The New Path for Business Continuity
COVID-19 has upended the way companies approach their prevention and recovery of threats.
Even for businesses with the most robust business continuity plans, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weak points in traditional risk assessment and mitigation. Simulation exercises couldn’t account for government planning efforts on a federal or state level, nor could even the most iron-clad worst-case scenario planning factor in the duration of COVID-19. Damage to office buildings from fires or hurricanes can have estimated losses. But how does a firm create a plan for a virus that spans geography and time?
At the same time, other factors that would typically trigger business continuity
changes —mergers and acquisitions, regulatory changes, succession planning — haven’t gone away and, in some cases, have become more urgent. Just-in-time supply chains, which typically have helped businesses remain competitive on margins, now have become operational liabilities as global disruptions mean some companies are only left with a small stock of supplies on hand. Hiring and recruiting have been completely halted for some firms, while others scramble to scale their workforce to fill unanticipated new needs.
Taken in combination, most organizations have never faced so many moving variables at once. As such, business continuity consultants have rewritten their checklists for risk evaluation and mitigation. The checklist below provides guidance on how organizations can help analyze their business continuity plans in the current environment — and beyond.
Streamlining Business Continuity
The first task for understanding and mitigating risk in an evolving situation is to identify what is mission critical. If you operate a burger chain, for example, what is mission critical, at the end of the day, is getting burgers into the hands of customers.
Are you able to identify the most critical part
of your business, product and service and strip all other functions away?
How long can those critical parts be unavailable before their loss has a negative impact on business?
Can your IT department recover critical hardware and software in a timeframe that’s sufficient to meet the needs of the business?
How do you define critical assets, such as vital records and databases?
Building A Response Team
When asked in an Aon global survey who was responsible for risk management, which includes business continuity as a critical subset, more than two-thirds of respondents said the chief executive or the chief financial officer. Another third said the responsibility fell into the “other” category, leading some consultants to conclude that too many organizations place the risk manager role too far down the management chain.
Can you identify today who should be part of the response process in the event of a natural disaster or major threat?
If so, do those people know they are part of the critical staff and do they understand their role in helping business continue under abnormal circumstances?
Are there mechanisms in place to support a virtual Emergency Operations Center and to quickly expand teleconferencing capabilities?
When a threat emerges, it’s important for companies to consider reprioritizing product supply lines to respond to market impacts, increase levels of essential supplies and alter supply chains, if needed.
Have you identified and quantified your supply chain resilience, both from an internal and external standpoint?
Have you prequalified alternative suppliers
and vendors in case primary ones are not available?
Do you have a mechanism in place to foster open communications between vendors, suppliers and key customers regarding impacts on their operations?
Establishing Policies and Procedures
Where employees do their work has become top of mind during the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to remain a key issue for years to come. Businesses should set out clear guidelines for employees to come to work or continue to operate effectively while working remotely as a key business continuity element.
Have you developed policies to help employees feel comfortable operating either from the office, from home or in a
work-from-home-and-office hybrid scenario?
Is there a team in place to provide employees with up-to-date, factual information on policies?
Is a plan in place to quickly jump into action
if employees begin to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms at work or if an evacuation needs to happen?
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