Reimagining Business Continuity and Operational Resilience Strategies

by: VMware Business Resiliency Manager Cheryl LaTouche and  Director of Physical Security & Resiliency EMEA Mícheál Fitzgerald

Many organizations are grappling with adapting their business continuity and operational resiliency strategies following the wake-up call of COVID-19. Traditionally, business continuity teams write plans for how to turn the lights back on. No longer adequate is the one-size-fits-all plan, filed in a binder, waiting for yearly drills and audits. 

To achieve perpetual readiness and resilience, VMware is reimagining its business continuity and operational resiliency strategies for our globally dispersed workplace and hybrid workforce. We are doing that through people, planning and technology.

What our experience with COVID-19 revealed

2020 taught that tried-and-true business continuity strategies need a regular shake-up. Before the pandemic, we had reinforced ‘work from home’ as an alternate global continuity strategy. However, we never explored what it would take to maintain the strategy for longer than four weeks. Would our plan support an entire global population of more than 34,000 staff working remotely for an extended time?

We pivoted quickly to a fully remote workplace strategy, and we did it seamlessly, due in part to our business continuity planning and the VMware digital foundation of ‘any app on any cloud to any device.’ This enabled our remote workforce to achieve high levels of productivity and collaboration via VMware Workspace ONE® UEM for device management, VMware Workspace ONE® Access for SaaS apps, and VMware Horizon® for internal apps. 

Operational resilience requires a cross-functional team 

COVID-19 made us look hard at how we develop and maintain business continuity plans, which showed us that business continuity strategies are most effective when woven into how we work and how we respond to disruptions. If a significant disruption occurs, we don’t rely on insufficient processes filed away in a dusty binder. Instead, we incorporate daily monitoring, assessment and stakeholder feedback to ensure we stay abreast of risks and threats.

These strategies are scalable and align with our digital transformation, which allows us to pivot effortlessly as company dynamics change. We are continuously looking for ways to leverage new technologies and are constantly stress-testing and validating that current strategies remain robust and open to reinvention. 

As we contemplate the evolution of our business continuity and operational resilience strategies, we involve the global functions represented on our Crisis Management Team (CMT) to ensure visibility, alignment, and thorough coverage. These include:

  • Internal Communications and HR—focus on people, culture, wellbeing, training 
  • External Communications—media and investor relations
  • IT—applications, systems, infrastructure, operations, remote support, troubleshooting, training, threat assessment
  • Physical Security—people and asset protection, access management
  • Sourcing—supplier relationships, home delivery of work essentials
  • Executive Team—strategic guidance and resource allocation

Business Continuity and Oper Resilience planning stakeholders infographic

Our planning evolved into a dynamic, ongoing approach to assess and integrate new tools and capabilities. The examples below show how our operational resilience plan facilitated immersive communication and collaboration: 

  • launched companywide audio and video conferencing to make colleagues comfortable in a video-first culture
  • promoted modern work practices, such as remote workshopping, asynchronous collaboration, and virtual conferences and events
  • deployed enterprise voice telco network to deliver voice capabilities to Microsoft Teams and complement existing collaboration, chat and IM capabilities
  • introduced online visual collaboration and whiteboarding tools to eliminate outdated dependencies on working together in person
  • redesigned office space configurations to support group collaboration, private meetings and focused work.

Broad technology-enablement scope

Technology is another cornerstone of our strategy. We apply a ‘follow-the-sun’ support model for our geographically dispersed workforce via the following:

  • establishing geo-diverse data centers that burst increased traffic into the VMware managed cloud on AWS to address spikes in IT demand
  • a SaaS-first approach, in which more than 95 percent of collaboration services— including document storage—are location and event agnostic
  • deployment of contact center as a service (CCaaS), which enables distributed and remote colleagues to operate as a resilient contact center from anywhere
  • taking a core+one portfolio approach that establishes a ready-to-use alternative for every core communication and collaboration service.

Business continuity planning should involve all stakeholders

More than likely, business continuity and operational resilience plans drafted years ago are no longer relevant to your current business environment. Get creative by developing strategies based on available technology, tools and trends. Now that you’ve experienced a significant, extended event, take time to brainstorm potential short- and long-term business disruptions. 

Make sure your operational resiliency plan address employees, customers and partners by collecting input from all relevant stakeholders. Practice drills regularly to identify areas for improvement and continuously update training and related materials. Finally, plan to continuously adapt your strategies in lockstep with company growth and the availability of new tools and technologies. Whether you are responsible for a global, regional or local organization, modern business continuity and operational resilience plans are essential to “keeping the lights on” during events that threaten to disrupt business operations.

VMware on VMware blogs are written by IT subject matter experts sharing stories about our digital transformation using VMware products and services in a global production environment. Contact your sales rep or to schedule a briefing on this topic. Visit the VMware on VMware microsite and follow us on Twitter.


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