Understand Your Customers to Build a World-Class Risk Management Program

Posted on: July 29, 2021
Author: Becca Vlahos

Solutions Customer Summit Series

Modern building, concept: building a world-class risk and resilience programAchieving a world-class risk and resilience program requires running your program like a business. Rather than think about the profits you want to make and the success you want to personally feel, you need to focus on what your program’s customers (the internal stakeholders) want and need. Then, you must entice engage them to become advocates for the program – not simply go through the motions when tasks need to be completed – by creating a memorable brand that creates understanding and eliminates confusion. This is the position shared by Sean Murphy, a managing director in BDO’s forensic practices who specializes in turning challenged risk programs around. In his presentation at Fusion Risk Management’s Solutions21 customer summit, Murphy spoke of “really understanding our audience and the different types of personas who have different requirements and different mental models so we can design communications that engage through storytelling.”

This approach is right out of a marketer’s playbook and was a refreshing take on how to turn a program from a compliance-driven model to one based on a commitment from the organization. Murphy stressed that you may spend more time communicating the value of your program and what it is about rather than getting people to do the specific tasks you assign them. End users don’t spend their day thinking about risk assessments, impact analyses, or crisis management plans. Getting people to care about protecting against things that seem unlikely is a constant challenge for many risk managers, but with branding and tailored communications that focus on storytelling, customer demand for your program can build.

End-users are typically very confused by the silos that exist across different risk management disciplines in the same organization. In the end, those customers of a risk management program don’t care about the different groups and what each one does. Cultivate a group of promotors by speaking in their language and presenting in a style that makes sense to them. Murphy shared a story about a customer that replaced multiple programs across resilience, crisis management, insurance, and IT disaster recovery services with one approach that tied everything together with the branded hashtag “#WeGotThis”.  By relating the goals of the overall effort to something everyone could understand and get behind, the program became much more relevant to the people that needed to contribute the most. As Murphy said, it created a new norm that portrayed the organization’s motivation to go the extra mile and be empowered and accountable to make a difference.

Murphy also shared how important technology can be to enable the necessary branding and messaging on a global scale. In the #WeGotThis environment, the Fusion Framework System became an enabler for success. With Fusion, the environment could be tailored to a completely branded destination that helped everyone understand where to go for everything related to #WeGotThis. The portal brought different silos into one spot. Different tasks were still needed for specific purposes, but the ability to tailor workflows to each user’s role and experience and giving users one place to come for planning, learning, compliance, managing in a crisis, notifications and more was vital to the development of the world-class program. Having a home base that can be personalized, branded, and that provides timely and targeted information while working across silos is a critical piece that Fusion delivered.

Effective businesses think deeply about engaging their customer base. Building a brand that people want to be part of takes time and thought. There is an entire discipline of science around what will engage people, from logos to colors to messages that will be memorable and positive. One of the cognitive science applications that BDO has focused on with great success is gamifying the process of business continuity and resilience to improve outcomes. The data collected during a game-based process when participants are in a social activity that has a competitive flavor to it can be far richer than a typical template or form to fill out. Games can also engage users to learn much more about a topic that they may not be that interested in. When you are presented with a game of how to protect an asset while playing against your peers who are challenged with planning how to attack that asset, the core of risk management becomes very apparent and gets everyone thinking in a positive new direction.

One caution that Murphy added was that building a world-class program, like building a world-class business, takes time. Going from 0 to 60 miles per hour too quickly can cause it to stall out. Thinking in terms of years (even 10 years according to Murphy) is an important piece of guidance. Introducing a new product to a market where demand does not yet exist will take time and will require building demand one step at a time. Selling canned pet food to a culture where everyone cooks fresh food for their pets (a story Murphy shared) will not happen overnight. In the same way, if you are prepared for a journey, the rewards will be great in building a world-class risk management program by focusing on the needs of your customers and how you can meet those needs with a strong and memorable brand. For more insights from Sean on how to build a world-class program, check out his article Building a World-Class Risk Management Program: Lessons From the Marketing Playbook