While risk is a fact of life for any business, there are times when even those that have learned to expect the unexpected can be taken by surprise. Accenture’s approach to business resilience demonstrates that, with the right plans, processes and people in place, it is possible to be ready for anything.
Business continuity can be affected by many different situations. From natural disasters to cybersecurity incidents, civil unrest to turbulent financial markets—not to mention unexpected health and humanitarian events such as the global pandemic—businesses are under pressure to minimize disruption and be more resilient.
Accenture’s experience of managing disruption is based on years of preparedness. We have introduced intelligent tools that enable us to be agile and adapt, with robust plans that validate and recalibrate our approach so that we can be prepared for whatever comes our way.
But it’s not all about preparation. We have changed the way we manage and deliver services, internally and externally, to counter shockwaves of change. And we have invested in technologies and enabled a digital workforce so that we are flexible and ready to make the impossible, possible.
Any business is only as resilient as its weakest link. With a robust business resilience capability embedded across the organization, we can not only continue to serve our clients but also work with them to help them do the same.
"We are prepared for the worst by being ready with the best of our systems and services—not forgetting our people performing on their best day, every day."
— MARGARET SMITH, Senior Managing Director – Corporate Services & Sustainability and Business Operations, Accenture
When tech meets human ingenuity
Our business resilience strategy supports how we operate as a company, starting with our global client base of leading household names, underpinned by our internal functions (such as Global Asset Protection, Travel, Procurement, Workplace, Technology, Finance, Information Security, Legal and Human Resources) and supported by the collaborations of our third-party ecosystem.
With a business landscape that is constantly changing, it’s important to make sure that technologies are working in harmony with our people so that we can align to industry leading practices and overcome challenges.
The focus of our global approach includes first to be prepared so challenges do not overwhelm our organization. We take steps to secure the safety and well-being of our people who, in turn, embrace the business resilience program through education and ongoing awareness. We ensure that continuity plans are developed consistently and integrated with response and crisis processes. Exercises are used to validate our plans. A range of exercise scenarios (including pandemic) are performed at least annually, and results capture improvement actions so that the implemented strategy remains effective.
Second, we are ready by identifying priorities and making sure we are able to respond if threats become a reality. Accenture resilience processes support robust emergency response and crisis management. Preventative and contingency measures are taken to minimize the impact on people and services. Our operational teams identify essential and business-critical processes for vital functions such as employee payroll and supply chain to keep goods moving. And our Global Asset Protection team offers 24/7 monitoring to keep pace with changing conditions around the world.
Finally, we focus on being resilient in the long term. We are proactive, with sustainable plans that mitigate the impact of volatility, backed by strong leadership, integrated processes and ongoing collaboration.
In addition, our business resilience programs are supported by policies and we align methods to industry standards and practices so we can grow and evolve our capabilities relevant to the changes around us.
Like many global organizations, Accenture depends on a range of activities being performed extensively across Accenture’s locations around the world. For example, 70% of our Finance team’s services are performed in intelligent operations centers and many involve complex accounting, business and tax advisory activities—making business continuity a priority.
We rely on the simplicity, automation and preparedness that comes from technology transformation. For example, we have deployed cloud-based business resilience management software that sits on the Salesforce platform and provides greater analytics and insights.
In this way, we invest in and draw on best-in class technologies to automate and integrate, so that we can work faster and smarter. And also, we make sure we realize the full value from these technologies, so that we can disrupt and innovate the processes that we run to help future-proof our business.
"Our dedicated professionals are working across our business to drive out leading practices—the bedrock of being prepared, ready and resilient."
— ERIN HARRIS, Managing Director – Corporate Services & Sustainability, Business Resiliency Services, Accenture
Our strategy Three core plans make up the business resilience program:
Business continuity focuses on developing and implementing processes to support continued business operations. Accenture employs a range of capabilities to support business continuity planning that use our own methodology, following industry guidelines and standards. We undertake standardized analysis and reviews to identify critical business processes and the resources they rely on. We develop and implement solutions based on risks and requirements, conducting training (in-house and with vendors) and maintaining and measuring compliance.
Technology continuity focuses on the technology required to continue mission-critical systems. Our capabilities to support technology continuity include geographic distributions of data centers and service providers across multiple locations, data backup to maintain data integrity, specialist support teams with 24x7x365 coverage, standardized processes and testing and exercising programs to validate effectiveness.
