to streamline response times and ensure they are informing the right people at the right time with actionable and accurate information.

Now is the time to improve operational resiliency and prepare for the unpredictable.


Mark Herrington

Mark Herrington is the chief executive officer at OnSolve, a leading critical event management provider for enterprises, SMB organizations, and government entities. Herrington has a strong track record of more than 25 years of founding, managing, and leading high-growth businesses of various sizes within the enterprise technology and electronic commerce spaces. As CEO, Herrington is responsible for further developing and implementing the company’s growth strategy, spearheading heightened customer engagement, and driving dynamic innovation. He leads the company’s strategic focus, global expansion, business and operating plans, culture development, and increases competitive differentiation in the markets in which OnSolve operates.

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