Most enterprises have taken the responsibility and ethical steps necessary to protect their workers and customers in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. These organizations have triggered their business continuity plans (BCP) and activated their incident/risk management teams. In many instances, there has been no recourse for many critical industries such as manufacturing. According to a survey by PwC, about 80% of businesses in this sector expect to bear a financial impact.
Already, EU-wide automotive production has led to the closure of numerous factories. In fact, the pace of slowdown has been shocking with the production of more than 1.23 million vehicles already interrupted. Similarly, the China Passenger Car Association expects the next two-month’s sales to decline by more than 40% compared to 2019. Disruptions such as these is happening the world over in every industry, having a ripple effect in the arenas of logistics, retail, supply chain, financial services, oil and gas, among others.
The Unpreparedness of Existing BCP Plans
All the while, these businesses, along with less affected ones, are still having to make a steep uphill climb to ensure their survival. BCP and risk management teams are working tirelessly to reorient business to follow lockdown and quarantine procedures. With hundreds and thousands of workers migrating to a work from home model, the stress on the enterprise has been significant. But this surge in setback seems to indicate that even the best of business continuity management plans have been ineffective at coping with the current crisis.
Today, business teams across enterprises have no choice but to solve multiple large scale problems such as secure data share, IT infrastructure migration, staff training, and much more, at enormous costs in order to ensure smooth operations. It's clear to see that there was no conceivable way that even the best of BCPs would have been prepared for such a devastating disruption. After all, the notion of a pan-global, concurrent, epidemiological outbreak has only ever been theorized, never experienced.
But what we have to consider today is more prescient. Now that we are experiencing this reality, how best can risk and business continuity management plans be strengthened for the future?
Learnings from BCP Management Perspective
As we continue to learn from our current experience, I advise businesses everywhere to focus on three key areas as they adapt and transform their business continuity and risk management plans for an uncertain future:
Planning for global disruptions and uncertainty
While incidents such as Ebola, SARS, and even natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, have plagued us in the past, they were only regional or localized incidents. These were challenges within the scope of our experience, but we are now faced with a new reality. The scale and severity of a pandemic presents us with a new challenge that has come into clear focus. The ubiquitous dependency on global services makes all enterprises vulnerable to such a global disruption. Businesses have no choice but to prepare for a wider range of disruptions and even new types of major disasters. This will require companies to abandon any preconceived notions and assumptions regarding any aspect of business from employee workspaces to the supply chain. They simply can’t afford to take anything for granted. A key step toward accomplishing this goal would be to observe closely the impact areas of the current crisis with the future in mind. The focus should now be on recovery and developing the resilience to re-engage with business, and to push forward an aggressive shift in the BCP paradigm.
Putting People First
From an HCL perspective, we’ve always invested in three critical dimensions of business: people, process, and technology. And there is a reason we put people first. Businesses have no choice but to acknowledge that their people are the most important resource. During a crisis, this realization becomes acute and, if not managed well, can lead to disaster. People aren’t just an asset class, they are the company itself. Without the right workers and the right skill sets, no business can leverage the full potential of their process and technology. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, the burden on workers during a crisis can be substantial. Organizations preparing for the future need to account for this reality and formulate people-centric policies that not only execute a BCP migration to work-from-home but also invest in the training, skill, and culture needed to ensure high efficiency and productivity. These BCPs also need to take into account the technology bottlenecks that come with remote working such as communications and collaboration channels, data access, productivity tools, connectivity, easy compliance, and thorough security. The next iteration of BCP plans need to implement a robust BYOD contingency policy that ensures that even in times of crisis, workers can seamlessly adapt and focus on achieving business outcomes.
Securing BCP and Operations
Given the potential threats that come into focus with large scale disruptions, businesses need to take a more aggressive approach to establishing their crisis planning and management teams. Incident teams need to be empowered in advance to scale up their responses in the face of any threat. This requires organizations to develop a forward-looking plan for ‘when everything fails,’ a reality we can no longer consider just a remote possibility. The resident compliance teams need to adopt a holistic approach toward crisis management so that their readiness extends across enterprise silos and divisions. The key focus has to be on ensuring the continuity of operations to a fixed standard of productivity and efficiency, even under remote working setups. This requires teams to conduct advanced BCP testing and adopt a technology framework that offers robust support with new digital transformation. In this regard, companies have to secure their assets across networks with secure MFA-enabled networks, antivirus systems, monitoring, rapid threat response, endpoint detection, and third-party risk management for vendors.
The key to scaling business continuity planning lies in the power of technology. Enterprises have to proactively apply these learnings by adopting accelerators and frameworks designed to achieve the most effective outcomes. HCL’s iBCM consulting framework is designed to address the farthest reaches of every enterprise function while adhering to the ideals of sustainable management and governance. By blending the best of managed applications, disaster recovery, and infrastructure support services, HCL works tirelessly to ensure that businesses can continue operating even during the most challenging of times. After all, if the current crisis has taught us anything, it is simply this—only a proven BCM methodology and framework can truly help enterprises face the unknown.