Business continuity planning has always been an important aspect of running businesses, but not always at the forefront of leaders’ minds. However, with the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic, any emergency plans a business had in place prior to Q1 2020 were put to the ultimate test.
Not only did the pandemic move many workers to remote environments, but also stressed supply chains and business operations due to lack of worker availability. More than one year into the pandemic, now is a great time to re-test and improve your business continuity plans.
1. Set up a Cross-functional Business Continuity Planning Team
This team should consist of key employees to review the plans regularly. Establish a command center for a virtual workforce to measure quality, productivity, compliance, insights and intelligence, people engagement, and workforce well-being. This group should meet regularly to review each of the sub-plans in detail and determine what challenges may come in the future to strike change in the current plans.
According to a study from Mercer, 51% of organizations around the world do not have a business continuity plan in the case of emergencies or disasters, such as the outbreak of coronavirus.
2. Converse with Key Vendors, Suppliers, and Customers
Have conversations with your key vendors, suppliers, and customers regarding the challenges faced during the pandemic. These conversations should not only focus on your organization’s pandemic plans, but theirs too. What are they doing to ensure that products will be provided as needed to continue business operations? Ensure that you are part of their conversations, as it is important to understand how the provider will maintain high availability of their applications and deal with service disruptions.
Furthermore, speaking with customers to ensure they can realign their expectations of service is crucial. It is far easier to maintain customers than to procure new ones, especially during a pandemic.
3. Involve Succession Strategies For Go-to Employees
Ensure your business continuity planning involves succession strategies for go-to employees that help the business tick. Identify the go-to employees in your organization and determine what skill sets are required if they become suddenly unavailable. For example, if your CFO becomes ill, you will need to consider how the loss of that person and their knowledge will affect the plan.
Ask yourself if there are a set of employees who can step in to cover these essential functions, or do you need to temporarily leverage an outsourced CFO to ensure maintainability? Succession planning is key to be able to identify who in the organization can perform these important functions during a time of crisis.
4. Identify Priorities and Assess Critical Processes
Take time to identify what the key processes are that sustain your organization? Ask yourself where can you improve operational costs and efficiencies in a pinch? Take a long look at these processes and determine what bottlenecks and gaps are in the current process, then stress test it with business disruption. Common functions include employee payroll, healthcare, and supply chain as well as highly important processes and other services such as payments, insurance, and banking.
Where are these processes the weakest and why? Or, are these processes laden with unessential tasks that can be reduced in the time of business disruption? Understanding the answers to these questions is necessary when facing large-scale challenges.
5. Make Preparation a High Priority
Business disruption comes in all shapes and sizes. COVID-19 has been a stress test for all businesses. Being prepared and reviewing your business continuity plans regularly can help you face these types of challenges head on.
Conclusion: Business Continuity Plan
The goal of business continuity planning is to identify what is both essential and non-essential to your business. This allows you to navigate the rough waters of business disruption.
A business continuity plan should include a comprehensive strategy for keeping the business operating day-to-day, an assessment of essential and non-essential operations and processes, an analysis of key employees/positions and how each would be impacted by business disruption or unavailability of key employees. As well as a review of facilities and analysis of how the business operates if one or more locations becomes unavailable. Finally, a plan to protect, secure, backup and replicate, if necessary, critical data systems, infrastructure, and applications.