If the last few years have taught us anything it’s this: business disruptions are not rare events. They are the norm.

Steve Bakalar head shot
Steve Bakalar, Georgia-Pacific

Today’s business leaders are grappling with logistics nightmares, economic upheaval, evolving consumer preferences, rapid technological advancements, regulatory changes, and armed conflicts.

While it’s not possible to plan for every foreseeable disruption your business may encounter, it is possible to foster a resilient culture capable of effectively weathering the storms that come your way.

In a recent study of business resiliency, SAS identified what we call the Resiliency Rules, determining that these five principles power resilient organizations:

  • Curiosity.
  • Innovation.
  • Speed and agility.
  • Data culture and literacy.
  • Equity and responsibility.

To learn more about how these rules resonate with business leaders, we spoke with Steven Bakalar, VP of IT Digital Transformation at Georgia-Pacific. Watch this short video featuring Bakalar or read the longer interview for advice you can use as you plan and prepare for disruption.


Question: How does analytics help Georgia-Pacific harness the power of curiosity to look at things differently and find unexpected answers?

Steven Bakalar: Curiosity starts with people. It’s important to have people who are eager to challenge and question. People who are willing to fail. Then, data and analytics are the mechanisms we use to eliminate bias. Over time, as people work to solve problems, they tend to quickly accept the results they anticipated. But the data doesn’t lie, so if you have large amounts of data, effective models tuned for the use case, and curious analysts, you can challenge your results to ensure the accuracy and reliability of your analyses — and find novel solutions.

Q: How would you say data and analytics help you accelerate innovation across your organization?

Bakalar: Innovation moves at the speed of information. The faster you can acquire, share and leverage information in your models, the more quickly your organization can develop insights that can translate into competitive advantage.

Here’s an example. Previously in our facilities’ asset health division, our technicians were sent out looking for problems: testing gauges, checking amperage, etc. We flipped the equation. Now every device has a digital sensor and we’re capturing petabytes of data. Our models search for anomalies and then alert the maintenance worker or operator. This new equation has the operator fixing problems, not searching for them. It’s transformational.

Another example uses computer vision. Instead of having a human monitor a manufacturing process for jams or misalignment or watching products or parts on a conveyor, we have a camera take standard images. Then a model evaluates those images and instantly alerts when there are problems. It’s a very efficient use of people’s time.

Q: Can you share an example illustrating how your team relies on speed and agility to be more productive?

Bakalar: To remain relevant, you have to quickly respond to changing market conditions and your customers’ needs with innovative solutions. That’s why we follow the minimum viable product (MVP) approach. The MVP approach allows us to build the basic solution very quickly, put it in the hands of users, and let them provide feedback to improve future iterations.

Q: Let’s talk about data culture and data literacy. What benefits are you seeing from instilling a culture of data deep within your organization and what does the process look like to grow those skill sets at different levels?

Bakalar: For Georgia-Pacific, data is a strategic asset. It’s essential for us to run our business competitively. Our process is to focus on a problem and find the relevant data and modeling techniques to solve it. Once you get insights from this strategy, it’s hard to imagine others running their businesses without relying on data. But not everyone in our company was on board at first. To improve data literacy and ensure a data-driven culture, we use the human action model.

There are three steps to the model: First, help them see the gap between where they are and where they need to be. Second, help them identify things they can do to correct the gap. And finally, show them the ongoing data and analytics practices they should follow to solve future problems.

With the human action model, we open people’s eyes to the value of a data-driven strategy by making the data relatable and the insights applicable to their problems.

Q: How are you ensuring that ethical standards are applied during the design and development of transformative technologies?

Bakalar: We think about data stewardship around environmental issues and around safety issues. Those areas, as well as our mission to develop or build products that have “mutual cycles of benefit with our customers,” take precedence. We want to ensure we’re always using the fewest resources that produce the best quality products at the right time and at the right place, so our customers consume them.

Get ready for whatever the future holds: Take the resiliency assessment and read the report

We hope Bakalar’s advice sparked some ideas you can use to help make your organization more resilient. Before moving on, read the full report. You’ll get a deep dive into The Resiliency Rules, more insight into the research, and tips for incorporating these rules into your business strategy.

We also created an assessment tool to help leaders and executives gauge their organization’s resiliency. In the assessment, you’ll answer questions about your organization’s resilience and then we will provide customized recommendations. It only takes about five minutes. Why don’t you take the quiz now?


About Author

Alison Bolen

Editor of Blogs and Social Content

Alison Bolen is an editor at SAS, where she writes and edits content about analytics and emerging topics. Since starting at SAS in 1999, Alison has edited print publications, Web sites, e-newsletters, customer success stories and blogs. She has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University and a master’s degree in technical writing from North Carolina State University.

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