The 5 Principles of Flexible Strength in Business

Editor’s Note: If there’s one thing businesses have learned over the past two years, it’s that the ability to pivot and adapt are essential to survive. Whether it’s to avoid a new threat or to capitalize on an emerging opportunity, organizations that embrace these five principles will be poised to thrive.

Predicting what the future holds for your business has always been difficult. These days, rapidly advancing technology combined with a disruption in basic business assumptions has caught many organizations off guard. Healthcare organizations that were unable to pivot to providing telehealth services during the pandemic were left behind. Retailers without the ability to adjust how they do business have been feeling the heat of the supply chain crisis and losing the battle for customer loyalty. And financial institutions have seen their security needs increase as old practices clash with the realities of remote work.

Winners in this new era of business will be those that can adapt quickly to changing circumstances and implement rapid technological solutions in response to new challenges.

Smart companies realize that the path forward isn’t about trying to predict exactly what the next crisis will be. Instead, the winners in this new era of business will be those that can adapt quickly to changing circumstances and implement rapid technological solutions in response to new challenges—whatever those challenges may look like. 

The flexible strength that helps organizations survive and thrive in the face of modern challenges can be broken down into five principles: agility, scalability, security, manageability and optimization. Each of these is important individually for your business, but when they’re all combined you have the elements needed to endure unpredictable scenarios and excel in situations that cause other organizations to crumble. 

1. Agility: Adapt and adjust your business

Agility in the business world is the ability to evolve with changing situations and circumstances. Agile companies are responsive, nimble and flexible. They’re ready to take advantage of new opportunities and fine-tune how they do business to avoid obstacles. 

Restaurants are a great example of an industry that has had to deal with significant changes over the past few years. Delivery apps, the pandemic and labor shortages have all placed hurdles on the path to business success—and it’s been the agile eateries that have won out while those more resistant to change have fallen behind. 

A recent partnership between Windstream Enterprise and a casual dining restaurant chain helps illustrate what organizational agility can look like in practice. In this case, the company worked with Windstream Enterprise to develop new tools for doing business. An upgraded network allowed servers to enter orders in real time and process credit card transactions via tablets, while also adding WiFi service for customers to enjoy. 

Taken all together, these new capabilities allowed the restaurant chain to improve the most basic part of its business: serving customers. High-availability SD-WAN delivered the technical backbone needed for the business to modernize, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and the preservation of the restaurant’s hard-earned reputation.

2. Scalability: Get ready for business growth

Scalability is a company's ability to ramp up its systems and processes to accommodate growth and new customer needs. For example, a retailer seeing a sharp increase in online sales needs a system that can flex to handle the higher volume without crashing or failing to process orders. Scalable companies often partner with providers that can manage their increasing bandwidth and server needs.

Navigant Credit Union is an example of how even long-established businesses can run into challenges with ongoing success, requiring new investments in scalability. In this case, the 106-year-old company from Rhode Island found that their legacy MPLS network wasn’t keeping up with their continual growth. Branches were experiencing network outages and employees were struggling to access systems. A full upgrade to SD-WAN ConciergeTM with high bandwidth Ethernet allowed Navigant to banish their growing pains while keeping performance high and preventing network outages. 

Companies looking to provide better experiences while scaling up should also consider investing in technologies like Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), which provide easy ways to expand customer support during times of rapid growth. Some CCaaS offerings take scalability a step further by providing flexible pricing so companies only pay for licenses they actually use.

3. Security: Protecting the company and customers

It’s essential to keep company networks secure and customer data safe, but new remote work realities have made this much more challenging for internal IT teams. The vulnerable “attack surface” available to bad actors has expanded, and the risk of cyberattacks is reaching new heights. Companies that are serious about security need to implement protection to help avoid breaches, and develop incident response processes before disaster strikes.

For many companies, Managed Network Security (MNS) can be the best solution for ensuring security is handled while a business changes and grows. Instead of taking on the work of creating and maintaining in-house protection, organizations rely on an MNS partner to handle time consuming tasks like monitoring the network for suspicious activity and filtering out unwanted and malicious content. The MNS provider stays on top of updates and new security threats so companies don't have to divert extra time and resources to the process.

