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The Need for Adaptive Recovery

Rising to the challenges of operating a business in the "New Normal"

Business Continuity Plans typically focus on disaster recovery after the loss of conventional assets. These assets could include things like data, data centers, production sites, or equipment. With COVID-19, there’s an even greater loss: of people, productivity, and goods and services, of normalcy.

The "new normal" is the latest buzz phrase for what the world will look like post-pandemic. The question is, how will businesses overcome the challenges of the “new normal” and the changes brought about by the pandemic? We can’t answer this without first understanding what the “new normal” is:

“There’s a spectrum of possible post-coronavirus futures. No one straight line from here, to there. The new “normal” depends on several unknowns. While the pandemic curve is flattening in parts of the country, we still don’t know if we’re at the front end of the wave, the early days of a wave that will pass over us, or the beginning of a multi-wave pandemic, where each crest, each roller, grows smaller, like the trajectory of a bouncing ball. The virus will keep churning through the population, keep “trying to find humans to do what it does…”

- Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota (source).

We often operate with a certain underlying assumption that, through Taylorist factory design thinking, we can control everything. Yet in our current situation, there are limits to what we can control. There is no known, new normal that we can plan for. We're only able to adjust to continuous changes as they arise.

We will have to adjust to a new standard while the surrounding dynamics evolve. This is the process of adaptive recovery.

The path to recovery is never a straight line, yet standard business continuity plans are linear, designed to return something to a known state. This is why they fall short when applied to adaptive recovery situations. We tend to optimize for efficiency with the assumption that essential elements, like people and logistics, will remain largely unchanged and uninterrupted. We optimize this way although external, uncontrollable factors are a consistent, pervasive threat.

We tend to optimize for efficiency with the assumption that essential elements, like people and logistics, will remain largely unchanged and uninterrupted. We optimize this way although external, uncontrollable factors are a consistent, pervasive threat.

Agility and adaptiveness are critical characteristics that all organizations should nurture to help combat both external and internal stressors. Organizations should optimize to handle any level of change in all areas of the business. Those doing so are using data to help.

Big Data and Analytics are playing a pivotal role in helping organizations become more agile and assist in true, adaptive recovery. Improvements in data, applications, and infrastructure enable more accurate forecasting and the ability to understand new, emerging patterns. Actionable insight is being placed in the hands of more people as data becomes increasingly accessible, contextualized, and useful. There’s greater transparency than ever before.

The exchange of contextual data is instrumental in establishing adaptive recovery in any situation. It will only become more important:

  • Business leaders will be provided with a continuous flow of timely and contextual data about the health of their business

  • Individuals and teams will be empowered to “raise alerts” when they discover something anomalous, without egos or reliance on Taylor ism mechanisms impacting the value of the information

  • New metrics will provide greater insight into trends and feedback mechanisms

  • Clearer, more accurate interpretations of the data will be used to make decisions that can prevent bottlenecks and highlight particular areas that, when aggregated, can have a significant impact.

These components help organizations with adaptive recovery by identifying change, understanding the rate of change, forecasting the atypical, and providing the ability to move with confidence in the decision-making and planning process. All these elements of modern-day Business Continuity Planning are helped along with the use of data. These are plans that don’t “wait”, but have the ability, freedom, and knowledge to move at the pace demanded to stay ahead of the competition.

An everlasting rule of “Normalcy” is that normalcy always changes. Whether slowly or abruptly, it will change. Be sure to ask the following questions before it does:

  • How robust is your big data and analytics program and it's accompanying tools?

  • Are your analysts limited to internally held data?

  • Do you collaborate with outside interests that can help shed insights on the signals your data is providing?

  • Do you leverage the positive aspects of the herd within your company to create transparency and contest-ability over your data and the conclusions?

If a company isn’t agile enough, it will fail. Even if it survives the “first wave”, there’s no guarantee that it will survive the potential next, as conditions may be completely different. Adaptive Recovery is about enabling organizations to use data to adapt to the "new normal" and whatever new normal the world throws at us in the future.

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Jim Szczygiel has been working as an Information Technologist since the early nineties. Most recently Jim has held roles as a consultant, product manager, data analyst, sales, and solutions architect along with working with agile and extreme programming teams. Jim has provided services in hundreds of different fortune 500 clients in the sectors of; Chemical and Natural Resources, Finance, Insurance, and Manufacturing. Read More


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