Resilience is about an organisation or country’s ability to keep its systems, structures and communities operating in a dynamic and stable way during a major disturbance.
The pace of political, social, economic and environmental change means the world looks very different today than it did just five years ago. Some of these changes have been unprecedented and unforeseen while some of them have happened more slowly and with greater predictability.
Whether the changes have been known or unknown, businesses have had to adapt to face the challenges of operating in shifting landscapes. They've had to deal with external threats like terrorism, cyber attacks and natural disasters; operational risks posed by advances in technology; and internal challenges such as changing workforce demographics and human error.
Paul Butcher, Director, BA&IS, believes that the connected nature of business and society adds to the problem: "The rapid evolution of technology has made systems more interconnected. This interdependency means we're more exposed. When we bring financial systems, supply chains and infrastructures online they become vulnerable to the type of cyber attack that, until recently, were confined to IT departments. And creating a network of interdependent systems means that if one fails the others are impacted too."
Some businesses have navigated these challenges with minimum disruption while others have failed under adverse conditions. What is it that causes some to survive when others don't?
Can resilience engineering help us 'get ahead' of risk?
Resilience is about an organisation or country's ability to keep its systems, structures and communities operating in a dynamic and stable way during a major disturbance. Whether due to natural events, operational failure or human attack, a resilient organisation doesn't simply batten down the hatches and wait for the threat to pass - it remains functional while managing to protect itself and stay productive.
Currently, resilience isn't always a given. In recent years countries around the world have had to deal with an increasing number of natural threats such as Hurricane Katrina in the US and multiple typhoons in the Philippines and South-East Asia – causing major damage and long-term instability. In the UK the National Health Service suffered significant reputational, operational and financial damage after the 2017 Wannacry cyber attack on its systems. We've also experienced unseen infrastructure failures such as the widespread power outages in the US and Europe in 2003. These led to cascading failures in essential services such as water and food supply.
As an emerging approach to dealing with these problems resilience engineering aims to enhance the safety of life and property and improve the resilience of engineered structures and systems.
Data will arguably become the most important component. On the one hand the ability to collect and analyse data will help to give as much visibility of risk as possible. On the other hand it will also help to measure resilience. Applying the right methodologies, metrics and processes will deliver valuable insights to help shape the resilient systems and structures of the future.
Where are the resilience challenges today?
The World Economic Forum recently placed cyber attacks as one of the top three global risks for 2018. This means that cyber security has become a 'must have' consideration for any resilience solution.
To assure the safety of our customers and the users of their services we acquired cyber security specialists, Nettitude, in March this year. While we've always provided assurance and risk management using a range of cyber security systems this acquisition offers greater scope to provide broader assurance in increasingly complex networks.
Beyond cyber security, businesses are also starting to look at resilience within supply chains. Consumers and organisations across all sectors of industry are dependent on the ready supply of goods, products and raw materials. Disruption to the supply chain at any point can have serious repercussions for international business.
How can we make resilience practical and achievable?
To help understand the threats and to help businesses prepare to defend themselves the Lloyd's Register Foundation (LRF) has collaborated with Arup to create the Resilience Shift initiative. This follows the LRF Foresight Review of Resilience Engineering in October 2015 which made the case for investment in resilience engineering. The initiative's aim is to strengthen resilience within and between global critical infrastructure sectors through better understanding of the issues as well as through knowledge sharing.
Can resilience engineering benefit wider society?
While the initial purpose of resilience engineering may be to protect businesses and infrastructures from risk, its ultimate purpose is to protect the safety of people. Those who rely on the services provided by infrastructure suffer the most critical consequences if they go wrong. Societies, like businesses, need to be resilient.
By applying the approach of resilience engineering we can enable people to switch in an instant from their daily task to handle emergency situations.
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