Why resilience matters

In a world where disruption occurs suddenly and cascades unpredictably, companies need resilience more than ever

Gina Mastantuono is the chief financial officer of ServiceNow. She guest edited the Resilience Issue of Workflow Quarterly.

“A good half of the art of living is resilience,” writes contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton. The same is true for the art of building a successful organization.

We define organizational resilience as the ability to maintain performance in the face of environmental, political, social, cyber, and other disruptions. The global pandemic reminded us that in an interconnected world, disruption can occur suddenly and cascade unpredictably.

At the same time, some companies and governments weathered the COVID-19 challenge better than others. So what are the attributes that distinguish the world’s most resilient organizations? How should leaders orchestrate people, processes, and technology to take resilience—and its twin, risk management—to the next level of excellence?

To help answer these questions, we worked with ESI ThoughtLab to survey more than 1,080 senior business leaders across six industries in 13 countries around the globe. Company sizes ranged from $350 million to more than $5 billion in annual revenue.

We ranked our respondents as leaders, intermediates, or beginners based on the progress they reported in key resilience areas, such as modernizing tools for planning and response, building a resilience-focused culture, digitizing workflows across the enterprise, and introducing cross-functional risk management. Our results highlight the practices that distinguish resilience leaders from laggards, along with the performance gains that accrue from moving up the resilience curve.

Enterprises face a mix of organizational and technical challenges to building resilience. The top one is uncertain ROI and business case—an obstacle that can prevent some from putting in place the technologies and processes they need. Organizational silos further complicate resilience efforts.

For beginners, resilience is a relatively new concept. Since much of it is about prevention and preparation, as well as about recovery, beginners often find it difficult to demonstrate a business case and ROI. Beginners also struggle more with lack of skills and know-how.

As organizations advance, these issues become less of an impediment. Instead, intermediate-stage organizations are burdened with organizational obstacles, such as siloed data and varying mentalities across teams.

Leaders face different challenges around systems and data. Leaders see much larger roadblocks from systems requiring too much configuration, lack of budget for more advanced techniques, difficulty in modernizing processes, and outdated or inaccurate data.

[Take the self-assessment: How resilient is your organization?]

Leaders and laggards also diverge in the benefits gained from various resiliency steps. For example, nearly twice as many leaders report improved customer satisfaction and higher shareholder value as benefits, compared to laggards. Leaders also enjoy more profitability, higher staff productivity and retention, as well as greater market share.

The performance boost that leaders gain from their efforts argues for a much more proactive approach to building resilience by all organizations. While we can’t predict future challenges, we can strive to make our organizations ready for whatever comes. That’s why we packed this issue of Workflow Quarterly with insights and recommendations to help you build resilience into every corner of your company.