Navigating Through the Pandemic
Tough times surely give rise to creativity in people who can look inward for innovative ways of getting things done in the middle of chaos. In the twinkling of an eye, the world was put on a lockdown due to the unexpected virus that is ravaging the entire world. Thee virus has spread to 200 countries, disrupting economic activities and destabilising the global financial world with ease, rendering companies and businesses powerless.
Several countries are putting mitigating controls in place to contain the spread of the virus by isolating confirmed cases and shutting down the entire country, states, cities etc. Therefore, millions of employers all over the world need to come up with innovative ways of ensuring their going concern while protecting their staff. Organisations all over the world are now embracing the remote working model by moving the physical office to employees’ homes to enforce the social distancing directive, thereby safeguarding their employees and their businesses.
Remote Working Model
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many organisations to activate their Business Continuity Plan (BCP), especially the remote working model of the plan. Proactive organisations that have already implemented Business Continuity Management System (BCMS) were well prepared for these trying times. They have conducted Business Impact Analysis (BAI) and Risk Assessment (RA) of their business functions by identifying critical functions, processes, personnel, customers, suppliers and critical stakeholders. The well-implemented BCMS enables an organisation to activate the appropriate continuity plan and the business can switch to the next phase with little or no disruption.
Organisations that are yet to implement BCMS and with no functional Business Continuity Plan need not to worry. They can follow the tips below to reduce the impact of this disruption on their customers and other stakeholders.
Identification of Critical Functions
Organisations with no BCMS in place need to immediately institute a Business Continuity Committee (BCC) consisting of all divisional heads, to identify the critical functions of the firm and their dependency to ensure continuity of business. The BCC will also determine which of the organisation’s customers or suppliers have a functional business continuity plan in place. The impact on demand of their products and services during this COVID-19 pandemic should also be determined for the BCC, ensuring contingency plans are put in place to assist the organisation in channelling their resources optimally, focusing on areas of paramount importance. Thorough understanding of your customers will enable the organisation to understand how critical their services are to the customers as well as expectations of them to ensure they continue to meet their business goals during the pandemic. This allows the organisation to determine which internal processes are not time-dependent and scale these back to free up the staff who can assist with overflow. There is a need to conduct quick profiling of customers, assessing the collaborative tools they have in place, looking at the possibility of integrating such tools with your organisation to ensure ease of communication and continuity of business.
A comprehensive inhouse assessment must be conducted on all business functions, products and services the organisation renders to customers. It is important to assess which areas of the organisation, products, services and its associated staff, will become less busy and those areas that will be busier due to increasing demand for their services. For areas of the organisation that can adequately function on low capacity, identify the essential employees to provide skeletal services to ensure continuity of business. The other employees from such business functions will be assigned to busier areas to meet the demand of customers.
There should be a process whereby staff from the busier business functions train shortlisted colleagues as soon as possible; ensuring they have every relevant operating procedures/checklist at hand as part of the training process. This will enable the business areas that need additional staff to meet the increased demand for their services. An organisation can also engage contract staff, interns, employees that were recently made redundant, retired employees, or business partners with the experience and capacity to step in with little or no training.
Activation of the Remote Working Model
Due to the social distancing rule, the remote working model has been activated by most organisations. For organisations that had implemented Business Continuity Management System and included remote working as a component of their BCP plan, transitioning to remote working model was a smooth process. Organisations with no BCMS need to quickly put the remote working model together to ensure the continuity of their business and customer satisfaction.
Organisations with no BCP plan in place must prioritise investing in the necessary resources needed to make the remote working model successful. Provisions must be made for laptops, video conferencing applications, collaborative tools, internet access, secure connectivity (e.g. VPN where necessary), power supply and other necessary tools to ensure smooth remote working for the ad-hoc personnel. Security is critical during remote working, the IT Unit must ensure operating systems are patched, updated endpoint security is installed, and antivirus and malware scanners are up to date to prevent data compromise and un-authorised access from several remote connections spread cross different locations trying to login to the network.
The IT unit needs to test the network server capacity and the remote functionality that can easily be deployed. Most organisations are currently on Microsoft Office 365 which is cloud-based, making remote working model easy to scale and rollout in the shortest possible time. Regular information security awareness sessions should be conducted for all employees to ensure strict adherence to rules. These sessions should stress the “Dos and Don’ts” while using the remote working model. Several mitigation controls should be put in place to prevent loss of data communication, mobile voice communication, and IT data, as well as cyber-attacks and other threats. The IT unit must ensure all these risks are properly handled in-case they materialise during the work from home situation.
Ensure that there are enough IT Service Desk support staff on stand-by to support remote workers with their home setup, and to assist with unexpected hiccups that might arise. Since majority of the employees will be working remotely to enforce social distancing, organisations need to activate official incoming call diversion to ensure appropriate personnel can attend to official calls via their mobile phone from home, including the ability to check voice messaging remotely.
In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic will surely have a drastic effect on the global economy. Organisations with a well-structured Business Continuity Management System are well prepared to manage the situation and navigate the impending financial meltdown that would be caused by the virus. Others with ad-hoc Business Continuity Plans and no BCMS in place would have to pay close attention to how they are currently handling the situation and be ready to implement a BCMS after they resume regular operations; gleaning from their experience during the pandemic.