This is the eighth part of a 9-part series on 9-key strategic business areas that are vital for the continuity of services and operations.
Understanding technology dependencies and building technology resilience is critical for all businesses.
The recent Roger’s outage, caused by a 3rd party failure, was one of the biggest telecommunication outages ever experienced in Canada; 911 operators were not getting calls; businesses were unable to conduct the virtual meetings they have come to rely on; many at home employees were simply unable to work.
What Rogers apparently failed to do was fully test the work of their 3rd party provided and have sufficient plans in place to mitigate the risk to their clients in the event of the type of failure the occurred.
At a local level, there is a growing reliance on telecom infrastructure and the technology that supports internet connectivity. For example, when the pandemic started in 2020, many companies contacted their virtual network providers (VPN) to increase the number of users available to work remotely. However, while this increase can be done quickly, the onset of so many more people on-line, the technology – specifically internet bandwidth – became an issue and working from home consisted of slow or unresponsive internet connectivity. Consequently, business leaders began exploring other methods of continuing business such as having some staff return to the office.
Planning for resilient technology at any workplace typically consists of disaster recovery planning (DRP), which is a process used to assess how quickly an application can return to normal working conditions after an outage and possibly identifying mitigations that can be used during an outage. Through DRP, solutions such as hosting the application on servers located on geographically distant servers (i.e., on a different power grid than the business office) and ensuring the data contained on servers is replicated as close to real-time as possible to reduce the amount of lost data during an outage.
In the specific case of internet connectivity, the matter is complicated by the nature of our telecom infrastructure and the virtual monopoly enjoyed by the major providers.
Briefly, for you to have connectivity:
Physical connectivity components (e.g., wires) are built into the ground.
In Canada, 3 major telecommunications providers build, maintain, and upgrade these connectivity components and rely on support from their respective 3rd party suppliers (e.g., technology cable providers, hydro providers, etc.).
These components are connected with other components all around the world.
Consumers rely on all these components to access the internet.
Now consider all the connections and the sheer number of infrastructure requirements needed for things to work seamlessly. And consider all the points of failure along the path of connectivity. And consider that, while telecommunications providers do testing and planning for possible problems, as we have seen, things still go wrong.
So how do businesses improve their technology resilience?
Using Agile to improve technology resiliency
To support your organization in its technology resiliency journey, you can apply our Genesis Resiliency Agile User Stories method – which is unique in our industry - to a specific tabletop scenario that is relevant to you and your organization. The scenario you build can be as realistic or farfetched as you want – but it must prompt your organization to think, ideate and transform to meet the needs of all your stakeholders.
Below are examples of scenarios. For the full guide, download our "A Guide to Conducting an Agile User Story Tabletop Exercise".
You manufacture glass components for a popular food company that sells its products in grocery stores. You are contractually obligated to have a business continuity plan in order for the food company to continue selling its product at stores.
Consider the following scenarios on transforming your business:
A ransomware attack has penetrated your computer system and your employees are unable to use the computers to control the machines in your warehouse that assemble the glass components.
A major telecommunication outage has occurred with your provider and the estimated time to fix your businesses connection is 3 days.
With the holidays fast approaching, your customer needs your business to increase production by 30% to meet the demands for their product.
Consider the perspective of one of your users – The Food Company (Customer) The expected benefit for customer is to obtain your glass components so that they can dispense and assemble products in their manufacturing plant.
Complete the process of Agile user story writing to develop outputs This story writing process will help identify blind spots in your continuity planning process and document corresponding strategies (i.e., outputs) that mitigate the risk to your user. These outputs could be examples of what can be ideated in our Agile user story writing process using the perspective of your customers:
Implement cyber security anti-social-engineering best practices and processes with your employees to mitigate against cyber threats (e.g. baiting, scareware, pretexting, phishing, spear phishing, etc.)
Diversify your infrastructure between mobile and physical telecommunication providers. If your business can only obtain services in a specific area from a specific provider – get your mobile devices with other providers and implement tethering processes in the event of failure to continue business connected to the internet.
Create mutual business continuity plans between your business and its business customers that incorporates busy time periods within a year. This could help mitigate against scalability risks and helps you plan to incorporate things such as employee safety.
The Genesis Resiliency method of Agile user stories strengthens understanding of supporting businesses in their technology resiliency. Additionally, through the conversations and resulting outputs (or strategies) our method generates, your business continuity planning process is being continually improved, safeguarding your interests and those of our local, regional & global communities.
Author: Martin Gierczak, Founder - Genesis Resiliency