When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, organizations all over the world were forced to adapt rapidly to the financial and operational crisis the pandemic spawned. One common response: embracing digital transformation to maintain business continuity and service delivery.

The consequences of that shift have been profound. Many organizations realized that digital technologies are indispensable to prepare for future disruptions. They started to invest more in cloud-based services, collaboration platforms, and security tools.

In short, embraced digital resilience.

Keep reading to learn more about digital resilience, and how it can help your business to prepare for future risks and opportunities in a digital world.

What Is Digital Resilience?

Digital resilience is the ability of an organization to prevail through business disruptions by using digital technologies. Digital resilience is vital to maintain your ability to operate during a disruption, as well as to prepare for and take advantage of new conditions. It encompasses business security, agility, and speed; all underpinned by a strong foundation of digital technologies and processes.

(Click here to know more about digital resilience and the Digital Operational Resilience Act.)

Digital Resilience vs. Cyber Resilience

Cyber resilience – the ability to identify IT vulnerabilities, respond to attacks, and protect IT assets – is a concept that has existed for quite some time. It is part of digital resilience, but only one part.

Digital resilience has a much broader focus. It involves using modern technologies to respond to all kinds of crises and to maintain operational capability. These other issues can go well beyond cyber attacks, and include:

  • Change management
  • Operational risk management
  • IT resilience
  • Competitive strategy
  • Business continuity management
  • Disaster recovery

Why Organizations Should Build Digital Resilience

In 2020, organizations that had embraced digital technologies were the best-prepared to respond to covid-related disruptions. They could endure lockdowns and supply chain disruptions to keep operations going, and even achieve beneficial digital transformation.

Digitally resilient organizations can survive and even thrive in a changing environment, even if disruptions strike at core business processes. Such organizations can anticipate new challenges, and tackle them as opportunities for growth. Thinking in terms of long-term digital resilience allows a business to balance growth goals with security needs in a disruption-prone environment.

Additionally, digital resilience empowers businesses to:

  • Adapt to changing market conditions and an evolving competitive landscape
  • Respond to disruptions by applying data and digital governance strategies throughout the enterprise
  • Boost cyber defenses with Zero Trust network design and other anti-data theft strategies
  • Strengthen innovation capabilities and speed up time-to-market
  • Respond quickly to evolving customer demands

The Key Pillars of Digital Resilience

Research firm IDC has developed a digital resiliency framework based on three key pillars. These pillars correspond to the three phases of an organization’s response to a crisis:

  1. Respond and restore
  2. Expand and optimize
  3. Accelerate and innovate

Across these phases, the framework describes six broad types of digital technologies that boost resilience in specific areas of the organization:

  • Leadership and organization
  • Operations
  • Financial
  • Workforce
  • Customers
  • Branding and reputation management

IDC’s framework isn’t the only digital resiliency structure out there. In 2016, Gartner identified four ways governments can build digital resilience, and they apply equally well to business organizations looking to boost digital resilience. These four building blocks are:

  • Create digital champions throughout the enterprise
  • Tie every digital initiative with real-world goals and direct benefits
  • Promote transparency and open communications
  • Maintain an ongoing risk dialog with stakeholders

Strategies to Build Enterprise Digital Resilience

Ideally, organizations should take a strategic approach to digital resilience. That journey should start with a digital resilience assessment. It should also incorporate numerous other strategies as discussed below:

Assess current digital resilience in the organization

A digital resilience assessment clarifies the actions required to achieve digital resilience. The first step is understanding the organization’s key goals and how technologies drive its business model. The assessment should also reveal whether its technologies, processes, and systems are mapped, and what relationships exist among them.

It’s also useful to identify the major challenges facing the firm, the strategic and core processes that could affect its resilience in case of disruptions, and whether any resilience capabilities are already in place.

Explore opportunities for tech modernization

Digital resilience requires replacing outdated IT systems with modern infrastructure. For example, an organization could migrate legacy development and testing environments to cloud-based environments supporting DevOps principles and containers.

Businesses should modernize their security ecosystem with zero trust security and other modern security approaches including multi-factor authentication (MFA). It’s also vital to draft a plan (in writing) to recover quickly from disruption.

Determine the appropriate digital resilience level and build a digital resilience model

The objective of digital resilience isn’t to eliminate risk (that’s impossible), but rather, to determine the level of risk the organization can accept in pursuit of its objectives. This level must balance potential threats with benefits.

Business leaders must also determine the level of digital resilience appropriate to their industry, strategic objectives, and growth stage. They must define the operating model, business processes, and technology components to develop a resilience model based on all that information, plus:

  • Existing resilience issues
  • Potential crises that could arise
  • Digital innovations that could be adopted to:
    • Automate the protection of personally identifiable information (PII)
    • Embed zero trust security into every device and application
    • Protect enterprise assets from ransomware and other types of cyberattacks
    • Recover from sensitive data breaches

Promote a culture of digital resilience

New technologies aren’t enough to build a digitally resilient organization. A culture of digital resilience is equally, if not more, important. CEOs and boards must promote “resilience thinking” by encouraging all business units to think about threats and opportunities and adapt their behaviors accordingly.

Management teams must provide direction to build digital resilience capabilities throughout the organization. Additionally, they must build “resilience by design” across multiple checkpoints, including:

  • Digital infrastructure management
  • Information storage and recovery
  • Modern technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning, and IoT
  • Cybersecurity
  • Natural disasters, climate change, terrorism, and socio/politico/economic trends

Best Practices to Build and Strengthen Enterprise Digital Resilience

Since digital resilience is crucial in the post-pandemic “new normal,” it must be promoted throughout the organization and managed at the board and senior leadership levels. Everyone in the organization – especially key decision-makers – should:

  • Understand how digital resilience differs from cyber resilience
  • Determine to what extent the enterprise depends on digital technology
  • Acknowledge the various opportunities and risks in the digital environment

Further, resilience shouldn’t be discussed as separate IT or cybersecurity issues, but rather as something that affects the entire organization. The board must assess risks and the firm’s capacity to innovate to boost resilience at an enterprise-wide level.

Board members must also review the level of “irresilience” (we could also use the term “fragility”) that’s acceptable to the organization. They must continually evaluate how irresilience may harm its business model, processes, and people; and then incorporate strategies to mitigate existential threats into the overall business strategy.

Digital resilience is also an ongoing effort. The company’s executive team should revisit its risk management (and opportunity management) efforts regularly, and consider whether their current level of digital resilience is still suitable for the larger risk landscape. They need to be sure that the company’s capacity to anticipate and respond to risks in the digital world remains sharp.

In practice, that means reviewing the company’s digital infrastructure and analyzing its overall impact on business resilience. This step is important because even if technology improves security, better security may not necessarily result in greater resilience. If new security efforts reduce process integrity or business agility, they may actually degrade overall resilience and competitiveness.

Leverage Reciprocity ROAR to Build and Optimize Your Digital Resilience Program

Cyber resilience is a crucial component of digital resilience. Can you protect your infrastructure from insider threats and outside risks such as hackers and malware experts? Do you know the risks of APIs and connected IoT devices? Are your software and applications trustworthy?

The only way to answer these questions is to gain visibility into the enterprise IT ecosystem. Get this visibility with Reciprocity ROAR.

ROAR is an integrated platform for cybersecurity, risk management, governance, and compliance. It reveals risk across your business and helps protect your assets and data from exposure.

Protect your company, improve stakeholder relationships, and respond quickly to incidents with Reciprocity ROAR. Schedule a demo to learn more.