Regional Networks for Operational Intelligence & Agility: Focusing on Day-to-Day Operations and Advancing Strategic Resilience

Posted: April 5, 2016 at 1:37 pm, Last Updated: April 12, 2016 at 2:21 pm

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by William G. Raisch, Carlos E. Restrepo, Parker M. Coyne, Carol A. Shields, and Amelia R. Swan
International Center for Enterprise Preparedness (InterCEP), New York University

An innovative resilience private/public sector program has been established with a focus on addressing the full spectrum of disruptions to organizational operations, from the day-to-day smaller disruptions that affect building capacity to major crises as well.   The Metropolitan Resilience Network (MRN) is being developed as a global prototype to address shared risks to the operations of the private sector and related stakeholders in government and the NGO community.  The program grows from over 11 years of direct engagement of targeted stakeholders by the NYU International Center for Enterprise Preparedness (InterCEP) and is being championed and funded by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

Delivering Value across the Spectrum of Small to Large Disruptions: Lowering the Bar in Resilience

Organizational resilience is generally thought to refer to rapid recovery following a substantial disruption[1] and a return to similar or improved conditions relative to normal conditions prior to the disruption.[2]  Resilience and its various related disciplines are most often focused on preparing for the impacts of low probability / high impact events.

Yet, while there are clearly some elements of resilience that may be specific to major catastrophes, arguably there are a vast array of capabilities and resources that are valuable in addressing disruptions whether they be large or small.  These include cross-cutting capacities such as situational awareness, risk intelligence, robust communications and collaboration capacities, understanding dependencies and interdependencies,[3] and a general commitment to evolving your organization based on lessons learned from past disruptions.[4]

This approach of developing capacities that are valuable in achieving organizational objectives across the spectrum of potential disruptions from small to large can be termed “operational agility.”   Advancing organizational agility offers substantial value to organizations since, arguably, the cost of smaller disruptions in sum total may well eclipse the impact of any single major disruption. The ability to address both large and small disruptions can therefore yield substantial rewards.

Additionally, when primarily focusing solely on high impact but low probability preparedness, there can be significant challenges in getting engagement by key stakeholders internal and external to an organization.  The willingness to invest time, energy and funding into what only potentially may happen is often overshadowed by the “day-to-day fighting of fires,” i.e., near-term operational challenges loom more tangible and more immediately threatening than down-the-road potential threats.

The MRN program has leveraged this very common dynamic and used interest in addressing near term disruptions and challenges to engage organizational stakeholders in activities that not only address the immediate “fires” but also build key elements of resilience to address large-scale disruptions should they occur.

Engaging Key Private & Public Stakeholders Across the Region to Establish a Trusted Community to Advance “Operational Agility”

The MRN engages a full range of stakeholders vital to operational agility and resilience.  Engaged stakeholder groups are reflected in the graphic below:

MRN Figure 1

Figure 1. Metropolitan Resilience Network Stakeholders / Members

The central activities of the MRN include:

  • Face-to-face Urgent Threat Forums with experts from various fields exploring current and emerging risks, their potential impacts and strategies to address them in roundtable discussions with participants.
  • Monthly Web Briefings on Key Risks & Challenges delivered on an interactive discussion basis allowing for organizational participants to raise questions directly to world experts and thereby inform their risk assessment and planning efforts.
  • Best Practice Resources identifying and disseminating actionable strategies for operational agility and resilience.
  • Flash Surveys to assess how members are preparing for, responding to, or recovering from, disruptions can assist participating organization in benchmarking with others and can also inform the actions of entities like government and critical infrastructure who may wish to better understand current or prospective actions by the private sector.
  • Joint Exercises focused on sharing planning assumptions among both private and public sector organizations to support more coordinated activity.
  • Hot Washes & After Action Reports distilling lessons learned from disruptions and exercises to inform future planning.
  • Real Time Situational Awareness & Operational Intelligence Platform providing a clearer understanding of the current operating environment for participating organizations.

