By Nick Murison, CISO at Ardoq:
Over the past year and a half, businesses have had to navigate what feels like never-ending uncertainty and disruption – highlighting the importance of business continuity and disaster recovery planning. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations were forced to adapt – many without already having the necessary infrastructure in place – or risked being left behind, unable to keep up with the changes. Some organizations struggled more than others, but it was no easy task for anyone.
To make business continuity and/or disaster recovery more achievable, organizations can use enterprise architecture (EA) to map out their people, processes, and systems – providing a complete overview of the company in the event of a disruption.
For those unfamiliar, according to Gartner, “enterprise architecture (EA) is a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. [It] delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve targeted business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions.” In other words, EA, as a practice, helps businesses better understand their current state and how changes can impact their potential future states.
Preparing for Disruption
A major benefit of enterprise architecture is the situational awareness it can give to businesses. Because they are already mapping out processes, departments, and systems, organizations are in a much better position to answer the question: “If something happens to our business, what is the impact?” This is useful for companies looking to understand how certain changes to their business will impact the overall business.
Scenario planning allows organizations to have systems put into place before an unpredicted disruption occurs to ultimately mitigate its overall impact. One instance where this is particularly helpful is understanding where critical business functions are and making changes if needed.
For example, if a whole company’s security department is located in one geographic location and that area is hit with a natural disaster, businesses will not only have to worry about their employees and their safety, but they’ll also have to navigate that whole business function potentially failing. As we see more severe weather become a pattern, this is even more important than ever before.
In fact, according to a recent report by First Street Foundation, nearly a quarter of the critical infrastructure in the United States is at risk of being inundated by flooding. This includes hospitals, airports, government buildings, and power stations. Additionally, recent storms like the one that took place in Texas in February 2021 – which left millions without power and threatened the nation’s second-largest cluster of data-center facilities – have shown just how vulnerable infrastructure can be to the elements.
By understanding where mission-critical resources and talent are, organizations can avoid having them all in one place or establish the necessary backups — enabling better overall business continuity and reducing the risk of disruption. Mapping out the business and its capabilities grants organizations oversight of its current state and how to proceed into the future – ensuring it’s able to adapt as needed.
Recovering from Disaster
Business leaders have likely seen the Gartner statistic on the cost of downtime at this point ($5,600/minute or well over $300K/hour), but it still emphasizes the importance of reducing downtime at all costs. Enterprise Architecture bridges the gap between the IT and business sides of an organization, in order to optimize both and create a single view of the business.
This view, and a total understanding of the current state of the business, is essential for organizations who have experienced disruption and are looking to recover from it. It allows organizations to more quickly pinpoint holes and redundancies and identify pain points – leading to quicker remediation.
For example, in the event of an outage, organizations can understand which applications are critical, what they depend on, and, ultimately, what is needed to get them back up and running. In order to fully recover, an understanding of what the business looked like before the disruption is an essential first step.
Enterprise architecture provides organizations with a complete view of their business, making it easier to understand current and potential future states. While we’ve come to understand that disruption is a business risk that will never go away, organizations must pay closer attention to how they can better prepare for the unpredictable. We’re not out of the woods yet, so now’s the time to ensure that business continuity and disaster recovery plans take center stage during business planning.