Crisis management focuses on Accenture people and facilities—preventing, mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from conditions that threaten life, property, or operations. Our people are our first priority—but in taking care of our people, we are also taking care of our business continuity for our clients. Accenture supports crisis management with dedicated teams; for example, the Global Asset Protection team was a huge part of our early and swift response to the global pandemic, setting up a Pandemic Task Force in China and surrounding areas in January 2020. We also created a global people emergency communication system and a 24x7 Accenture Security Operations Center (ASOC)—a global watch program to advise our people on safety, security, health and travel and specialist risk intelligence that is shared across the world.
In the past 15 years, we have seen many extreme events in various corners of the world that had the potential to seriously impact business continuity. From the volcanic ash eruption in Iceland that caused enormous disruption to air travel across western and northern Europe in 2010, to a major hurricane in the United States in 2016 or a global cyberattack in 2017, we have seen and dealt with our fair share of crises. In each situation, our crisis management teams were not only prepared to handle the event, but also skilled in understanding the specific needs of those circumstances, through effective collaboration, agile response and being able to manage uncertainty.
One of the areas of specialty that has proved especially helpful in the last year has been our team handling infectious disease outbreaks. Accenture has a global Infectious Disease Plan (IDP) which provides preventative measures and recommends pre-planning for, and responses to, situations such as COVID-19.
The plan includes inputs from leading health authorities (such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and respective regional and local health agencies. We adjust global and location actions based on developing situations and support regional and local business resilience teams following a defined crisis management process.
As a result, our ability to manage the fallout from the pandemic was eased by a robust and well-informed team. It was able to put in place the plans and people to deliver a timely and response that was right for us and our business. For instance, we enabled 95% of Accenture people to work from home, including 350,000 delivery center people, while completing 42 acquisitions and establishing 100 Return to Office Workplace protocols.
"Now, our corporate functions and client projects can manage disruption using their business continuity assessments and plans—enabling end-to-end business resilience."
— PENELOPE PRETT, Chief Information Officer, Accenture
A valuable difference
Accenture uses multiple methods to support business resilience. But at the heart lies our strategies around people (running award-winning learning programs on remote working), infrastructure (deploying uninterrupted power supplies and secure connectivity) and technology (providing soft phones and privacy screens).
Our business continuity planning isn’t limited to how we provide our client services. We also bake in business continuity for our functions and facilities that support those client services. With such a comprehensive, end-to-end strategy in place, we can realize business resilience for more than a single corporate function. We include every aspect of how we operate, serve and run—and are able to do all those things quickly and easily.
Two elements are helping us to respond in such an agile manner. First, we have modified our technology approach toward a “one person, one machine” strategy. This means we have 710,000 people, all using workstations and mobiles that can communicate securely and reliably in every corner of the world.
Second, Accenture IT infrastructure runs in the hybrid cloud. That not only means we’re saving cost by spending half as much as our legacy delivery models, but also gives us new IT potential through flexible and resilient capabilities.
Above all, we are successful in executing business resilience because we work together, better than ever. We bring together specialists in various disciplines across the organization to deliver an integrated, cross-functional strategy and enjoy the shared success of a more robust, resilient business.
What we do for clients
We use the same framework that we use for ourselves to support resilience for our clients. We are able to apply lessons learned around agile workforces and flexible plans to support clients’ business continuity.
Accenture’s agility-first approach includes three core options that help businesses be more resilient:
An agile workforce that is able to work remotely. What’s involved? The workforce must use laptops. Connectivity over the public internet must be possible. Security controls, public services stability and regulations will all influence remote working.
A distributed workforce that provides location resilience. What’s involved? Multiple locations need to be used for service delivery and time zones taken into account. Languages, skills and access to applications need to be agreed when the plan is activated.
A flexible workforce that is able to physically move from one location to another. What’s involved? Only used when Remote and Redirect is not an option. Involves laptop-enabled users for greater agility and consideration of physical security controls (restricted work area vs open area).
Continuity from collaboration
A combination of resilience options could offer a more agile response and continuity of services; for example, combining remote and redirect or redirect and relocate.
The Accenture business resilience program is aligned to the industry standards (ISO22301, ISO20000, ISO 27001) and certified in all India and Philippines locations, plus the China and United Kingdom Advanced Technology Centers.
Although we recognize that no one can guarantee 100% continuity in the event of a crisis due to the uncertain nature of situations, we have seen that bringing together effective collaboration with robust continuity plans is helping our organization to not only build resilience, but also help our clients to manage change.
Business resilience professionals around the globe supporting our clients
Clients supported globally
Countries supported with business continuity plans
Continuity plans implemented
Meet the team
Senior Managing Director and Executive Director – Corporate Services & Sustainability and Business Operations