What is your background?

I come from an electrical and computer engineering background, which later evolved into industrial engineering to get a better grasp of managerial dynamics. After starting my PhD at Politecnico di Milano, I started to look at organizations as a whole. That is where I started my research in critical infrastructure protection and resilience. The topics I have covered in my research include risk analysis and management, critical infrastructure protection and resilience, regional and cross-border programmes, business continuity management, crisis and disaster management, and the application of innovative technologies to build resilience.

What type of project are you currently working on?

The current project I am working on consists of developing remote labs where students can work on a variety of subjects. Some of these labs are also physical but the equipment can be controlled remotely. This was developed during the initial stages of the pandemic, to give students the opportunity to carry out their activities when they were not able to come to the university. The project is funded by the European Union programme known as Erasmus Plus.

The lab we are currently developing is about business continuity management, and it is based on a crisis simulation. The aim of this project is educational, to form students on business continuity and raise awareness on the need to have a coordinated approach. That’s why we look at aspects such as interdependencies, the cascading effects of disruptions, and the resilience of individual organizations and their supply chains. We make sure participants see the importance of key resilience practices, with the overall goal to introduce them to activities such as the business impact analysis (BIA), recovery strategies, and mitigation measures.

What is the scenario of the simulation?

We have created a fictional case of a manufacturing company, which needs to develop its own business continuity strategy. We provide a case with all the details of the company, including operations, resources, and financial data. This helps student evaluate the impacts of the disruption, and then in the second step we provide them with different business continuity solutions that they can pick and combine to build a strategy.

These solutions must consider the interdependencies among different organization in the supply chain, such as shipping or transport companies. There are different types of solutions they can pick, such as:

  • Extending their stocking capacity for raw materials, internal parts, or finished products.
  • Adjusting default stock levels, meaning they can decide what their default level of stock is.
  • Arranging alternative shipping. In this case, the default shipping solution is freight rail, but they can switch to using trucks for example.
  • Purchasing other manufacturing or assembly equipment.
  • Reinforcing the structure of the buildings, making them earthquake proof.
  • Recovering performance levels by increasing the number of shifts to recover the missed production.
  • Splitting the production location and run these activities in parallel, so that one site is active while the other is not operational.

Once they have come up with a strategy, we simulate the impact of that strategy through dedicated software and measure the performance of their strategy in an earthquake scenario with different magnitudes.

How did you build the necessary business continuity knowledge to create the simulation?

For business continuity concepts, I have relied on both scientific literature and industry guidelines. One part of the material consisted of the international ISO standards, whereas another input came from research on business continuity management carried out from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. They have been performing specific research on business continuity for different industries and in a scalable way. Then we also used the BCI Good Practice Guidelines and guides on business continuity from YALE university and ENISA, but this latter one is mainly focused on the IT sector.

What about future developments of the simulation?

The plan is to make the lab available online for training to the partner universities on the project, which are the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm Paderborn University in Germany, and of course Politecnico di Milano. The different labs built by the different institutions will help provide cross-section teaching for staff and students. In the future, the idea is to also make it accessible for a wider network of universities and perhaps develop it as a tool to train professionals in business continuity, but it would need to be adjusted through improved software.

Another interesting development might be to have three types of organizations in the simulation, with more variety in the story. The idea is to have three firms interpreted by different groups that will have to interact and coordinate their strategies to maximise the response, working on their interdependencies.

Moving forward it might be interesting to also include different disruption scenarios, such as health and safety or cyber incidents, to see how different recovery strategies would work. Having scenarios that disrupt specific functions instead of the whole organization – such as an earthquake – would be interesting to address.


Author: Gianluca Riglietti


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