Operational Intelligence as the Foundation for Blue & Gray Sky Resilience

A foundational element of MRN activities is providing actionable information valuable to daily business operations as well as during disruptions small to large.  This is accomplished in large part through the Metro-Ops platform which provides operational intelligence & situational awareness.  The platform’s development has been a collaboration between InterCEP and the technology company, Swan Island Networks.[5]

Raisch Fig 2
Figure 2. Sample Metro-OPS Situational Awareness Dashboard Showing Regional Overview (with Traffic Hazards Map, Public Safety Alerts, Weather Alerts & Radar, Critical Infrastructure Status Tweets and MRN and Affiliates Announcements)
Raisch Fig 3
Figure 3. Sample Metro-OPS Situational Awareness Dashboard Showing Transportation Operational Status (in optional Green, Amber, Red mode)

Source: Metropolitan Resilience Network (MRN), International Center for Enterprise Preparedness (InterCEP), New York University.

Distinguishing elements of the Metro-Ops platform include:

  • One Stop / Easy Access Dashboards Bring Multiple Information Sources Together in One Place: The platform brings together a diversity of information for easier access and monitoring including RSS, Twitter, CAP (Common Alerting Protocol) and links to operational status boards, maps and other vetted feeds with the goal of incorporating other interoperable data formats and standards. Categories represented include:
    • Traffic mapping & monitoring (real-time incident reporting, traffic cameras)
    • Mass transit status (rail, airports, subways, ferries)
    • Weather (HD radar graphics, alerts, forecasts, integrated storm surge feeds)
    • Public safety alerts (police, fire, public health, emergency management)
    • Electric power and communications and other critical infrastructure status
    • Risk intelligence on key threats to organizational operations including infectious disease, severe weather outlook / other natural hazards, terrorism, cyber/technology, etc. focusing on consolidating and filtering feeds and resources from vetted sources.
  • Emphasis is on Vetted Information Sources: Government, critical infrastructure and other vetted entities serve as the core emphasis for information feeds.  Other sources such as general social media are utilized as appropriate with the goal clearly differentiating these feeds.
  • Dedicated Analysts Allow Participants to Directly Communicate Requests for Additional Information and Provide Input on Relevance of Information / Other Elements of Program: MRN analysts receive direct participant input online and endeavor to respond in short order and to develop additional resources as needed.
  • Focus is on Filtering out “Noise” to Distill Relevant Information for the Private Sector: MRN analysts work to refine search criteria and other technology to deliver relevant and actionable information wherever possible.
  • Tailored Alerts via Text & Email Can Contact Participants when a Critical Incident Occurs based on Criteria Set by User Communities: In development is a “Smart Alerts” feature allowing groups to define the criteria that generate an alert via text and email to designated users based on the nature of the incident.
  • Event-Specific Dashboards can be Developed on a Quick-Response Basis by MRN Analysts: Vital information to inform decision-making can be provided quickly in the aftermath of significant incidents.
  • Organizational Participants Enable a Real-Time Business Intelligence Network: Information from divergent corporations throughout the region can provide a more comprehensive situational awareness for all parties. Whether it is through flash surveys, self-reporting via the Metro-Ops platform, incident conference calls / web forums or other reporting functions, all participants have the opportunity to function as nodes in a wider network—providing substantial operational intelligence to all members.
  • Two-Way Communication & Collaboration among Participants will Enable Best Practices Sharing and Requests for Assistance: The capability to support information sharing via threaded discussions, documents, photographs, etc. is in development, creating an extremely robust resource to inform preparedness, response and recovery operations.
  • Intelligence Dashboards on Targeted Risks Support Planning and Accelerated Response: Pre-researched, trusted sources on key topics/threats developed in advance are available to support preparedness, response and recovery on such threats as cyber, terrorism, severe weather, infectious disease and others.
  • Economies of Scale: The MRN can enable functions that can be enhanced and improved as the size of the participant base grows without significant cost increases.
  • Advocacy Role on behalf of Private Sector: The MRN can distill and communicate the needs of the wider business community and act as the interface to public agencies and elements of critical infrastructure to develop actionable solutions.
  • Connects a Vetted Community of Professional Users via Password-Only Access: Access is provided only to invited professionals from known organizations in the private and public sectors.

