The New Business Continuity in the Age of Pandemics

Business Continuity

Traditional Business Continuity

Business Continuity (BC) ensures you understand how your organization normally functions, and includes a plan for managing and successfully getting through planned and unplanned adverse conditions, and transitioning to/from normal and non normal.

Traditionally BC has focused on Disaster Recovery and Resiliency scenarios that address outages, loss of facilities, planned changes, recovery objectives, or reduced service levels. Many organizations and resources provide BC capabilities with extensive processes and systems to handle many possible adverse scenarios.

Pandemics are Not Traditional

Most recently, BC has become of primary importance — due to a pandemic such as COVID-19. The traditional ideas of BC processes, assumptions, and best practices have been largely unhelpful as the pandemic involves no loss of facilities, physical infrastructure or processing capabilities. Indeed, as of this writing, most existing BC businesses barely even mention Pandemic, if at all (Wikipedia only had a footnote until 3/19/20). Yet operations at many organizations around the world have ground to a halt or been severely impacted.

It is no longer sufficient to assume that organizations can continue operations based on traditional BC practices and simply relocate employees to work from their homes in isolation. There are many unanticipated challenges, including:

  • Continued operations/services with smaller workforce or fewer customers
  • Ability to provide timely and accurate communications
  • Establishing remote working logistics
  • Accessing resources remotely
  • Infrastructure limitations
  • Maintaining — and even ramping up — security
  • Policy assumptions
  • Employee/Family privacy and confidentiality

It remains to be seen how businesses will determine how to return to “normal operations”, if such a thing is even possible after such an event. 

The New Business Continuity

To be effective, the New BC must:

  • Identify any scenario that can adversely impact an organization, not just the traditional ones
  • Define how to respond to these scenarios
  • Determine how and when ‘normal operations’ will resume if/after the adverse scenario has abated

BC may not always be able to handle all risks and issues. But, with advance planning, an organization is in a better position to address them. For each threat scenario, the New BC must also focus on:

  • Identification of threats, risks, and impact/changes to workforce and customers
  • Definition of target operational models, response policies, protocols, and communication plans
  • Organizational agility to respond/adapt to rapidly changing conditions
  • Ongoing management during/after each scenario
  • Measurement of response effectiveness
  • Methods for returning to normal-mode

Why Worry After Getting Through COVID-19?

Many organizations may believe that they have recently adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, and wonder why they need to do anything else. It’s even more important now, to understand, reevaluate, and build business continuity in your organization.

  1. How do you return to normal? What is the new normal state? When can that happen? How do I bring our remote workforce back to their normal workplaces? Should I consider implications of work done at home? What may be different during or after the return to normal?
  2. What recent changes need to be fixed or removed? Tactical changes for COVID-19 were largely done in-haste, without adequate preparation, may have to be undone, and could be improved with better strategic planning.
  3. Were our communications clear, accurate, and helpful? Many organizations lacked any kind of communication plan, and were unable to provide timely, helpful or accurate information to their users or customers, resulting in misinformation on response activity, expectations, and, in some cases, impacted physical well-being.
  4. Can this happen again? Looking ahead, there could be other catastrophic situations — new pandemics, COVID-19 mutations/resurgences, bioterrorism, germ warfare — any of which could occur with short notice, rapid transmission, unanticipated side effects, or higher mortality rates. Organizations that adapt to the New BC will be better situated to achieve true continuity before, during, and after these scenarios. 

Systems Flow Can Help

We help organizations plan for the New BC. We identify needs, strengths and gaps, define solutions, and reduce risk. We can help you improve competitive advantage through practical, effective application of best practices in enterprise architecture, vision and strategy.

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Robert Barkan
Robert Barkan is a Solutions Architect with Systems Flow, Inc. Robert has proven technical and team leadership experience at industry leading firms in Finance, Healthcare, Insurance, Communications, Government, Utilities and IT Consulting. He specializes in Software Architectures, Cloud Computing, Networks, Security, System Integration, Enterprise IT, Virtualization, and Data Center Infrastructures. He has a passion for helping organizations find the right solution to complex challenges.
Robert Barkan

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