John Jackson is the executive adviser and co-founder of Fusion Risk Management and is a Fellow with the Business Continuity Institute. He has more than 40 years of experience in business continuity, disaster recovery, and risk and emergency management.
Organizational knowledge – it’s not a term commonly associated with business continuity, resilience, or disaster recovery, but it is a critical component.
Any business that evolves beyond a few people in a single location runs the risk of developing information silos that different departments or people are responsible for. There is not a person or group that knows every process, asset, vendor, and dependency that allows the organization to operate successfully. It is inefficient and can cost a company time and money, while also creating unnecessary risk. This leads to a fundamental need to avoid the many pitfalls of a fragmented company through the use of organizational knowledge.
Companies should consider five major factors when compiling and organizing all of their components into one repository and dashboard that integrates information from multiple sources into a unified display, an approach we view as a “single pane of glass.”
Knowledge Must Be Consolidated
If there is little to no interdepartmental communication, what will happen when a disaster – manmade or natural – strikes? It will be every department for itself. When it comes to maintaining a streamlined and secure company, it is imperative all stakeholders have full knowledge of operations so that they can respond to any need across the organization with confidence.
Command and Control
Executives never want to feel they have lost control of a potentially damaging situation. Nothing can be accomplished in the face of a disaster if leadership doesn’t have command over the events that are unfolding. Proactive planning and a firm grasp on every piece of information needed makes for the best chance at a full recovery in the least amount of time possible.
Visualization and Decision Support
Organizations are vast and complex, and they evolve constantly. A company might start off as a small regional firm and grow into a national or multi-national business. And, as the company’s departments, processes, staff, and employee rosters grow, the threats, risks, and impacts expand exponentially. Knowledge becomes more elusive and the complexity can be difficult to understand.
A living, virtual tool system can digest this information and update data in real time so that processes are always current and easily accessible. The ability to use that information to provide visual insights and deep analysis can change not only the effectiveness and efficiency of your teams but also the outcomes you achieve.
Everyone involved in a business should be able to easily view best practices and know how to implement them in the face of a threat. When stakeholders can find all of the most up-to-date information via a single pane of glass, they are much more likely to educate themselves on policies across all departments and gain that all-important wisdom – not just knowledge.
Some people might see wisdom and knowledge as interchangeable. However, that isn’t the case. Knowledge by itself simply refers to information that has been acquired – it is awareness. Wisdom, meanwhile, is experience and the ability to convert acquired information into action. When we talk about “organizational knowledge,” it is really a combination of both concepts.
Vulnerabilities are Endless. Resources are Not.
Say you come up with 20 different scenarios in which your company is at risk. Some will inevitably be more likely to occur than others. It is important to determine which have the highest probability of occurring and which will have the most impact on your organization should they occur and use that information as your guide.
Every enterprise, no matter the size, has limited resources to dedicate to its business continuity efforts. The threats that have the highest probability of occurring, along with the highest potential impact, are obviously the ones that will require the most attention and planning. It can be viewed as a simple line graph that helps you determine how to delegate time, money, and staff.
Building a Case for an Organizational Knowledge Initiative
To implement an organizational knowledge project, think of this more as consolidating diverse data sources rather than a new initiative. As such, cost savings can often be achieved as redundant data and management processes are reduced or eliminated.
As a by-product, personnel savings can be achieved as fewer staff need to be involved managing a single source of information and, frequently, single use software products (asset management, risk management, continuity planning tools, etc.) can often be merged into one initiative.
The result is a one-stop source of information that can alleviate redundancies and conflicting data and provide an excellent platform for many of the decision-making efforts.
Gathering the information is one thing but organizing that information under a single pane of glass provides the ability to use the data to enhance organizational knowledge, make better decisions, and affect better outcomes. Practitioners who embrace this concept and put it into practice will elevate not only their programs but also their careers.