27 September 2007

Operational Risk: The Pursuit of Trusted Information...

Operational Risk is about Performance Management and Business Resilience. A few months ago the topic of Compete or Die was discussed here. Why revisit this topic? CEO's and the Board of Directors realize the road to eliminating fear in their organization and the marketplace is through trusted information.

Being agile, ready and capable of a quick recovery is what competitiveness is all about, on the field, on stage or around the table in the Board Room. Working towards control and protection while "fear" builds in the back of your mind makes you stiff, depletes your energy and creates doubt. And when you are operating a business or standing on the tee of your first sudden death hole on any PGA weekend, you better have resilience.

The business equivalent to homeland security and critical infrastructure protection is operational risk management—a domain that many executives see as the most important emerging area of risk for their firms. Increasingly, failure to plan for operational resilience can have “bet the firm” results.

There are numerous examples of how errors, omissions and glitches have brought down the reputations of many a Fortune 500 companies. What do they all have in common that led to their demise? A lack of economic and business resilience to remain competitive in the marketplace.

The threat of Tort Liability and the loss of reputation is top of mind these days with every major global company executive. The threat is real and increasing at a faster rate than many other real operational risks to the enterprise. Litigation from regulators, class actions and competitors has given the term Legal Risk new emphasis and meaning.

Once corporate management understands the need for a "resilience" mentality in place of a "protection" mental state, a new perspective is found. Investing in the vitality, agility and competitive capabilities of the organization sounds and is more positive. It alleviates the fear of doom and gloom and inspires new found innovation. The future of your organizations longevity and in it's adaptability can be achieved with a new perspective. Compete or die.

Performance Management could be enabled or suppressed by the amount of power you give your leadership. Do they have the ability to make a $1M decision or $10K decisions when it comes to investing budgeted capital into their business unit growth? Do they manage risk on a level where they are the most informed and the most knowledgeable about the business, or is the "Mother Ship" back at the home office dictating the way they spend or the way they invest?

PNC Bank has been converging functional business units as a way to impact their operational intelligence strategy. Do you have fraud management and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) programs that are operating without strategic coordination? Increasing the performance of operational risk sometimes requires the sharing of intelligence across boundaries and business units:

Ann Mele, PNC's Director of Financial Intelligence says "unification of corporate structures, operational processes and subject-matter-expertise presents the opportunity to combat fraud and AML issues more effectively and efficiently. We can now capture analyze, and disseminate information in a manner that proactively identifies threats before losses or major customer impact occurs."

The ability to know how to manage risk at the point of creating new information is the nexus of several disciplines and requires substantial training. Every minute that goes by with people not behaving correctly puts the enterprise at greater risk to lost performance opportunities.

All these issues can be summed up in a single concept: trusted information. Simply accessing data is no longer enough. Today's CEOs, CFOs and knowledge-workers must be able to reliably track the information they use for decisions back to the original source systems in order to ensure its timeliness, accuracy and credibility.

Over the last decade, organizations have invested millions of dollars in systems to collect, store and distribute information more effectively. Despite this, information users at all levels of the organization are often uncomfortable with the quality, reliability and transparency of the information they receive.

Today's organizations rarely have a "single view of the truth." Executives waste time in meetings debating whose figures are correct, rather than what to do about the company's issues. Additionally, they worry about the consequences of making strategic decisions using the wrong information, directly impacting the long-term survival of the organization.

The search for trusted information is a continuous pursuit for commanders in the "Mission Ready Room" and the "Corporate Board Room". So how do you achieve the level of assurance that's required to make the "bet the farm" risk management decisions in your enterprise?

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