Elements of a Business Continuity Plan in the Time of Pandemic
Small to medium-sized companies may want a comprehensive Business Continuity Plan to withstand the pressures created by COVID-19, but who has the time or resources, and where to begin? Simply maintaining operations is challenging, especially since no one can say with certainty how long the pandemic will last or what its long-term effects will be. Few if any businesses have ever made plans to confront a crisis of this magnitude. The best that the majority of organizations can do now is to devise workaround procedures based on their existing plans, to implement the most creative thinking they can muster and the best guidance they can obtain.
There are steps to be taken to build effective Business Continuity Plans, steps that allow the most essential functions to continue while recognizing and accommodating the many ways in which our daily lives are being battered.
Every business activity and the process must be evaluated afresh. Some new directions will require improvisation and ingenuity while others need no more than a shift in management’s point of view.
Meanwhile, reliable cybersecurity, data protection, backup and disaster recovery planning capabilities are no less crucial than before. We face extraordinary new threats to our IT structures, but the familiar ones – malware, weather events, and the like – have not gone away. In fact, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the current disruption to design advanced attacks.
At RenovoData, one of our core missions has always been to help businesses survive and prosper when disaster strikes. Based on our experience, we offer the following recommendations for Business Continuity Planning in today’s landscape.
Put your people first.
- We are all affected by the pandemic, so be sure to acknowledge that human factors can sometimes outweigh business considerations.
- Remember that many remote workers are responsible for their families’ health and safety. Parents and caregivers will experience pressures that are likely to impact how they handle their duties.
- Be prepared for the spontaneous evolution of new customs and corporate cultural norms spurred by an abruptly changed environment.
- When possible, let people know if their jobs are secure or in jeopardy or if management has not yet decided.
Assess your business’s functions.
- Begin by identifying the ways in which business continuity will be influenced by new realities.
- Assess all your tools, techniques, and procedures in light of current conditions.
- Look for nonessential tasks that can be diminished or suspended for the duration.
- Determine if your existing IT resources are adequate for effective telecommuting.
- Appoint leaders to head up planning efforts and establish clear chains of command. While people can be understandably shaken by events, they should understand that planning must take place.
- Decide which people – IT staff in particular – need to be onsite, and look for ways to reduce that need.
- Establish policies for how employees connect with customers, vendors, and other outside entities. This includes both technical and personal perspectives.
- Set guidelines for how business materials should be handled by remote workers. This includes printing documents, downloading files, and other tasks normally performed only on-site.
- Establish rules regarding the use of personal email and other external links. There will be circumstances in which employees need more time for interaction with loved ones than usual.
- Be sure that you have full-featured and reliable technology for video conferencing, and that your employees know how to use it.
- One of the dangers of this crisis is a constant barrage of false and misleading information coming from every direction. Help employees distinguish fact from fiction.
- Make firm rules about necessary actions like hand washing and social distancing.
- Disseminate guidance from the most authoritative sources possible. These include the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other knowledgeable sources, not just cable news, politicians, or assorted celebrities. Be aware that expert recommendations may not always agree with company policies.
- Tell your entire organization about major plans, events, and decisions.
- See to it that new and revised duties and policies are clear to everyone.
- Let your customers, vendors, strategic partners, and your industry’s trade press know how your company is doing.
The COVID-19 outbreak may have caught the world off guard, but expert guidance is available. At RenovoData, an important part of our work is understanding how and why catastrophe can devastate IT systems, how to prevent damage, and how to remedy the harm that has occurred. We are ready to lend our knowledge and experience to your planning initiative.