Building resilience is a vital management strategy

We should share examples of agility and resiliency with our colleagues, family, and friends throughout this challenging time, and provide inspiration for how we can come out of adversity stronger, says Mark Fieldhouse

Business leaders understand that change is a necessary element of managing and growing companies. Changes can be predictable, such as the need to comply with regulations or meet new industry standards. They can be engineered, when replacing outdated technology for example. For the most part there is time to prepare and incorporate change. Sometimes, however, the landscape shifts unexpectedly and the lasting impact is difficult to predict.

Charles Darwin said: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’ He was referring to the ability of animals to adapt in order to survive environmental changes, but his words are applicable to people and businesses as well. You can have a best-selling, award-winning product offering and the smartest and most diligent team of people, but these factors alone do not guarantee that you will endure challenges.

In recent months, agile and responsive management has allowed some businesses to not only survive in difficult circumstances, but also thrive and continue to offer services at an exemplary standard. What we have learnt from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy is that it is the flexibility, creativity and determination of certain organisations and people – those that are built resilient –  that enables them to come out of the situation stronger than before. Many have embraced new technology and business processes in order to ensure continuity of service for customers and support for their employees. Others pivoted their use of resources in a more altruistic way: local taxi companies have refashioned themselves as delivery services, bringing groceries to those in isolation; distilleries, perfume and cosmetics companies have transformed their production lines to create hand sanitisers; fitness clubs are offering their gym spaces to the NHS to house extra beds; and Virgin Media has paid tribute to British resilience with a morale-boosting film documenting how people across Britain are keeping positive during the lockdown.

Technology’s vital role in resilience

For business leaders, resilience has become front and centre in decision-making. A new approach to working safely and at a distance has required companies to change how they work and interact with customers. Those that did not already have a plan to transform digitally had to make quick decisions about technology investments in order to remain operational. Others, that were planning or in the midst of their journeys to modernisation, found increased urgency to expedite change.

Everywhere there is evidence of how digital products and services are serving as connecting points between companies and consumers, employers and staff, and families and friends. The changes we’ve all experienced during the Covid-19 lockdown have brought into stark relief the importance of applications and networks to both economic and human resilience. We have relied heavily on the infrastructure behind these services, often without realising. The elasticity and flexibility have enabled internet infrastructure to support a rapid, global shift to remote work, along with surges in online learning, gaming, and video streaming, which have generated record-level internet traffic and congestion. BT reported that daytime online traffic increased by as much as 60% in March and according to a report from Havas Media Group 59% of people were using video streaming platforms more in April than they did prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. As a result, the crisis has repeatedly tested limitations around network resilience, but apart from intermittent, short-term incidents, public internet and cloud services remain largely performant which has given businesses cause for relief. 

Can enterprise infrastructure cope?

Elevated levels of internet congestion have led business leaders—even those of digitally advanced companies—to re-evaluate technology and systems that keep their digital services and applications constantly performant, not just during the current crisis, but to ensure they are prepared for any future challenges. Whether replacing old infrastructure or building on existing networks and applications, these forward-looking decisions are crucial if they are to remain competitive.

One strategic group of technologies can deliver significant gains in security, resilience and even IT automation. Embracing a modern DNS, DHCP and IP address management (DDI) solution that is built for the cloud will play a vital role in modern application development, delivery, and access. 

Stress on VPNs

Another area where the need for automation, scalability and flexibility has been particularly evident is in the increased usage of virtual private networks (VPNs) by organisations. The move to universal remote work has put enormous stress on management to oversee systems that were originally designed to support just 5% to 10% of a business’s workforce, yet recently have provided 100 per cent remote access for employees worldwide.

With every indication that, following the lockdown, employees will want to continue working remotely at least some of the time, managed DNS, which is designed to achieve maximum reliability and performance for websites, is coming into its own. When used to direct VPN users, this technology vastly improves the experience for remote employees by automatically connecting users to the best VPN access point based on users’ locations, resource availability, number of existing sessions, and a dozen other variables that can impact user experience. Instead of being thrown off just as they try to access or upload an important document, employees seamlessly connect—and stay connected, which is a crucial factor for business resilience.

Planning for the future

A lot has been learned by business leaders over the past two months, not least how they can build resilience into their systems to help them manage future events. Even during normal times, internet congestion gives rise to challenges, including overwhelmed networks and resources that can result in latency and even downtime. Planning for the adoption of technologies like edge computing and multi-cloud, along with multi-CDN, should be considered now as part of a modern approach to IT architecture that will ensure future resilience.

It is down to those of us who work in network IT to collaborate with, and advise, our customers and partners regarding the resilient technology infrastructure upon which the world increasingly relies. But it is equally incumbent on organisational decision makers to look ahead and assess how they have adapted to change during the crisis. We should share examples of agility and resiliency not only with our colleagues, but also with family and friends because they demonstrate the value of human and technological resilience to persevering through this challenging time, and provide inspiration for how we can come out of adversity stronger.

Mark Fieldhouse is General Manager EMEA at NS1

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