Forrester: Business resilience will help organizations attain competitive advantage

No matter the crisis, you must be able to pivot to leverage new opportunities and fill gaps that competitors can't.

business decisions

Image: iStock/Bulat Silvia

Resiliency has become a big buzzword in the past year, but it's important not to overlook why this is a key trait for business success. A new report from Forrester discusses the criticality of planning and executing a future fit strategy to become resilient and pivot during a crisis.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some firms were able to pivot quickly and successfully to new opportunities. Others, Forrester said, were able to fill market gaps left by competitors who were unable to cope.

A resilient organization is one that has "the ability … to deliver on its vision and brand promise, no matter the crisis," wrote the authors of "Business Resilience As A Competitive Advantage." Such firms grew at a rate of 2.4 times their industry average, according to Forrester's Q3 2020 North American Future Fit Technology Survey.

SEE: Change brings possibility: A new era of sustainable digital transformation (TechRepublic)

Firms with resilient practices had other notable traits. Among them:

  • An increased emotional bond to existing customers. Examples here are streaming companies that offered concurrent watching to their streaming platforms to connect people separated by COVID-19 lockdowns. Adidas pivoted the 3D printing technology it was using to make performance footwear to create 3D printed face shields for U.S. healthcare organizations, first responders and underserved communities, according to Forrester.
  • The ability to serve new customers when others couldn't. Examples here include Nissan, which was able to return to normal production one month after the Japanese tsunami of 2011, while Toyota and Honda had to wait until the fourth quarter to recover, and lost billions of dollars in the process.
  • Ensure customer privacy while serving them. Collaboration platform Zoom was cited as a company that saw massive growth due to the pandemic but was heavily criticized for poor security and privacy features and lost out on customers that banned its use. Zoom rebounded after freezing code for 90 days to bolster security and privacy features, and won back customers like the New York City schools, the Forrester report said.
  • Gain supply chain advantages to deliver to customers. Although Spotify saw a drop in advertising dollars at the beginning of the pandemic, the audio streaming platform provider turned to original podcast content using its existing platform features. Subsequently, the number of podcasts users listened to more than doubled in one quarter.
  • Take advantage of new market opportunities. Airbnb developed a new catalog of online experiences so people could pay to enjoy virtual activities during the pandemic.
  • Offer perks to attract new talent. Many firms have made work from home a permanent arrangement so employees can work wherever they want. By proactively ensuring there was sufficient bandwidth to handle severe weather events, a midwestern credit union was able to let all employees easily work securely from any location—a good precursor to the pandemic lockdown.

Seven pillars of business resiliency

The Forrester report also details how to achieve business resiliency and lists seven pillars that it recommends organizations master. They are:

  1. Business impact analysis and continuity planning
  2. Systemic risk management
  3. Dependable IT
  4. Automation
  5. Employee experience and workforce contingency planning
  6. Supply chain risk management
  7. Crisis and incident management

Forrester further advises organizations to invest in "resilience-specific technologies,'' such as digital process automation, robotic process automation and low-code platforms.

Most firms weren't ready for COVID-19 because they believed the risk of a pandemic was too remote to consider in their planning, Forrester said. By failing to prepare, these firms were not prepared to succeed, the report said.

"However, for those that had honed their resilience practices, COVID-19 provided new ways to reach existing customers and to get new ones,'' the report said. "Tech execs have a key role in ensuring that their firms are ready for the unexpected, especially as businesses expand their dependence on technologies and digital transformation to succeed."

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By Esther Shein

Esther Shein is a longtime freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in several online and print publications. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, a managing editor at BYTE, and a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week)...