Business Continuity Tip of the Month   -  March 2020

Question time

The escalating Coronavirus situation is, unsurprisingly, and quite rightly, focusing the attention of many organisations on their business continuity strategies and plans.

With the number of cases and geographic spread increasing by the day, the window of opportunity for testing and validating continuity arrangements is closing so, if you haven’t already done so, the time to highlight and plug any gaps in capability is now, not after the situation has reached crisis proportions.

You may feel you have the situation covered, but here are a few questions which might act as prompts or provide some food for thought…

  • How is your organisation monitoring the situation and managing its responses?
  • What information, advice and guidance are you providing for your employees, customers and other key stakeholders and what communications mechanisms are you using, or planning to use, to do so?
  • Do you need to make changes to any of your existing policies (e.g. travel, sickness absence, home working, etc)? If not now, what might trigger those changes? Do you need to develop any new policies?
  • Should you encourage changes to common practices, such as shaking hands, face-to-face ‘same room’ meetings, attendance at seminars or other large gatherings, etc?
  • Are you confident that your impact and recovery requirements analyses are current and give an accurate picture of the minimum resources needed to maintain critical activities?
  • Has your management team conducted ‘what if?’ scenario-based exercises to identify triggers for activating strategies and plans and highlight gaps in current capability?
  • Have you properly tested your home working capability – not just by handing out a few laptops or asking individuals to work from home for the odd day here and there, but with significant numbers working from home concurrently for a week or more?
  • Does everyone who may be expected to work from home – particularly those who don’t already do it regularly – have the means to do so, know how to access relevant IT systems and data and use communications tools such as Skype, Teams or other web-based services?
  • Can your infrastructure and security systems cope with mass concurrent remote working and can all key systems be monitored and supported remotely?
  • If you have activities that can’t be done from home, have you given due consideration to minimum staffing levels, rotas and ways of minimising exposure to possible infection for those who are unable to work in isolation from others?
  • Do you have any key individuals on whom you depend for their specific skills, knowledge or abilities? What can you do now (e.g. documentation or cross-training) to reduce the impact if they become unavailable for a period?
  • Are your planning activities giving due regard to your employees’ concerns, worries and personal circumstances, not just focusing on numbers and assuming everyone will be willing and able to do what it says in the plans?
  • Have you identified your critical supply chain dependencies and thought about how you might deal with disruption to them?
Whilst by no means an exhaustive list, considering the above questions may help to focus your planning and preparatory activities in areas you may not have fully addressed yet.
We all hope the virus will peak soon and start to decline but the general consensus seems to be that things are likely to get significantly worse before they get better.

“Plan for the worst but hope for the best” is a commonly-heard adage in business continuity circles. If ever there was a time to put that into practice, it would seem to be now.

 


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