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What does the 2018 World Cup teach us about business resilience?

The World Cup draws upon us this summer, a sporting event that will no doubt delight football fans across the globe. However, behind the sporting glory, there will be a firm spotlight on the resilience not just shown by the teams, but also the wider infrastructure in place to make it all happen.
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As with any global sporting event, attention turns to the host city and its readiness to arrange such an occasion – everything from stadium capacity and accessibility, to hospitality in the stadium is called into question.

However, while the onus is currently on Russia to throw a smooth and successful event, the World Cup should be seen as a catalyst for all businesses to improve the long-term resilience of both employees and infrastructure. So, what lessons can businesses learn from the World Cup about readiness to be resilient?

1. Dealing with emerging security threats

Security threats have always been a factor for major hospitality events, but even in recent years these threats have changed in nature and severity. FIFA already discussed upping the security for the World Cup, with growing cyber security attacks on infrastructure becoming increasingly prevalent.

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Risks Report 2018 names cyberattacks and cyber warfare as a top cause of disruption in the next five years, coming only after natural disasters and extreme weather events. In the same vein as World Cup organisers, businesses cannot look at what has gone on before. There’s a need to constantly keep one step ahead of new threats.

The nature of attacks is evolving, with Internet of Things devices and critical supply chains becoming frequent targets. As more applications migrate to the cloud, security should move further up the agenda. Cyber defences will need to be a central component of any digital and business strategy to ensure you aren’t the one caught out.

2. Holding your audience captive

Imagine the uproar if television networks cut out or froze the exact moment a goal was scored, or a red card issued? Broadcasters will have put in vast amounts of effort to ensure systems can scale up to cope with huge viewing figures.

Whether you are a broadcaster, an online retailer or a manufacturer, these days any kind of downtime is frowned upon. It can result in a knock to revenue. In the era of “all-time” business availability, organisations must ensure infrastructure has the flexibility and scalability to accommodate additional traffic.

The conversation has quickly evolved from “how do I get my systems back up and running?” to “how do I stop them going down in the first place?” Have the right infrastructure to cope with customer demand.

3. Adopting a “business as usual” mindset

With an estimated 1.5 million tourists expected to visit Russia during the course of the games, an incredible amount of pressure will fall not only upon game organisers, but businesses in the surrounding area: transport disruption and street closures are just some of the considerations that come into play for a major sporting event such as the World Cup.

While local bosses may benefit from a potential increase in business, they should ask themselves whether they have put the appropriate steps in place to ensure they can operate as normal under stress. Herein is a lesson to be learned for businesses across the globe: there are external and internal factors at play which are beyond your control, and it’s your job to ensure your organisation is fully prepared to guard against what lies ahead.

4. Building a team that can attack as well as defend

To this point we have looked at the defensive elements of resilience – reducing the impact and likelihood of something negative happening when faced with cyber-attacks, downtime and other potential disruptions. You can also manage risk by stacking the odds in favour of a positive outcome. The aim of every team in the World Cup is to win games by scoring more goals than opponents.

They do this by fielding defensive players to prevent their opponents scoring goals against them and forwards to score goals. The same is true of business. The aim is to have more market share than your competitors. If you only defend then you may retain your market share – but if you don’t attack then you will never win more. 

Climbing the league table

While the World Cup kick-off may be a leisurely pastime for our summer evenings, there is a lesson that organisations can take away from the smooth execution of a large-scale sporting event. From a resilience perspective, the competition teaches us about how we can make improvements to our own organisations.

Like a football team, a resilient organisation needs three things to succeed: a well-trained, well-equipped and fit ‘squad’ who will work well as a team, a supportive network and on-the-ground team, and most importantly, they need to be led by an inspiring coach with a clear direction. Only with this in place will you be the organisation who scores the winning goal.

Sandy Bell is head of resilience at Sungard Availability Services

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