"Corporate agility and resilience is the next competitive edge for business" says Bill Raisch, MBA '81, the director of the International Center for Enterprise Preparedness (InterCEP) at New York University. Founded by Raisch after 9/11/01, InterCEP is "the world's first major academic center dedicated to private sector crisis and emergency management, business continuity, and operational risk," according to its Web site. "Organizational resilience" is the term Raisch uses to encapsulate these combined concepts.
"Resilience is not just about preparing for disasters - it's about corporate survival and advancement in a volatile marketplace," notes Raisch. "Resilience is about enabling an agility to respond to both risks and opportunities that can explode in today's global business environment."
Corporate resilience constitutes a rising, new discipline in organizational management, claims Raisch, who served as the private sector preparedness advisor to the Federal 9/11 Commission. "Increasingly, there is a convergence in the corporation of historically siloed functions to create a more coordinated approach to operational risk and corporate agility," he says. "Risk management, legal, security, business continuity, safety and health, public relations, IT disaster recovery and other related areas are communicating more across silos, coordinating their activities, and in some cases being integrated organizationally under a single senior level manager."
Raisch points out that it makes sense to coordinate and bolster corporate agility, given today's volatile market place. "Research undertaken by Oxford Metrica of a broad range of Global 1000 companies indicates that, over any five year period, there is an 80 percent likelihood of a major crisis occurring that will significantly impact any publicly traded business," he says. His list of disparate events that can result in a business crisis includes natural catastrophes, cyber threats and other IT vulnerabilities, heightened international political tensions, supply chain interruptions compounded by just-in-time inventory regimes and the voracious appetite of a 24/7 media.
As Raisch sees it, his role as director of InterCEP, and the role of his colleagues, is to act as catalysts in developing actionable strategies designed to promote resilience in both the public and private sectors. "We have been termed a 'think tank' by some but in reality I believe we are more of a 'think and act' organization," he says. "We certainly look to observe, identify, and reflect on key issues and produce thoughtful research on these issues. . . . But we also have a clear bias toward action and impact." In their roles as catalysts, Raisch and his colleagues assist in identifying key issues, and also serve as conveners, facilitators and collaborators around those issues.
InterCEP's work generally falls into answering the following questions: What is resilience? Why should a company invest in it? How can resilience be effectively implemented? Raisch elaborates on each of these areas, below:
- " The "What" of Resilience: "It is critical to have a commonly acknowledged definition of "what" resilience is in order to efficiently pursue it. We are working with key stakeholders to define the core elements of effective practice in resilience and organizational preparedness."
- " The "Why" of Resilience: "Businesses are charged by their owners to invest their capital wisely and in pursuit of the highest return. Absent a compelling rationale to invest in resilience, no resources will be invested. InterCEP's efforts focus on both identifying and communicating the existing 'business case' for resilience as well as actively working with others to develop new incentives."
- " The "How" of Resilience - Getting Tactical: "InterCEP selectively focuses on producing strategies, tools, educational initiatives, and forums which provide insight into the implementation of resilience in the organization."
In 2007, InterCEP played a key role in advancing legislation slated to establish a national voluntary business preparedness certification program: "Implementing the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007" (Public Law 110-53), which was passed on August 3, 2007. InterCEP is currently working with key stakeholders and the government to promote this initiative, "which will provide a common approach to measuring resilience," says Raisch.
"I have the terrific opportunity to work at the intersection of business, government and academe during this very dynamic era," Raisch says. "I am fortunate to work with some of the most dedicated and insightful colleagues from each of these sectors. The strategies that we jointly evolve may take the form of new public or private initiatives, programs or policies as well as best practice standards. We are all motivated by the nature of the issues we address: Crises of one sort or another can dramatically impact people's lives, a business' continuity, and regional if not national economies." Moreover, Raisch adds, "The same ability to react quickly and effectively to a crisis can be used to seize a market or competitive opportunity, implement a new corporate initiative, or introduce a new product line. The Council on Competitiveness agrees and has recently defined corporate resilience as the next competitive edge for American companies."
Five things organizations should do to increase their resilience
Bill Raisch, MBA '81, director of the International Center for Enterprise Preparedness (InterCEP), identifies steps crucial to improving an organization's resilience:
- Communicate with and involve representatives from the entire organization, as well as key stakeholders including suppliers, unions, and government.
- Identify your critical business processes and their dependencies. What are the core functions of your business and what resources do they require, including people, property and processes? Mapping these key processes is critical both to defending them and enhancing their effectiveness in terms of agility.
- Assess your risks.
- What natural, human, or technological hazards could impact the operation of your business? Also consider market volatility and the risks and opportunities that it can bring.
- How likely are these risks to occur and how could they impact your operations (especially people, property and processes) if they did occur?
- Prioritize these risks based on probability and potential impact.
- Address your high priority risks first.
- Prevent or mitigate the impact where you can; prepare to respond and recover where you can't.
- Apply cost-benefit analysis to allocating resources but also leverage the fact that many hazards have similar impacts and thus a single effort can address several risks. For example, many hazards can result in denial of access to your building (hurricanes, floods, fire), so establishing an alternate worksite or capacity to work remotely can assist with multiple risks. Don't forget about the importance of planning not just for response to crisis but also recovery.
- Use an established, consensus-based standard like NFPA 1600 to develop an ongoing and evolving program (not just a written plan in a binder). In developing your program, consider each of the elements of the National Preparedness Standard (NFPA 1600), available free of charge at www.nfpa.org. Key elements include defined program management, risk assessment, prevention, mitigation, effective communications, resource management, planning, emergency operations, incident management, training, drills, exercises and ongoing program evaluation.