What is operational resilience and why is it important to small businesses? Basically, operational resilience is a measure of an organization’s ability to continue to function despite events that could disrupt its operations (https://www.techopedia.com/definition/30773/operational-resilience ). The importance seems obvious in that a resilient business is more likely to survive, even thrive, despite events beyond its control.
We have no better recent case study than the challenges recently faced by small businesses in the wake of the COVID pandemic. The most resilient companies have been the ones who have been able to use technology to adapt to the measures used to prevent the spread of the disease, particularly, remote work. This has revealed some of the resilience obstacles that adept use of technology tools can overcome.
Our expertise lies in creating a robust technology platform that our clients can use to scale their financial reporting as their business scales. Our clients are subject to regulation, as are our tools, so we have a good understanding of the operational risks and rigorous mitigation strategies that could apply to any business. Here are the best practices we’ve observed that can apply to any company interested in building in operational resilience with technology.
Make Use of Cloud Computing
Having much of the workforce asked to work from home has illustrated the limitations of a workplace that can only do business from a physical location. While some businesses who deliver services that only can be done in-person may shrug this off, there are many elements that even an in-person business can benefit from if they can adapt to remote interactions such as ordering for pick-up, efficient appointment scheduling that does not rely on someone manning a specific phone number, and other elements of doing business. None of these technology advantages can be leveraged without cloud computing.
Cloud computing delivers computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet (“the cloud”) offering remote access to many information technology infrastructure tools that were once co-located with the business using them. Not only does cloud computing alleviate the need for business to be done where the IT infrastructure exists, it is often a shared resource, which reduces the cost for users giving even small businesses access to faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. (https://azure.microsoft.com/en-in/overview/what-is-cloud-computing/) Because sharing raises a need for security, this also offers users access to state of the art security tools and practices. While hacking events have been widely publicized, businesses relying on cloud computing from industry leaders are more able to adapt to a geographically dispersed delivery of services with much less vulnerability to security threats.
Reduce Reliance on Print-Based Transactions
Print based transactions seem safer to many unfamiliar with cloud-based technology. However, when doing business remotely, printed material creates many problems, not the least of which is making sure deliveries are received. In the financial industry, money must be transferred. Printed checks are less secure than you think as there is opportunity for delays, loss, and theft. When the delayed delivery of printed material triggers downstream consequences they create workflow problems. And, of course, the transfer of printed materials are bound by specific locations and can’t toggle between in-office and work-from-home operation scenarios.
Reduce Workload of Repetitive, Low Expertise Tasks
Lockdowns won’t last forever. But investment now in technology that supports operational resilience has a positive impact that goes beyond the current crisis. Having workflows that are supported or automated by technology frees talent to work on higher value tasks that require their expertise. In addition, it reduces errors. Finally, it requires less in person interaction.
Use Technology as an Agent of Scale
By building workflows around technology automation tools, you reduce the cost of taking on more business. Technology tools let you take on more clients/customers per employee, keeping your margins high, even as you grow. Technology tools act to anchor reliable workflows. And, ultimately, help you deliver excellent customer experiences.
Originally published in the Denver Business Journal Leadership Trust on March 4, 2021.