Resilience and its relationship with business continuity relies upon integrating other risk-based management system approaches. Richard Derrett-Smith and Gary Lloyd explain some of the issues and propose a more effective approach to planning for resilience in ATM.

In March 2020, when air traffic levels in Europe fell by more than 80% in the space of just two weeks, ANSPs were largely unprepared for the business shock. A huge and sustained cut in income, combined with high costs left providers in a precarious financial and operational position.

The situation highlighted the importance of building greater resilience against a range of events – from threats such as global pandemics, extreme weather or cyber-attack, to system failure or industrial action. This is backed up by our own surveys, which identified service scalability as one of the top priorities and greatest challenges for ATM by both ANSP respondents (44%) and the live audience poll (28%) during our recent joint webinar with CANSO: The new possible: Building a better future for ATM.

Business Continuity Management can improve resilience

To build resilience we must first understand risk and how best to address it. The (principal) objectives of Risk Management (as discussed in ISO 31000) are to identify and assess risk, to determine appropriate risk treatments based on the best available information. Problems arise however, when ‘best available information’ is poor quality or absent, as often happens with complex and fast developing threats. This is where Business Continuity Management (BCM) steps up, looking at how to respond when disruption hits (people, premises, resources, supplies). It focuses on the importance of maintaining a level of service continuity even in a degraded mode.

When we consider ‘resilience’ we are focussing on preparation rather than response – resilience planning and management starts before disruption hits. The industry is progressively recognising the value of a BCM approach aligned with a performance-based system view. This is through a proactive, broader and more structured approach in which clear pillars of resilience management are established, similar to safety management.

A way forward for ANSPs

The maturity of BCM systems varies widely between ANSPs, and in general, lags far behind safety management. This leaves many ANSPs lacking the tools to respond efficiently when disaster strikes, and importantly, to recover fast. By linking familiar and well-understood safety management principles within a BCM framework, including an enterprise architecture where available, organisations are better able to identify the elements (e.g. cyber, safety, ISMS etc.) to integrate within a robust resilience management plan.

The approach should be broken into three phases. The first ‘survey‘ phase explores business continuity objectives, existing assets, networks, processes and people. This phase can use existing data such as enterprise architecture information to increase efficiency. The second ‘evaluate‘ phase identifies threats, weaknesses and maps the findings of the first phase against standards and best practice. The final ‘resolve‘ phase identifies vulnerabilities, priorities for action and supports the ANSP in finding appropriate solutions. This approach is tried and tested, resulting in ANSPs that are more resilient to disruption and faster to recover.

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