Matt Hodges-Long explains how the concept of herd immunity can be translated to the business arena and how the resulting herd resilience could bring benefits for business continuity and resiliency.
Most people understand the evolutionary concept of ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and business is no different. Resilient businesses are fitter and stronger and hence more likely to succeed.
The challenge is that the majority of businesses still only pay lip service to resilience and this presents an uphill struggle for our industry.
I believe ‘herd resilience’ is the solution. Indulge me for a few minutes and I will explain…
The starting point
The majority of small and medium businesses are disengaged from business continuity and resilience. Yes many will say they have a business continuity plan; but very few have a business continuity capability or a coordinated program to continuously improve their resilience.
This lack of engagement means that at the macro level, businesses are exposed to an unnecessarily high level of risk. Taking steps to reduce risk at the micro level across individual businesses that make up the mass market will have a tangible and positive impact at the macro level.
Why herd resilience?
Describing the mass market as the herd is in no way meant to be patronising, it is meant as a hook and to be memorable.
During the last swine flu outbreak I read an article about the concept of herd immunity where immunisation of a critical mass of livestock actually protects the members of the herd that are not immunised. In effect the immunised members of the herd provide a ‘firewall’ against disease transmission.
I immediately saw a parallel with business continuity in the sense that incremental improvements in resilience across the mass market (the herd) not only benefits the individual business but also delivers positive benefit across the supply chain and in turn the wider economy.
At the moment business continuity service provision is primarily focused on the easy to identify, well-resourced larger businesses. However numerically they do not represent the herd. So the question is, how do we work together to improve the resilience of the herd?
Three steps to herd resilience
- Simple solutions: develop service-led business continuity solutions that are simple to understand, affordable, easy to implement and most importantly recognise that management teams are busy and do not want to become business continuity experts.
- Education: regularly communicate with the herd to keep them engaged and committed to ongoing resilience improvement. Within our business we call this the ‘resilience journey’.
- Incentivise: make investment in resilience attractive through a combination of recognition and reward. Smaller businesses have multiple calls on the same money and internal resources, so the financial case for resilience investment needs to be clear. Government, trade bodies, insurers, procurement managers and marketers all have a role to play in promoting and recognising resilience.
The long haul
Achieving true herd resilience is a big challenge (many might say impossible) but as an industry we owe it to ourselves and society to work together to make this happen. From my perspective it represents a win, win, win:
Business win: as a business owner the resilience journey will identify process improvements, safeguard revenue, reduce costs and make their business a more attractive proposition to customers;
Societal win: improving resilience across the herd will maintain productivity, maintain employment and protect tax receipts;
Industry win: companies involved in the business continuity industry will benefit from the significant growth in demand.
A new way of thinking
Over the past 10 years I have helped over 2,000 small and medium sized companies (that do not currently employ business continuity teams) with elements of their business continuity planning and risk mitigation activity.
All of this experience has highlighted what we need to do as an industry if we want to appeal to the herd:
- Speak our customers’ language rather than trying to blind them with science;
- Keep it simple and demystify the business continuity planning process;
- Provide end-to-end managed solutions (reduce client workload rather than increase it);
- Focus on positive outcomes (i.e. by becoming resilient you will be able to sell more, reduce overheads, increase enterprise value etc);
- Demonstrate return on investment (resilience budget is not normally ringfenced so a clear case for investment is required).
If you like the concept of herd resilience and would like to work together to make it happen I would be delighted to hear from you. Similarly if you think the concept is flawed or doomed to fail I would be similarly delighted to hear from you. By overcoming the objections and concerns the proposition gets stronger. By sharing our industry knowledge and working together to deliver change we will all benefit from a resilient future.
About the author
Matt Hodges-Long is the managing director of Continuity Partner, the world’s first managed business resilience service. Prior to launching Continuity Partner Matt designed, launched and ran the Workplace Recovery division of Regus plc across 100 countries. Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org
I thoroughly enjoyed the read and agree with the principle philosophy behind “The Herd”.
A couple of points:
- SME’s that are in competition with each other will require discussion, which in the time precious competition invigorated world we live in may represent an inordinate amount of hard word work (and the follow-up ongoing commitment in managing) to ultimately succeed. Perhaps geography (and customer base) may well play a part in determining success rate.
- We used the “HERD” principle at a local government level council I worked for. It initially had support from the top but it did not have the appropriate project sponsor to ensure it was managed correctly. Result: after the initial “trumpets blaring” fanfare and some small follow-up programs; it died a very quiet death. One reason the principle failed to function correctly, was the program was ultimately left up to two people to manage. They were not given additional time to perform the work required and were also outside the area of real council influence: (i.e. not executives, managers or even specialists) that was required for the process to be truly adopted. Learning outcome: Ensure you have the appropriate people to champion the process and that the project sponsor has some real clout!
Independent Consultant, Australia