Facing new challenges: the role of corporate intelligence

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About Resilience, in collaboration with Intellego and AIAIG (the Italian Association of Intelligence Analysts), has conducted a new study on the synergies between corporate intelligence, business continuity and resilience. The report aims to provide an analysis of recent and future risks for companies worldwide, while also providing an overview of the best practices to address these challenges.

The methodology used in the report is qualitative and it is based on a series of interviews with selected experts on the current industrial and geopolitical context. Participants come from different fields, ranging from more classic protective disciplines such as corporate intelligence, business continuity management and cybersecurity, to others such as sustainability and sociology that focus more on social responsibility. This diversification was specifically sought to ensure that the analysis included different perspectives.

This article reports on the main findings and takeaways from the study.

Main findings

In the near future, companies should expect a possible systemic change, especially due to the Covid-19 crisis. Markets are changing and global trade is still adjusting to the current shock, creating both risks and opportunities. Most participants stated that the events of the past twelve months have accelerated rather than created change, forcing companies to digitize and decentralize processes, products and work locations.

A key trend that emerged from this analysis is certainly the crisis of globalization as we know it. The ongoing political and economic stalemate is causing power relations to change within global markets. Thus, the way organizations – and nation states – manage the current crisis might determine whether they can create competitive advantage.

In this regard, it is important for companies to develop flexibility both in their internal processes and their supply chains. For the foreseeable future, the ability to adapt will be a winning factor in conducting business, as much as reputation and the quality of products and services. In this regard, it is essential to recognize the importance of supply chains, which have suffered significant disruptions over the past year.

Participants underlined the importance of diversification of both their suppliers and customers, to avoid unacceptable concentrations of risk. Interestingly, somewhat in contradiction with the principle of diversification, reshoring has recently enjoyed a new spark in popularity. This process consists in bringing back on domestic territory those activities or products previously entrusted to foreign suppliers.

Developing intelligence and horizon scanning capabilities – the analysis of medium to long-term challenges – is another pivotal function to fully understand the environment in which organizations operate. The identification of risks must feed intelligence to those creating response plans, to safeguard operations during challenging times. The Business Continuity Management function can then use this information to better understand risk levels within the organization and draw the necessary business continuity plans.

Another main theme of the report concerns the digitization and decentralization of work. The use of remote work is expanding the operational perimeter of modern organizations, making the work environment much more complex. However, complexity in a company is not necessarily a negative trait, as it can increase characteristics such as the ability to quickly adapt to change.

As it is always the case with innovation, opportunities bring some risks, which in this case consist mainly of cyber threats. Since it is impossible to physically monitor a mobile workforce, the guarantees in terms of security and business continuity must come from the corporate culture and the resulting policies.

Corporate culture can be an underrated asset, but it is becoming one of the pillars of modern organizations. The notion that organizational resilience is everyone’s job is well embedded in companies that fully understand the benefits of this approach. Collaboration among different disciplines is fundamental, such as between BCM and corporate intelligence. In this regard, an interesting concept that emerged from the interviews is undoubtedly that of fusion centers.

These are corporate structures – physical or digital – where different departments can share information and collaborate on common projects. This is an approach that borrows from a methodology that originally belonged to American security agencies and transfers it to the business context. According to the Business Continuity Institute’s Continuity and Resilience Report, companies that adopt fusion centers are also able to have better incident response metrics.

Participants often highlighted the importance of the human factor in conducting business. This means taking care of the workforce and managing human resources in an effective and healthy way. Furthermore, establishing the right connection with the public must be at the top of the agenda, as today even those who operate locally have to address a diverse audience. This is because modern societies include a greater number of ethnic and social communities – a trend that is probably going to become even more visible – and therefore organizations should make an effort to fully understand their customer base if they want to stay relevant.

However, if the human factor is a prime concern, the role of technology will be equally central. The predictive and analytical capabilities deriving from the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain – just to name a few – can be of great support in gathering intelligence and processing information. Still, it is important to keep in mind the relationship between man and machine, since there must be a balance between the role of algorithms and human, qualitative decision-making.

Finally, organizations must consider those macro-trends that will characterize not only 2021 but also the medium-long term. Surely one of these is climate change and its impact on corporate policies, through a greater attention to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) issues. According to the About Resilience study named Business Continuity and Sustainability Report, there is a positive correlation between good business continuity practices and sustainability, especially on the involvement of top management and the visualization of supply chain risks.

Another significant development is the recent result of the elections in the US, which saw the beginning of the Biden-Harris administration. The repercussions of the new foreign policy of the White House will certainly have an impact on the possibilities of doing business with countries such as China, Iran and the USA itself.