This is the 19th edition of my New Regular series, which is dedicated to helping small business owners have the maximum opportunity to be successful in the post-pandemic economy. Normal just checked into a halfway house for the pathologically nostalgic.
Redundant. What comes to mind when you hear that word? Wikipedia reports that it means, “unnecessary, superfluous, needless.” For example, it’s redundant to say, “undercapitalized small business.”
As business managers, we convert Wiki’s words into “expensive, inefficient, and unproductive.” In fact, we’re on a continuous quest to root out waste and the likely offenders are anything redundant.
One of the markers of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic is its disruptiveness, both on society in general and the marketplace in particular. In the third decade of the 21st century, in the New Regular economy, these disruptions have illuminated the need for more redundancy. Consequently, I’m forecasting that we’ll not only regard the word and concept with more respect, but redundancy will increasingly become a business best practice and a customer expectation.
Let me put a finer point on that: Expect to see proof-of-redundancy request letters from customers and in RFP specifications. Start budgeting for redundancy today, even if you don’t yet know how you’ll spend it.
Now, let’s focus on four areas of redundancy that will impact your business sooner than later. The goal here isn’t to cover the redundancy landscape (maybe my next book), but rather, to foster a better rap for redundancy. To see it not as an inefficient profit-eater, but as a prudent practice in playing the long game.
The Supply Chain
This is a marketplace structure as old as the division of labor. Alas, as a primordial mechanism of commerce, the ubiquity of the supply chain has caused it to be taken for granted, like electricity or oxygen.
But the pandemic has illuminated weak links in the global supply chain continuum, from the macro movement of all goods and services across the global economy to the micro fulfillment of a small business’s e-commerce order. During the pandemic, virtually every consumer and business could have benefited from better supply chain redundancy.
For decades, Wall Street has demanded redundancy-eradicating practices to drive profits to the bottom line; certainly, no crime there. But the pandemic has shown us that if a good or service is essential – like antibiotics or microprocessors – businesses must demonstrate supply chain redundancy for when, not if the primary source is eliminated. And consider this headline from a new NCSC report: “Supply chain exploitation by foreign adversaries a growing threat to America.”
In the New Regular, the only thing more expensive than supply chain redundancy is finding your business – or your country – without an essential source because of a black swan or bad actors.
How we power the marketplace is a practical and political hot potato these days. Practical for business efficiency and political due to both the hysteria and denial of climate change. It’s ironic that both sides of this debate use redundant examples in their arguments. Businesses seek solutions in natural gas, LP, and more efficient electric, while the green side promotes wind, solar, and thermal. And yet a redundant blend to seek middle ground and make progress continues to be elusive.
Until innovation ultimately delivers carbon’s replacement (magnets? hydrogen?), budgeting for redundant power should mean both/and, not either/or.
Cyber and Data Security
In case you didn’t know, your network is pinged hundreds of times a minute by cyber-criminals, using any number of breaching methods and weapons. Their MO is to get you to click on a cyber-tripwire so they can penetrate the firewall and creepy-crawly across your network and devices.
Once inside, they seize control of your system and lock it up until you pay a ransom. Of course, you must train your people to recognize and avoid cyber-crime attacks. But prevention is only half of your defense because the odds are in favor of the bad guys, and this is where redundancy rules.
At a minimum, maintain real-time data redundancy in the cloud as well as regular off-line backup on a peripheral. At a maximum, maintain a redundant, parallel-universe network. The grim truth is your default cyber-security goal should be to establish redundancy options for when – not if – a breach happens. Put it in your New Regular budget.
If data is the new oil, fiber is the new asphalt. One of the illumination surprises of the pandemic is the inadequacy of high-speed, broadband Internet distribution to America’s last-mile customers. The pandemic didn’t create remote work, distance learning, telemedicine, or e-commerce, but it did accelerate by years our inevitable transition to them, which exposed America’s inconsistent broadband infrastructure.
So, if it’s agreed that we’ll be doing more living, working and business online going forward, then we must also subscribe to the goal of redundant high-speed broadband connections when important things are required to be done. If your business only has one carrier to access the Internet, how will you serve customers when that connection is down?
One easy step toward redundant networks is to configure all laptops with both WiFi and a mobile network connectivity (my organization practices what I preach). If Comcast goes down, you’ve got redundancy with Verizon. Budgeting for broadband redundancy is an investment in uninterrupted customer service. What’s that worth?
Finally, to deal with future disruptions as a nation and as citizens, we must invest in multi-faceted redundancy and expect it from those we count on.
Write this on a rock … In the New Regular future – like tomorrow – redundancy will have a better rap. Budget for it.