Business Continuity Planning in the Age of a Pandemic
Authored by Ayesha Rajan, Research Analyst at Vikriti Management Consulting
Business Continuity Planning is the process businesses use to assess and prevent risk to the company. This planning ensures the protection of company personnel and assets and outlines a plan of action for times of crisis to prevent disruption to businesses. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many companies to adjust their business processes to ensure continuity and it has also seen many businesses fail to adapt to a new work environment. In October of 2019 the Federal Government released Crimson Contagion 2019 Functional Exercise which was based on a simulation of a global influenza pandemic originating from China. The exercise involved 12 states, 74 health departments and 87 hospitals and revealed that though we had the tools to prepare for this crisis, we did not make them actionable enough to be effective on a grand scale (Nieminen). This is despite the fact that we have faced several health crises in the last two decades such as “the SARS outbreak in 2002, the swine flu epidemic in 2009 and the Ebola threat in 2014-2016.” Clearly, the time to start preparing for the next crisis is now and in this article we will explore how businesses can do so successfully.
New Developments and How to Prepare
One change that companies may adopt in the future is restructured buildings. Al Berman, Chairman of the Board for Disaster Recovery Institute International, who observed the lack of changes in building layouts post 9/11, suggests that Covid-19 may see companies take stronger action in favor of protecting their employees. He says that there are several questions to consider having to do with things like elevator restrictions, temperature checks, rerouted walkways and legal implications of all of these mitigation techniques (Nieminen). Furthermore, Berman stresses that these are actions that must happen now in order to prevent the next crisis rather than in response to a crisis when it arises.
However, this is just one piece of the puzzle; in his article titled “Planning for the Next Pandemic,” Simon Lacey lays out a step by step plan for businesses to plan for situations like this one. The first step is to identify assets which include “data, processes, systems, hardware, software [and] people.” Then to identify stakeholders such as “business owners, process owners, system owners, information owners, risk owners, customers [and] partners.” The next step is to assign value to such assets and write your plan with the following concepts in mind:
– Defined roles and responsibilities of groups and committees
– Alternatives to critical processes and systems such as moving from fully equipped operations to some operations in motion to halting all operations depending on business requirements
– Anticipated recovery time, maximum loss tolerable, minimum level of performance accepted
The final steps of planning include testing your plan and promoting your plan so all employees are aware of the necessary steps to take during a crisis.
Ultimately, business continuity planning can be thought of as business insurance. Every situation that a company invests in preparing for saves them a lot more money than scrambling to adjust at the last minute. Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of preparedness for companies in times of crisis and the need to be able to respond quickly to challenging situations to ensure protection of assets and continuity of business processes.