Collaborative Effort of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and NYU InterCEP

The International Center for Enterprise Preparedness at New York University hosts the Metropolitan Resilience Network as part of its core mission to advance operational agility and resilience in the private and public sectors.[6] This ongoing program is a collaboration between InterCEP and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a bi-state regional organization serving one of the world’s most vibrant global metropolitan areas. It is charged with providing transportation, terminal, and other facilities of trade and commerce within the Port District. The Port District comprises an area of about 1,500 square miles in both States, centering about New York Harbor. The Authority manages and/or operates all of the region’s major commercial airports, marine terminals in both New Jersey and New York, and interstate tunnels and bridges, which are vital “Gateways to the Nation.”

The Future:  Evolving Directions for Expanding Functionality, Reach and Impact

With ongoing input and engagement from its members on their needs, the MRN is expected to continue to evolve; current prospects include the following.

  • Further Enhancement as a “Business Intelligence Network” Leveraging Input from a Wide Regional Community: With the MRN program currently tracking to have over 1,000 organizational participants by summer of 2016, each of these organizations has the potential to function as a node for information gathering on the regional operating environment.  Each organization has distinct expertise, insights and capabilities that could enable more effective operational agility in the face of disruptions.  The MRN will continue to explore this opportunity and enhance capabilities as appropriate.
  • Regional Resource Management/Sourcing Support: Sourcing information on the availability of key resources for response and recovery could involve matching needs/asks with offers.  Alternatively, it may include indicating current inventory availability for providers such as big box stores of products in high demand during and after major disruptions such as snow shovels, sand bags, etc.  Additionally, it may function as a catalyst in bringing together multiple parties to do a joint purchase such as charter buses for employees.
  • Raisch Fig 4
  • Potential Central Support Role for Initiatives in Other Cities: The MRN is being expressly built as a global prototype in the hope of advancing resilience widely. Leveraging economies of scale, the MRN could apply its support staff, know-how and technology platforms to establish situational awareness platforms in other cities, potentially in conjunction with local resilience partners or other existing national/international organizations which could provide regional insights and connectivity to local government and other stakeholders.  Opportunities may include:
    • Centralized content development on common threats & challenges;
    • Industry sector-focused analyst support & information filtering;
    • Cross-cutting multinational corporate engagement—leveraging InterCEP’s Global Resilience Network of leading corporations;
    • Cross-city pollination—Best practices and lessons learned can be quickly shared for use in other areas;
    • New technology identification & sharing—including new technologies in operational agility & resilience such as drones, Internet-of-Everything Sensors, new backup energy systems and cloud-based technology allowing for “virtual volunteers” from other cities or companies to assist on projects or in a major disaster.
  • Wide Engagement Welcomed: InterCEP welcomes contact by organizations interested in the MRN program in the metropolitan New York area as well as exploring wider application of the MRN model in other cities. Contact intercep@nyu.edu or call 1-646-997-4020.

Acknowledgment and Disclaimer

The work presented in this paper is supported in part by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) under a grant for the Regional Resilience & Emergency Preparedness Program. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ).


References

[1] Martina K. Linnenluecke, Andrew Griffiths, and Monika Winn, “Extreme Weather Events and the Critical Importance of Anticipatory Adaptation and Organizational Resilience in Responding to Impacts,” Business Strategy and the Environment 21, no. 1 (2012): 17-32, available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/bse.708.

[2] N. Sahebjamnia, A.A. Torabi, and S.A. Mansouri, “Integrated Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning: Towards Organizational Resilience,” European Journal of Operational Research 242 (2015): 261-273.

[3] David Mendonça and William A. Wallace, “Factors Underlying Organizational Resilience: The Case of Electric Power Restoration in New York City after 11 September 2001,” Reliability Engineering and System Safety 141 (2015): 83-91, available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/jress.2015.03.017.

[4] Debra Van Opstal,  “The Resilience Imperative,” The CIP Report 11, no. 6 (Dec. 2012): 2-3.

[5] For additional information on Swan Island Networks see http://www.swanislandnetworks.com/.

[6] For additional information on the Metropolitan Resilience Network (MRN) see: http://www.intercep.nyu.edu/mrn

Write to the Editors at ciprpt@gmu.edu