What does it mean to build a resilient organization in a digital world? Business leaders have been asking that question ever since the dawn of the digital age, when digital technologies first appeared on the virtual horizon.
Google changed the way we search for products, services, and information. Netflix changed the face of entertainment. Amazon upended the publishing industry and then dominated the world of retail.
From digital transformation to cyber risk to global pandemics, the meaning of digital resiliency is constantly changing. Still, there are a few principles that lie at the heart of it.
This post lays out:
- What digital resilience is
- A few examples of what digital resiliency looks like
- Five principles that can help you build digital resilience in your business operations
What does digital resilience mean today?
For a while, the term "digital resilience" most often meant cyber resilience:
- Did you have intentional security tools in place against cyber threats?
- Were you prepared for disaster recovery in case of a cyber attack?
Today, however, the term "digital resilience" is used much more broadly than just cyber resilience.
Definition of digital resilience
Digital resilience is a company's ability to use the digital tech it has in place to respond to a crisis, which could include any kind of business disruption.
- Would your digital technology (your "tech stack") help you respond to industry disruption brought on by rapid digital innovation?
- Would it help you weather literal storms, wildfires, natural disasters, pandemics, economic downturns, or other crises?
- Would your tech stack help you maintain business continuity despite any unexpected circumstances?
Case studies and examples of digital resilience
As the following examples show, digital resilience isn't just about avoiding future disruptions. It can also provide a significant competitive advantage.
Wag! expands to survive
Dog walking was the lifeblood of Wag!'s business — until the COVID-19 pandemic sent millions of people home. Literally overnight, people were walking their own dogs. Fortunately, the company's digital tech stack helped them turn an apparent vulnerability into new growth.
Thanks to their finance tech, department heads had the information they needed to move fast. The company cut costs by 60% in a matter of days.
Then, Wag! used digital support logs to find out what new services customers were asking for. The company designed those services and took them to market using the digital channels and connectivity they had already established.
The company's fintech even helped them price the new services based on real-time costs. They launched immediately, soon serving 5 times the number of pet parents.
Quicken spin-off hits the ground running
When Quicken spun off from Intuit to become its own company in 2016, the brand-new business became solely responsible for the best-selling personal finance software in the US — along with all of the digital assets and operations that drive it: software development, customer care, vendor payments, and more.
To keep that engine running, the company needed to spin up its back-office operations in a hurry.
Quicken implemented a finance tech stack that included bill pay and accounting software that could sync automatically — systems they could start using immediately, without a complex implementation process that would have required outside help.
Because the company adopted a digital strategy from the beginning, they were able to keep their business processes running seamlessly.
Bear Robotics' restaurant robots help address staffing crisis
The original idea behind Bear Robotics was to create robots that could improve life for restaurant staff, making restaurants profitable enough to provide workers with insurance plans and 401(k)s.
In the post-pandemic staffing crisis, those robots are helping restaurants stay afloat.
The robots are a perfect example of how modern technologies can improve business outcomes, but for Bear Robotics, having a digital back office has been just as important.
By switching to digital technologies for its financial operations, Bear Robotics was better able to make the leap from early adopters to a global market. Digital processes tend to scale more easily than manual ones. That puts companies in a better position to navigate new opportunities and keep up with demand when the lightning of success happens to strike.
Five principles for building digital resilience
Building a digital resilience strategy is a complex process that depends on your unique business position — from your industry and operations to your specific assets, liabilities, and cash flows. Still, these 5 principles can help guide you as you think through your digital resilience framework.
1. Leverage digital tech; elevate human judgment
Computers are great at crunching through data analytics and automating routine tasks. Some of the best partnerships between humans and computers happen when we use technology and automation to generate fast, accurate information, helping us make more informed decisions.
Using digital technologies to alleviate dull, manual tasks also frees up our time for more strategic initiatives. People don't need to be writing out paper checks to make payments or manually checking for duplicate invoice numbers. Computers can do those things much more quickly.
Whether you're responding to a crisis or evaluating the potential revenue of a new product, the more time your employees can spend on strategic decision-making, the stronger and more resilient your company is likely to be.
2. Integrate digital systems
Bottlenecks can crop up when digital systems don't sync with each other, forcing human beings to read information from one system and enter it manually into another. The more times that happens, the more time is being wasted, the more chance there is to introduce human error, and the harder that system is to scale as your business expands.
Digital systems that integrate with each other tend to be faster, more reliable, and more scalable.
3. Design for security, backups, and redundancy
Cyber security is still an important aspect of digital resiliency. The more resistant your digital systems are against malicious actors, the better. When you're choosing digital solutions for your tech stack, be sure to ask about security measures.
Also, design your systems around the key principles of backups and redundancy. Information that's vital to your operations should be backed up automatically and protected in full redundancy — in more than one physical location.
4. Plan for the winds of change
If recent experience has taught us anything, it's that we won't always see disruption coming. The best policy is to plan for the possibility of change. That means being able to pivot quickly or scale up easily as your business ecosystem continues to evolve.
Cloud-based apps, for example, let teams work from anywhere. Use them to attract the brightest up-and-coming talent on LinkedIn, to manage vendor payments while you're overseas exploring new partnerships, or to scale from early adopters to global markets at the drop of a hat.
5. Focus on your finances
Whether your next business challenge involves cutting back on your spending or funding new growth, your finances can drive the health of your business. In building resilience, financial operations are among the most important areas you can focus on — and, perhaps surprisingly, also among the easiest.
To learn more about building resilience through digital automation, choose the area you'd most like to streamline:
- Receiving vendor invoices and paying bills
- Sending customer invoices and getting paid
- Getting credit and managing expenses
Build digital resilience with BILL
Businesses continue focusing on employee safety and overall company operations, but invoices still must be processed, bills paid, inquiries answered, and expenses reimbursed.
Amidst this, strategies are reprioritized and annual business plans adjusted, ensuring such critical functions as AP, for instance, continue operating without a hitch. As recovery continues and operations are streamlined, you can improve your company cash flow, transparency, and overall control.
With better data—the kind you can get with automation—and more control, you become digitally resilient, helping you support not only your business, but also the companies you do business with. BILL can help you with accounts payable and any other accounting solutions you might need. Reach out for more information.