From retail to healthcare, security is critical a to safe and successful digital evolution. As more industries and individual businesses move their operations online, the risks will continue to grow. The financial costs of cybercrime increased 15% year-over-year according to Cybersecurity Ventures, and it’s estimated that digital criminal attacks will cost businesses over $10 trillion by 2025. Working with the right security partner is one of the best ways to expand and evolve your business without burdening your internal IT teams.

4. Manageability and Visibility: Taking charge of company procedures and technology

Manageability is the ability to adjust processes and tools based on new information. Visibility refers to the view a company has into the permissions, operations and real-time performance of its networks, apps and services. Together, manageability and visibility refer to how well a company can monitor and control its most essential tools. 

Manageability and visibility can often come in the form of control panels and informational dashboards. Companies looking to build their flexible strength should make sure these tools provide the information and functions they need to make decisions and take action to keep their business running smoothly. WE Connect, for example, is a portal that provides a “single pane of glass” through which organizations can monitor diverse but connected tools like SD-WAN and Windstream Enterprise’s proprietary UCaaS solution OfficeSuite UC®. Using a centralized system, IT experts can monitor critical data and perform technical audits, while other end users can perform tasks depending on their level of permissions, such as adding new business locations or employees.

5. Optimization: Streamlining operations

In terms of flexible strength, optimization is the process of ensuring a company's operations and technology run as efficiently as possible. Highly optimized organizations are well prepared to adapt to unexpected situations because they aren’t weighed down by extraneous expenses and they aren’t held back by outdated technology.

Instead of simply reacting to events, well optimized companies proactively look for and address inefficiencies and bottlenecks in production, communication and technology. Network and security audits help identify areas that can be improved or streamlined. IT teams, however, aren't typically equipped to effectively conduct these audits. Instead, companies can work with partners that offer audits along with additional professional guidance.

Companies should keep optimization in mind when they’re looking to make infrastructure and technology upgrades. The case of the non-profit Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia provides a good example of how this can be done. That organization was suffering from “bandwidth starvation” due to a single-threaded MPLS connection. In order to upgrade, leadership first considered expanding their MPLS network in order to handle the increased load. However, it quickly became clear that would be too expensive to be feasible. 

Instead, Goodwill partnered with Windstream Enterprise to implement SD-WAN Concierge, using high bandwidth broadband and 4G cellular broadband as the backup. The new solution was affordable and efficient, especially compared to the cost of adding bandwidth to the old system. 

As John Leopold, VP of Enterprise Support for Goodwill, says, “We can spend more time on projects that help grow the business and improve processes, instead of constantly firefighting.”
That’s what optimization looks like in practice. 

Build flexible strength into your business

A good place to begin is with a network, security and compliance audit.

If you’re looking to increase the flexible strength of your organization, a good place to begin is with a network, security and compliance audit. This assessment will help you understand the current state of your business, along with identifying any network security holes or weak points. Audits are also useful for building the framework of a modern organizational resilience strategy and developing a plan for moving apps and data to the cloud. 

Using the right technology will help your organization stay agile and scale more easily as circumstances change. Modern businesses must ensure their network infrastructure is properly equipped to meet their needs, and build security into their plans at every stage in order to avoid disaster. To achieve success, look for a technology partner that can help you build the five principles of flexible strength into every aspect of your business. 

Key takeaway: Strong but inflexible organizations are not equipped for success in today’s world. Companies need to modernize their infrastructure and processes with an eye towards agile, optimized and secure ways of doing business. Start with auditing your organization first, then find the right technology partner to help you take your business to the next level. 

This article was written by Windstream Enterprise

Learn how Windstream Enterprise can help you ensure your business has the right technology in place to take advantage of new marketplace realities and rapidly-evolving customer demands.

About the Author

Windstream Enterprise

Windstream Enterprise believes people should expect more from their service provider. Our mission: as network, security and application performance become continuously more critical, WE will be the partner that responds to unique customer needs—a pathfinder to help lead them through technology transformation. A trusted advisor to help them connect, transform and elevate their businesses.

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