What is Business Continuity? What You Need to Know in the Wake of COVID-19

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What is Business Continuity

It’s been a century since the world was in the grips of a pandemic quite like COVID-19. The ever-increasing number of infections and deaths are compounded by reports that survivors could be stuck with long-term health complications. The COVID-19 pandemic may be a health issue, but its economic impact has reverberated across the globe.

Millions of workers have been laid off as many businesses struggle to stay afloat. The importance of business continuity services and plans is more important today than it’s ever been. But what is business continuity and what are the key elements of a pandemic-ready business continuity plan?

Business Continuity Definition

Business continuity is the process of maintaining or resuming business functions in the wake of major disruption. A business continuity plan is the procedures and instructions to be followed in the wake of a disaster. It covers the technology, assets, human resources, business processes, and business partners needed to facilitate resilience and recovery.

When organizations develop business continuity plans, they often have particular events in mind – earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, floods, fires, cyberattacks, and terrorist attacks. COVID-19 has proven that a business insurance policy alone cannot protect a business from the effects of a pandemic. Business continuity plans must be deliberately tailored for pandemic survival.

Understand the Risks

Identify the risks posed by a pandemic like COVID-19. Go deeper and recognize the new risks that could come up with the new work model and environment. For example, having a sizable number of your staff working from home opens your organization up to a myriad of physical and cyber vulnerabilities. Work laptops may be stolen, communication intercepted, confidential data saved on personal devices, and more.

Determine how the pandemic itself, as well as the risks that may arise thereafter, could harm your organization. Think about how you can continue to safely function with half or more of your workforce at home sick or quarantined. Define the controls that could reduce the potential impact of these risks.

Run an Impact Analysis

Map out all the resources, processes, and functions in your organization then rank them by order of importance. The most important are those that would have the greatest impact on your business if they were unavailable.

Look at what is the minimum setup and resources you require to keep each high- and medium-priority process running through the pandemic. Identify gaps between what is required to achieve satisfactory levels of continuity with minimal disruption and what is your current ability to meet these requirements.

Devise a Strategy

The risk assessment and impact analysis should inform the development of a business continuity strategy. Come up with cost-effective, practical plans of action that minimize or eliminate the deficiencies you identified.

For a business, the most important thing is to safeguard your cash flow. During times of crisis, cash is king. Ensure your strategy will bolster or maintain your cash reserves. Seek out expenses that you can cut off and check if you can collect any debts you are owed. Unlike some types of disasters, the threat of a pandemic could be around for years. Plan for long term disruption as the new normal.

Identify Your Team

COVID-19 triggered lockdowns in numerous countries. This not only reduced foot traffic for businesses, but it also meant organizations had to work with a smaller staff headcount. Identify the core team of employees that will be required to execute the continuity strategy and keep the boat afloat through the crisis.

Team members must be experienced, versatile, and multi-skilled. The continuity team should have representation from all the main arms of the business, such as information technology, human resources, finance, legal, and key lines of operations. At least one person in this team should be the business continuity manager who’ll coordinate all activities.

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt by businesses across the globe. Nevertheless, organizations that have a pandemic-ready business continuity plan will be in a better position to weather the storm. If you don’t have a plan or one that’s apt for a pandemic, use these guidelines to move your business continuity in the right direction.