Planning Your Coronavirus Pandemic Recovery

April 23, 2020

As the world continues to be impacted by the Corona Virus pandemic and the uncertainty that the rapid spread of COVID–19 brings, many business priorities have shifted or been put on hold. During the pandemic many organisation’s have found that key parts of their Business Continuity Plans have not been fit for purpose and over 50% of businesses did not have a Business Continuity Plan to begin with (according to a recent Mercer report.).

We have put together a list of crucial elements that should be considered if you are ready to develop or revisit your Business Continuity Plan.

Business impact analysis 

One of the most essentials tasks when you are writing or reviewing your Business Continuity Plan is to identify the most critical business processes or services.

When you are examining your business impact it may include the following:

  • In order to ensure that income generating processes and services continue, you will ensure survival of the company by preventing cashflow issues. 
  • Examining key services and processes and ensuring that critical equipment needed is either duplicated or available to other staff members if required.
  • Considering critical functions, how you would cope with a key staff member not being available, could another staff member deputise or be cross trained? This may require cross training of other staff members and / or using staff not normally associated with that department to undertake tasks.
  • How an office closure might impact your operations and what steps can be taken to introduce this now or build a robust migration plan. 
  • Delays in supplier orders, losing key customers and understanding the alternatives if the worst happens. 

Tip: A useful exercise would be to consider impact over time, from daily, to weekly, to monthly, to quarterly and over a six-month period. 

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Infrastructure and remote working

Identifying which parts of your computer systems are business-critical is central to a Business Continuity Plan, as it lets you organise a list of priorities, and keep your business running even in difficult situations.

Many businesses lack the technical infrastructure to manage long-term their workforce remotely for extended periods of time. Companies are often concerned about having a lack of control, lower productivity or remote workers becoming distracted. But this can often be misguided. A practical challenge that IT departments need to overcome is how to support remote workers without visiting their desks. 

There have been supply chain shortages of equipment such as laptops, monitors and headsets. Workarounds have included staff members home devices (BYO bring your own device) to facilitate access to company data either via remote desktop or web browser.

The pandemic is likely to cause a permanent shift towards remote working. Therefore, it’s worth taking the time to review your cloud-based tools and examine how rapid deployment solutions can be implemented in the future. Setting up a softphone to support remote workers will enable them to answer queries as if they are in the office, enabling them to receive and make calls over the Internet from a computer or other smart device.

Cyber security risks 

Criminals are opportunistic and we are already seeing huge spikes in activity linked to Coronavirus scams. This could take the form of phishing emails masquerading as official organisations such as CDC (Centers for Disease Control) or the WHO (World Health Organisation). There has also been a spike in fake emails from HR or IT departments. 

The basic principles still apply:

  • Ensure that a qualified person is able to monitor and improve key functions, including data backups (more automated or cloud-based processes could improve resilience)
  • Keep software and anti-malware protection up-to-date and install patches as soon as they are made available. 
  • Have strong access control, including good password practices. 
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) is advised for important accounts or data, but following good practices around passwords is always essential
  • The use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), are one of the most secure ways of connecting users remotely, these should be considered to add security when accessing the internet and cloud-based services.

Documenting your business continuity plan 

As your plan develops and final decisions are made, it is essential that the business collates this into a formal document.  This will function as a single point of reference key decision makers and list roles and responsibilities as well as essential contact details for staff, clients and customers.  

This document should be centrally accessible or printed off and kept offsite – ideally at the homes of key staff where it can be accessed quickly if required.  Developing the plan should include a timeline of events and a record of who does what ensures staff know what to do, and when to do it.

Recovery Planning 

As organisations recover it seems many will go through a phased transition period.

  • REACT Organisations had to respond at short notice to protect their customers, workforce and operations.
  • RECONFIGURE During economic slowdown business leaders need to reconfigure their operations to be more lightweight and agile to support the rapidly changing market dynamics.
  • RECOVER As businesses recover, they are more likely to innovate and look more to emerging technologies as they transform.

Organisations must be adaptable and in a state of readiness to react to change.

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