The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly put the spotlight on business continuity and highlighted the need to have a business continuity strategy should a disruptive event occur. During lockdown and because of the various restrictions, many businesses ceased operating while others continued to render services and deliver products. Although business continuity plans may not have foreseen a major pandemic as a disruptive event, those organizations with a healthy and up-to-date business continuity strategy reportedly enabled faster activation of remote work and other contingencies necessary for business as usual. So where are we in terms of the pandemic, and where are we going? From a business continuity perspective, there are generally 7 steps to consider during a pandemic:
- Preparing plans before the next pandemic strikes
- Creating awareness of the threat
- Activation of the plan(s) and team(s)
- Re-evaluating critical functions
- Strategic reentry planning
- Recovery and physical re-entry
Traditionally, organizations considered a BC/DR plan in terms of natural disasters, active shooters, or cybersecurity threats. In other words, those events that would affect the physical location of an organization or its data centers. Their main focus was therefore on relocating those services off-premises to restore business operations and capabilities within a certain amount of time. However, with COVID-19 the focus shifted to supporting staff, their health and safety and instead of data centers, remote workstations/home office setups, while still providing goods and services.
1. Preparing plans before the next pandemic strikes
Step 1 entails preparing for risks and threats by conducting a risk analysis and at the hand of the results, compile business continuity plans and conduct staff training to prepare the organization for the time when the disruptive event is real and not just a test run.
2. Creating awareness of the threat
Here an assessment of the organization’s level of awareness is conducted. Organizations must take stock of what is in place to respond to an event and what was missing. This could entail going back to step 1 to compile a missing plan (or plans).
3. Activation of the plan(s) and team(s)
Once steps 1 and 2 are completed, the next step is to add predefined triggers to remind the responsible person(s) to activate plans and teams. This is especially beneficial during a threat such as COVID-19.
4. Re-evaluating critical functions
Most organizations should currently be considering this step which entails a reassessment of what is truly essential; what is absolutely mission-critical during a disruptive event and what makes the COVID-19 pandemic different from a “normal” disruptive event. The conclusions drawn here should be used to continuously update the current plans.
5. Strategic reentry planning
At step 5 you have to start considering and planning for bringing back your workforce to the office and how to reintegrate them while still keeping health and safety and regulatory compliance top of mind.
6. Recovery and physical re-entry
This step by no means suggests business as usual. It means additional to business operations, keeping abreast of COVID-19-related updates because as activity increases, so might the spread of the disease which in turn could result in new restrictions.
Each organization will emerge from the pandemic, changed by the experience. Working from home has become the new normal and meetings can now be held through video conferencing. This is an ideal opportunity to reinvent the business since so many barriers have been removed. We just have to think about what we would do differently and what really works.
Stage2Data’s business continuity planning-as-a-service (BCPaaS) solution provides a streamlined and automated business continuity planning and automation tool that enables organizations to visualize and prepare for disruptive events, understand the impact of change on business operations, and prioritize mission-critical functions with a built-in pandemic response plan.
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