INSIGHT: Tough times don’t last, but tough businesses do

In New Zealand, what does "tough" mean in the digital age?

The English cricket team is definitely going through some tough times - with a lot of pressure on their captain Eoin Morgan.

But, as Brendon McCullum said about his friend Morgan in a recent interview "tough times don't last, but tough blokes do”.

I thought this was a great message to put things in perspective; and one that applies to businesses as well.

So, what does "tough" mean in the digital age?

Businesses are becoming more reliant on technology to be able to operate efficiently - or even to operate at all.

So when thinking about how to make your business tougher, your IT environment needs to be a big part of that.

Tough: Strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough handling - Oxford Dictionary

Strong enough (and agile enough)

Strength in your technology environment means having robust and resilient platforms and processes.

But as well as being "strong enough" there is a real need for businesses to be agile. Being able to quickly move when digital conditions change is vital to protect yourself.

Reduce single points of failure; so failure of any individual hardware components won't affect your business operations. This includes IT hardware and also the power, cooling and connectivity they rely on.

Invest in agile technology platforms to get scale and flexibility when you need it. Premium cloud platforms are built with excellent strength and resilience, without you having to own it.

Adopt end-to-end, managed security solutions to encompass your applications, data, devices and networks; keeping you safe from the ever changing security threats.

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Withstand adverse conditions

It's important to clearly understand the conditions your business is running in today - and what is likely, or even possible, to change.

Have a defined business continuity plan that is tested and includes provision for any risks you are exposed to, including technology failure, malicious attacks and natural disasters.

Understand technology disruption in your industry so that you are forewarned and can get forearmed. With the right agility and focus, you can gain from disruption instead of suffering because of it.

Learn about your competitors and see how compare to your current competitors and also potential new threats such as global competition or disruptors like AirBnB or Uber. This could give you the advanced warning you need to stay relevant for your customers.

Avoid rough handling

Looking at Blockbuster as an example from my recent post, mismanagement can sink pretty much any business - and make times very rough for all involved.

Times of change need to be handled with care, which means you need to do them on your terms.

Plan for the changing world, taking into account the changing needs of your staff and customers - to make sure that you can stay ahead of them to reduce risk, cost and stress.

Partner where appropriate to gain experience that you don't have yourself and enable quicker innovation, avoiding the risks of learning on the job.

Provide incentives for the right behaviour to ensure that it's in your teams best interests to do what is best for the business - and that they are all working well together for that common goal.

Become a digitally tough business

You may not know when tough times are coming, so it makes sense to make your business tough while you can.

Change starts with knowledge and intent. You need to know what "tough" looks like and be honest enough with yourself as to how you measure up. Once you can see what gaps might exist, you can then create a plan to close them.

As the pace of technology change is ever increasing, make sure your plan includes putting in a governance framework in place to continue to measure and improve in the future.

By David Reiss - Business technology specialist, Spark Digital