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Managing risk must be a collective effort

By Jonathan Barrett

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the way that businesses operate in 2020. Company procedures and strategies have had to be amended and re-thought as individuals, businesses and key decision-makers have tried their best to adapt to an unprecedented situation. One particular area of businesses that have endured challenging times during the last few months has been risk managers and the subsequent enterprise decision-makers – the pandemic serving a real wake-up call that risk, more than ever, is undoubtedly everyone’s business.  

The devastating impacts on various industries, unfolding in just a few months, highlights the need for businesses to build resilience into every facet of their operations – and for risk management to evolve and adapt to new global realities.

Australians have seen their fair share of crises in the past few years – including fires, floods, and public health threats. In fact, according to PwC, companies with more than 5,000 employees are more likely to experience more than five crises in five years or roughly one crisis per year. As the repercussions of the pandemic continue to play a part with Australian businesses, it’s clear that protocols and plans across multiple industries will need to be updated to account for the ‘new normal’ that is beginning to surface. This is why organisations must take proactive and collaborative measures to prepare for the unknown, involving not only those tasked with “risk management” in their titles but every team that is expected to mobilise in a crisis to ensure business continuity. From the customer-facing retail manager responsible for in-store teams to chief experience officers (CXO) and corporate board members, there are lessons and information to be learned, shared and implemented between every level of an organisation. 

An integrated information approach for the 24/7 information age

Unexpected events can occur anywhere at any moment, radically affecting people and operations. Where and how information flows within and outside an organisation during these events can make the difference in sustaining operations and keeping people safe. Key decisions about how and where to allocate resources in a crisis are necessarily informed by some measure of proprietary company information – such as the number of affected employees or warehouses – as well as external data sources such as announcements from public health officials.

But the broader global public information landscape is increasingly diverse and fragmented. From social media and blogs to information sensors and international news sources, breaking information is available in multiple languages and formats and generates millions of data points every hour. Organisations must somehow process this information at scale to derive an early and clear line of sight into developing situations with additional context, and enhance decision making as events unfold.

Moreover, it is increasingly necessary for businesses in crisis mode to uncover and act on their most valuable nuggets of public information in real time. This is true across corporate functions and the field — from facilities management, security, and IT to corporate communications, sales, and supply chain professionals. Customers, suppliers, shareholders and other stakeholders, such as the media, may uncover those data points first and demand answers — potentially leaving an organisation steps behind in its response.

With public safety, as well as financial viability at stake in the current pandemic, an integrated approach to accessing, sharing and acting on real-time information in the overall risk workflow is even more critical.

Collective responsibility for real-time risk awareness and management

Real-time information must first reach the people tasked with evaluating and responding to potential threats in their spheres of responsibility. From the CFO at headquarters to her financial risk analyst to the logistics manager in another country, there are roles directly responsible for identifying risk early and taking swift action to protect people and assets.

But business leaders must be more comfortable than ever with sharing vital pieces of real-time information with a broader range of teams at the right moment – mainly because that information is increasingly surfaced in the public domain first. Accurate real-time information must flow across an organisation – not because every individual is empowered to make a strategic decision, but because every individual must feel equipped to safely and confidently implement actions that support the decision.

This is true for a first-line warehouse manager, a grocery store cashier, or the CEO of a multinational corporation. Everyone working with the same understanding of ground truth can take proactive steps to protect colleagues, the business and its assets in a crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic shines a harsher light on the delicate fabric of an increasingly interdependent global economy. Currently, changes to a country’s trade policy, or a supply chain process within an organisation on the other side of the world, can have immediate and potentially lasting business, financial, political, or even physical safety and health repercussions on an entire Australian industry.

Managing corporate risk should not sit with a single team or person inside a company. The initial alerts to a crisis might flow into a global security operations centre, for example. Still, that information should be shared with key teams throughout the organisation and lead to collective and coordinated actions. This is how we will build business resilience champions: those who use real-time information enhance organisational agility, sustain business continuity and address stakeholders with candour and confidence – even in a period of uncertainty. 

Jonathan Barrett is the senior vice president EMEA & APAC at Dataminr, a global information discovery company. He previously held senior roles with tech companies including Dell and Microsoft.

Strategy beyond the crisis

Leaders looking to create a more collaborative and holistic risk management approach no doubt will also be thinking about how the pandemic will impact their strategy.

Join us to find out how you can assess your current strategy and how effective it will be as you transform and transition beyond the crisis. Leadership expert, Shannon Cooper hosts our upcoming Webinar: Strategy Beyond the Crisis.

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