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Time for CIOs to Rethink Systems Resilience

With the COVID-19 pandemic, CIOs and business leaders are ensuring that their organizations can continue to operate through this unprecedented disruption by quickly addressing the stability of critical business processes and underlying systems. In this context Accenture brings out a report highlighting that companies can weather the storm caused by COVID-19 will depend largely on business resilience planning and execution. In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Ramnath Venkataraman, Senior Managing Director, Lead – Integrated Global Services, Accenture Technology discusses the findings of the report with a focus on how enterprise technology strategies can directly impact their business operations and underlying systems during a major disruption or crisis.

CXOToday: What are the key challenges businesses are facing during a major crisis like COVID-19 from an enterprise technology standpoint?

Ramnath Venkataraman: The COVID-19 crisis has not only introduced new disruptions to enterprise systems but has also drawn an unprecedented attention to stress testing of both applications and infrastructure. According to Accenture’s research that was conducted in late 2019 across 8,300 companies, only the top 10% have cracked the code on systems resilience. It is crucial for organizations to understand the current state of their IT systems and take swift and informed action, to enhance their stability of critical business operations and underlying systems.

Some of the technology challenges companies face in the current crisis, include:

  • Business continuity risks like supply chain disruptions and unavailability of critical resources and gaps in business continuity protocols.
  • Sudden increases (for example, because of a shift from physical to digital purchasing) or precipitous declines in volumes.
  • Responding to immediate business needs in a dynamic environment to enable rapid decision-making with real-time data.
  • Workforce productivity challenges due to employees working remotely, associated with connectivity and security.
  • Security risks including countering bad actors who will inevitably seek to take advantage of individuals and organizations.

CXOToday: What kind of tech strategies are companies adopting to enable business operations? Could you please explain with examples?

Ramnath Venkataraman: The impact of COVID-19 has underscored the need for IT agility in response to disruption. Organizations are looking to rapidly scale collaboration capabilities and modernize underlying systems and applications to ensure business continuity and drive innovation in the long-term. In the current context, cloud has a clear and increasingly important role to play in accelerating business strategy. While many companies have long seen cloud as a catalyst for innovation, they didn’t feel a sense of urgency to accelerate cloud adoption across the enterprise—until now.  For many companies, the pandemic is shifting their cloud agenda from an aspiration to an urgent priority, as they look for ways to outmanoeuvre uncertainty.

Similarly, we are seeing companies accelerating existing automation investments to make systems more resilient by eliminating application and infrastructure bottlenecks and freeing up human resources to focus on higher priority issues.

CXOToday: Can you tell us about the six building blocks of systems resilience? What would be the key takeaways for CIOs from the building blocks?

Ramnath Venkataraman: CIOs and IT leaders play a central role in ensuring their organizations can continue to operate through systems disruption. Leveraging the six building blocks of Accenture’s Systems Resilience solution they can enable a quick and reliable response to critical system vulnerabilities. Here’s how:

  1. Elastic Digital Workplace can help protect people and productivity, when organizations need to become fully remote overnight. To be successful, this requires a new work culture, technologies, communications and policies to be implemented at extraordinary speed and scale.
  2. Hyper Automation can help mitigate the impact of systems disruption, free up human resource capacity and streamline IT workforce management. For example, a large retailer resolved order fulfilment bottlenecks at their stores through automation and reduced ticket resolution time from 4-7 days to just 15 minutes by using Accenture myWizard.
  3. Architecture & Performance Engineering can help quickly resolve critical systems availability and performance constraints and scale applications to meet business demand. The key is to identify root causes of degradation and execute a “get well” plan to remediate as fast as possible without causing new issues. For example, a European bank was able to offload transactions from their near-capacity mainframe core banking system in just over four weeks by instead using microservices to handle the data load, preventing disruption to the customer experience.
  4. Cloud Acceleration & Optimization can help navigate extreme surges or drops in demand, manage risk, deploy instant innovation and optimize cloud performance and cost. For example, for a large energy company, close to $2.2million in monthly cloud spend was discovered through the Accenture Cloud Platform that led to greater cost optimization.
  5. Service Continuity can help flex to support critical in-flight services or deliver new IT projects. Skilled resources with institutional knowledge of business processes and specific technology expertise are critical for business resilience. For example, when a leading retailer asked Accenture to add approximately 300 remote resources on short notice to support their digital channel, we used our touchless knowledge capture platform to virtually onboard team members quickly.
  6. Cybersecurity can help secure customers, people and systems wherever they areto counter the bad actors who seek to take advantage during a crisis. For example, a large mining company implemented secure, scalable access across their network to shift to a remote workforce in just three days. Using Accenture’s Secure Emergency Remote Access solution, they applied automation for setup, configuration and monitoring, rapidly establishing a robust security architecture.

CXOToday: What are the actions to be taken next and the importance of establishing long-term strategies for greater pliability?

Ramnath Venkataraman: Many organizations have been facing considerable challenges related to systems resilience and with COVID-19, we anticipate that the crisis will fundamentally alter how we work and engage in the future. It is important for organizations to establish a structured intake process and platform to capture areas that need ongoing attention. They need to keep a clear focus on building a more resilient IT landscape by defining long-term transformation strategies. Focussing on small, incremental programs to self-fund transformation is the key to driving efficiency and freeing up capital. And finally, optimizing ecosystem partnerships to shift to an asset-light model and to mitigate vulnerabilities should be a key priority for businesses.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at Trivone Digital, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com