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November 22, 2021


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Crisis Management

Why more organisations are centralising crisis management decisions

Statistics from the recent BCI Crisis Management Report 2021, sponsored by International SOS, highlight how effective centralised models can be with regards to crisis management. Regional Security Manager at International SOS, Harriet Brennan, shares why she believes more organisations are choosing to adopt the approach. 

Harriet Brennan, International SOS

According to the report, 81.3% of organisations who adopted a centralised or hybrid model reported that their crisis management capabilities were either “good” (51.7%) or “excellent” (29.7%).

Generally, centralisation has proved to be the most effective strategy for responding to the rapidly changing events of the pandemic, as it can ensure a high level of coordination and agility needed for handling variable crises like COVID-19.

The pandemic has triggered many organisations to become more centralised in their approach, as they’ve brought key decision-making capabilities into the hands of a core hub.

Despite the clear benefits associated with centralisation, it is important that organisations carefully consider how centralisation will work for them, bearing in mind the following points.

Listen to the experts

In centralised crisis management models, security teams have a vital role to play as their knowledge is extremely valuable. Many crises have a security issue at their heart, as the pandemic has demonstrated; although a public health crisis, the pandemic has had a number of security implications around the world.

If we take the vaccine roll-out, for instance, this has been linked to security concerns such as misinformation, social unrest, scams, cybercrime, and corruption. It’s therefore hardly surprising that organisations have come to rely on the direct input of security experts regarding crisis management. If centralisation is an effective model, then the best forms of centralisation appreciate the benefits of utilising specialised experts, like security personnel.

While a strong central structure can be beneficial, providing a consistent approach to crises, it is also crucial to include local teams with regional expertise. Failing to do so can results in a rigid and inefficient response.

In 2009, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Italy, with its epicentre near the central-southern town of L’Aquila. This was one of the strongest earthquakes in over 25 years in the country, causing more 300 fatalities and severe infrastructural damage. Due to the lack of preparedness on a local level, a dominating command-and-control system was established to manage the crisis.

This centralised approach effectively side-lined local communities, leading many residents to leave and resulting in reduced community resilience. This highlights the importance of also including local teams and specialised expertise in the crisis management process.

In order to ensure quick and appropriate decision making, global organisations may need to allow a degree of regional autonomy. This can improve regional response by allowing for adaption based on local specificities. For instance, the pandemic has triggered movement restrictions and containment measures across the world, often changing at short notice and even differing on a regional level within countries. Therefore, it’s key to include relevant experts with local knowledge to ensure the broader crisis management team remain informed, but also ensure that evolving issues are appropriately handled.

Gauge stakeholder sentiment

Centralisation needs to be adopted in a pragmatic manner to be truly successful.

This means proper planning and identification of key stakeholders; excluding key stakeholders can lead to short fallings with decision making.

Furthermore, it’s important to include relevant stakeholders from across the organisation, to represent potentially differing concerns and priorities. While adaptability and flexibility are cornerstones of good crisis management, it is important that a balance is also maintained between different stakeholder groups.

This is why we make stakeholder interviews the cornerstone of International SOS’ Gap Analysis – a solution specifically designed to help us identify and alleviate potential vulnerabilities organisations may unknowingly have in their crisis management approach.

For instance, we conducted extensive stakeholder interviews with a major European telecommunications company, at an early stage of the pandemic, helping to highlight key areas for improvement in their crisis management structure and processes.

Collaboration remains key

Due to the all-encompassing nature of the COVID-19 crisis, the pandemic has helped to make crisis management more collaborative.

Decision makers cannot work in silos, needing the input of employees working in different roles across the organisation.

Global crises can impact organisations on multiple fronts, so employees at all levels and with differing specialities should be involved in the mitigation process – information in particular, needs to flow in all directions around the crisis management structure.

As more employees influence crisis management, security managers should work to make sure their voices are heard loud and clear. Their influence will be key moving forward, sharing actionable insight which can shape crisis management plans for the better. By also collaborating with their colleagues in other areas such as HR, security managers can help their organisation to formulate an effective crisis management response, regardless of the threats at hand.

Moving forward, understanding how complex the current risk landscape is will be a key task for organisations looking to ensure long term continuity and resilience.

The pandemic has made this issue clear for many, and numerous organisations have seen the benefits of centralising key crisis management functions. This approach can ensure that critical decisions are made in a timely and effective manner, and the input of security managers will be a crucial aspect of this. Centralisation doesn’t necessarily mean a top-down heavy system, as positive collaboration and inclusion remains fundamental to any good crisis management strategy.

‘Secure by Default’ in the Age of Converged Security: Insights from IFSEC 2019

From data security to the risks and opportunities of artificial intelligence, the conversations at IFSEC International shape future security strategies and best practices. This eBook brings you exclusive insights from these conversations, covering:

  • A Global Political and Security Outlook from Frank Gardner OBE
  • Surveillance Camera Day: Tony Porter launches ‘Secure by Default’ requirements for video surveillance systems
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  • The Ethical and Geopolitical Implications of AI and Machine Learning

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