The Importance of a Universal Language

Posted on: February 26, 2020
Author: Anna Lapezo

The importance of a universal language is a recurring topic in business continuity and risk management. In many cases, this is being hindered when organizations operate in silos. According to an article in Forbes, a “silo is a business term that has been passed around and discussed at many board room tables over the last 30 years. Unlike many other trendy management terms this is one issue that has not disappeared over the years.”

When organizations operate in silos, there is room for misunderstandings and an overlap of information. Business continuity and risk management departments utilize a lot of the same information – which makes some organizations prone to double work due to overlaps from the use of spreadsheets or modular software. Siloed functions may be filling out the same information in static spreadsheets or archaic software instead of focusing their time on strategic tasks that can mature their program.

Currently, there is a big push for many organizations to become more resilient. To do so, organizations must be willing to change. According to an article in Help Net Security, the Resilience Gap Study found that 20 percent of business decision-makers blame siloed business units for being a barrier to achieving financial and operational resilience. Business continuity and risk management practitioners must meet at the same table to agree upon an updated, standardized language that services the needs of both departments. To each department, the other’s language may at first feel foreign and uncomfortable – and change is uncomfortable – but the benefits of establishing a universal language are enormous.

Business continuity and risk management must move past standard approaches. In doing so, organizations need to understand levels of acceptable risk and map those risks to their business processes so they can be measured based on how much of the business is impacted if a process is disrupted. By creating a universal language that takes both risk and continuity concepts into consideration, leadership teams can make the best decisions based on the reality of a situation rather than a theory.

While the concept of bringing integrated risk management and continuity together through a universal language is a brilliant idea, it’s easy to become discouraged when trying to tackle this big but necessary task. It is not something that can happen overnight, rather it’s a continuous journey that has a rewarding end. It is important to do your research, ask other practitioners, and attend industry events to spark some inspiration. This not only grows your program, but also stimulates your own professional growth.

study by PwC showed that “just 50% of participants said their company has the right data, today, to anticipate and manage existing and emerging risk. Only 33% said they have the right technology and tools to do so.”

For those still operating in spreadsheets, it is important to take advantage of the best tools available. As mentioned before, a lot of time is wasted doing administrative tasks that could easily be automated by software. If the goal is to converge business continuity and risk, evaluating an agile and non-modular software will push this journey along. The concepts you agree upon for your common language can be implemented and put to the test, and a flexible software system will allow you to adjust your language and program as needed. This way, your program can continue to scale and mature.

On the other hand, you may be using software already and want to bring in risk or business continuity into your current program to create a universal language in your organization. While this can present some hurdles, you can start the process by asking some of the following questions:

  1. Is your current software operating in modules? If so, what barriers are you facing in your efforts to create a universal language?
  2. Is your risk or business continuity department using a different software than you? Is this causing a disconnect?
  3. Who are the appropriate stakeholders that you need to engage to establish a universal language?
  4. What goals could you accomplish if risk and continuity operated in one platform?

Strength in resilience comes from leveraging a repository of data that everyone in the organization can pull from.

When this repository of data is in a universal language that everyone can understand, it becomes a powerful and integral part of your organization. Likewise, your program benefits from a more complete view of where your organization can be harmed if something bad were to happen. As history has shown, it is not enough to talk about “if” something bad will happen, but rather “when” that bad thing will happen. And when the time comes, you want to ensure you are leveraging the best tools and have the most accurate, up-to-date information to achieve the best outcomes.