The 2018 FIFA World Cup has now started, with four weeks of football to enthuse fans across the globe. Behind the sporting glory and the celebrations, there will be a firm spotlight on the resilience not just shown by the teams, but also the wider infrastructure in place to make it all happen. Dr. Sandra Bell looks at the lessons that organizations can take from the event.
As with any global sporting event, attention always turns to the host city and their readiness to host such an occasion - everything from stadium capacity and accessibility, to hospitality in the stadium is called into question. However, while the onus is currently on Russia to host a smooth and successful event, the World Cup should be seen as a catalyst for all businesses to improve the long-term resilience of both their workforce – their ‘teams’ - and their own infrastructure.
So, what lessons can businesses learn from the World Cup about readiness to be resilient?
Dealing with emerging security threats
Security threats have always been a factor for major hospitality events, but even in recent years these threats have changed both in nature and severity. FIFA has already discussed upping the security for the World Cup, with growing cyber security attacks on infrastructure becoming increasingly prevalent.
The World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Risks Report 2018 names cyber attacks and cyber warfare as a top cause of disruption in the next five years, coming only after natural disasters and extreme weather events. In this same vein as World Cup organizers, businesses cannot just look at what has gone on before but need to constantly keep one step ahead of new threats. The nature of attacks is constantly evolving, with Internet of Things devices and critical supply chains becoming frequent targets - and no industry will be immune.
As more applications migrate to the cloud, it’s crucial that security moves further up the agenda for business leaders. Cyber threats continue to evolve, and defences will need to be a central component of any digital and business strategy to ensure you aren’t the one caught out.
Holding your audience captive
Imagine the uproar if the television networks cut out or froze at the exact moment a goal was scored, or a red card issued? Broadcasters will have put in vast amounts of effort to ensure their systems can scale up to cope with huge viewing figures - the 2014 final pulled in one billion viewers in total – with this year likely to top that figure.
Whether you are a broadcaster, an online retailer or a manufacturer, these days any kind of downtime is frowned upon by customers and shareholders, and can result in a substantial knock to revenue. In the era of ‘all-time’ business availability, organizations must ensure that their infrastructure has the flexibility and scalability to accommodate additional traffic. The conversation has very quickly evolved from “how do I get my systems back up and running quickly?” to “how do I stop them ever going down in the first place?” Having the right infrastructure to cope with customer demand should be top of the agenda for any business that wants to thrive.
Adopting a ‘business as usual’ mindset
With an estimated 1.5 million tourists expected to visit Russia during the course of the games, an incredible amount of pressure will fall not only upon game organizers, but businesses in the surrounding area: transport disruption, infrastructure strains and street closures are just some of the considerations that come into play for a major sporting event such as the World Cup.
While local businesses may benefit greatly from a potential increase in business, they should ask themselves whether they have put the appropriate steps in place to ensure they can operate as normal under this increased stress. Herein is a lesson to be learned for businesses across the globe: there are external and internal factors at play which are beyond your control, and it’s your job to ensure your organization is fully prepared to guard against what lies ahead. Organizations must ensure that they have taken the adequate steps to anticipate and prepare for disruption. Be that conducting a business impact analysis and risk assessment, refreshing incident management and business continuity arrangements, or implementing test solutions, to ensure they’re well positioned to respond should the need arise.
Building a team that can attack as well as defend
To this point we have looked at the defensive elements of resilience – reducing the impact and likelihood of something negative happening when faced with cyber attacks, downtime and other potential disruptions. However, you can also manage risk by stacking the odds in favour of a positive outcome. The aim of every team in the world cup is to win games by scoring more goals than their opponents. They do this by fielding defensive players to prevent their opponents scoring goals against them and forwards to score goals. The same is true of business. The aim is to have more market share than your competitors. If you only defend then you may retain your market share – but if you don’t attack then you will never win more. A resilient business has defenders and forwards who work together and a leadership who can inspire the grit and determination to win.
While the organizers of a major event like the World Cup will be taking a ‘risk-adverse’ stance to ensure the event runs smoothly, local businesses and the football players themselves will aiming for resilience. They will be sufficiently robust to be able to defend their own goal but agile enough to take the opportunity of scoring when it arises.
Climbing the league table
While the World Cup kick-off may be a leisurely pastime for our summer evenings, there is a lesson that organizations can take away from the smooth execution of a large-scale sporting event. From a resilience perspective, the competition teaches us about how we can make improvements to our own organizations.
Like a football team, a resilient organization needs three things to succeed: a well-trained, well-equipped and fit ‘squad’ who will work well as a team, a supportive network and on-the-ground team, and most importantly, they need to be led by an inspiring coach with a clear direction. Only with this in place will you be the organization who scores the winning goal.
Dr. Sandra Bell, Head of Resilience, Sungard Availability Services.