Scenaris’  Allen Johnson and Cardinus’ Andy Hawkes delve deeper into business continuity and planning in light of the pandemic and provide their best-practice tips to enable you to better prepare for the next crisis.

The economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis have become clearer. Businesses that want to survive, let alone thrive in a post-pandemic world will need to reassess their business continuity models.

COVID-19 sent shockwaves through global economies. As businesses scrambled to react, business continuity planning — previously an often-overlooked subject — suddenly became a top priority, as well as a reminder that economic survival can hinge on a single concept: preparation.

It is unlikely that many business impact risk assessments actually included pandemic yet so many organisations moved to a 100% remote working model in rapid time. Having a business continuity plan in place was certainly beneficial as it had, at least, allowed the business to consider measures to take in the event of more foreseeable events.

Every crisis is unique in the way it creates impacts on an organisation: the speed that those impacts ripple through the business, the unforeseen and amplified impacts on other parts of the business, and the overall severity of the combined impacts.

Of course, COVID-19 was not your average crisis — say, the office phone system falling over, or a break-in but COVID-19 has reinforced the need for businesses operating in today’s complex, interconnected environment to expand their scenario planning beyond the obvious.

COVID-19 is a great example of that complexity. It may have started as a health and safety event but quickly went well beyond that, with seismic impacts. In today’s digitised and globally connected organisations, businesses don’t exist by themselves — they exist within complex economic and societal systems, and within integrated business ecosystems.

Best-Practice in Business Planning

What exactly should a best-practice business continuity and disaster planning process entail and how can businesses better prepare for the next event?

Secure your supply chain

It has been clear that from toilet paper to PPE the impact on the supply chain has been beyond the imagination pre-COVID. It is vital that firms have end-to-end views of their supply chain and consider every possible alternative. The focus from procurement to drive down costs as the priority may not be the best future-plan. Perhaps a focus on resilience of the supply chain should top the priority list?

Embrace smart tech

As the COVID-19 shutdown saw employees in their tens of thousands decamp from their workplaces, it was digital technology — mobile devices, video conferencing and cooperative working applications — that allowed them to work from home, mitigating for many the economic impact of the crisis.

It is clear that companies with cloud computing models typically fared better than enterprises running on-premises data centres and solutions.

Build a ‘can-do’ team

As well as investment in smart tech, building a strong, flexible workforce able to adapt to altered conditions and changing customer behaviours will give the organisation a better chance in the future.

Establishing strong channels of communication is a priority: they’re the key to remaining engaged with your team when a crisis unfolds and during the crucial recovery phase. And at the executive level, maintaining a close-knit cohort who can work through the challenges together and take decisive action is a must.

Leadership teams must be able to prioritise activities and spending requirements, execute emergency responses, pivot rapidly when required, and undertake continuous contingency planning.

Obey the new rules of hygiene

The term ‘social distancing’ has entered the vocabulary, and frequent hand-washing and sanitising are now the norm. Instead of viewing these as pandemic-specific practices, businesses should consider implementing permanent measures to improve health and hygiene in the workplace.

Prepare for financial shocks

Many businesses have watched revenue plummet during 2020, while others have simply been unable to trade. This has in turn caused “deeply negative” business conditions.

Being ready to meet financial fluctuations can be the difference between sinking and swimming. In practice, this means examining the potential impact of a range of scenarios and reviewing your working capital and cash reserve requirements accordingly.

Get set to reap the rewards

While a rigorous continuity plan can help business owners cope more easily when a crisis strikes, the process has benefits beyond mitigating damage. A more resilient enterprise will be better placed to take advantage of post-pandemic economic opportunities.

Every time you undertake a business continuity planning exercise, you learn something new about your organisation as it is all about good management.

Our consultants have been working with organisations across the UK to support them with their COVID-19 planning and recovery. Let us help you solve your pandemic challenges by contacting us here.

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