What does the 2018 World Cup teach us about resilience?

The World Cup draws upon us again this summer, a sporting event that will no doubt delight football fans across the globe. With the squads confirmed and the kick-off date set for this week fans globally are gearing up for the festivities, ready to tune into the first match. However, behind the sporting glory and the celebrations, there will be a firm spotlight on the resilience not just shown by the teams, but also the broader infrastructure in place to make it all happen.

As with any global sporting event, attention always turns to the host city and their readiness to host 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 host 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 their workforce – their ‘teams’ – and their 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 both in nature and severity. FIFA has already discussed upping the security for the World Cup, with growing cybersecurity attacks on infrastructure becoming increasingly prevalent.

>See also: Nation State hacking: a long history?

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Risks Report 2018 names cyber attacks and cyber warfare as a top cause of disruption in the next five years, coming only after natural disasters and extreme weather events. In this same vein as World Cup organisers, businesses cannot just look at what has gone on before but need to keep one step ahead of new threats constantly. The nature of attacks is continually evolving, with the Internet of Things devices and critical supply chains becoming frequent targets – and no industry will be immune.

As more applications migrate to the cloud, it’s crucial that security moves further up the agenda for business leaders. Cyber threats continue to evolve, and 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 the television networks cut out or froze at the exact moment a goal was scored, or a red card issued? Broadcasters will have put in vast amounts of effort to ensure their systems can scale up to cope with huge viewing figures – the 2014 final pulled in one billion viewers in total – with this year likely to top that figure.

Whether you are a broadcaster, an online retailer or a manufacturer, these days any downtime is frowned upon by customers and shareholders and can result in a substantial knock to revenue. In the era of ‘all-time’ business availability, organisations must ensure that their infrastructure has the flexibility and scalability to accommodate additional traffic. The conversation has very quickly evolved from “how do I get my systems back up and running quickly?” to “how do I stop them from ever going down in the first place?” Having the right infrastructure to cope with customer demand should be top of the agenda for any business that wants to thrive.

>See also: Global cybercrime economy generates over $1.5 trillion

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, infrastructure strains 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 businesses may benefit significantly from a potential increase in activity, they should ask themselves whether they have put the appropriate steps in place to ensure they can operate as usual under this increased 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. Organisations must ensure that they have taken the adequate steps to anticipate and prepare for disruption. Be that conducting a business impact analysis and risk assessment, refreshing incident management and business continuity arrangements, or implementing test solutions to ensure they’re well positioned to respond should the need arise.

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. However, you can also manage risk by stacking the odds in favour of a positive outcome. Every team in the world cup aims to win games by scoring more goals than their 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. A resilient business has defenders and forwards who work together and leadership who can inspire the grit and determination to win.

>See also: World Cup 2018: cyber scams reaching fever-pitch 

While the organisers of a major event like the World Cup will be will be taking a ‘risk-adverse’ stance to ensure the event runs smoothly, local businesses and the football players themselves will be aiming for resilience. They will be sufficiently robust to be able to defend their own goal but agile enough to take the opportunity of scoring when it arises.

5. 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.

By Sandra Bell, Head of Resilience, Sungard Availability Services