Is NOW a good time to update your business continuity plan?
COVID-19 has been a decisive test of your business continuity plan, and it may still be challenging you today as the pandemic rages. So why would now be an optimal time to develop or revise your plan? For one thing, you likely learned a lot about what worked, what you might have done differently, and what definitely wasn't covered in your plan. For another, especially since we may face similar challenges over the next few months, you need to review your assumptions and decisions and identify any required changes. In reality, COVID-19 may not be the only crisis we face in the year or years ahead.
There is a lot we were not prepared for with this pandemic. I'm sure not many of us envisioned having everyone staying at home and straining digital assets. We might not have thought we could even conduct business in that situation. But some creative thinking led us to virtual meetings, for example, and other activities that allowed us to approach business in a new-normal way. The end result was mostly successful. Some companies have advised employees to stay home through the end of the year and consider work-at-home as an ongoing business practice. Some recent studies have shown that some COOs have found this resulted in considerable cost savings and are looking to continue the approach going forward. If so, what changes to the plan are necessary to accommodate stay-at-home as a normal situation?
Now is the time to (i) review what worked and what didn't, (ii) identify and understand the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of your plan, and (iii) think about how to fix any problems. This is one reason we advise documenting everything that happened or didn't happen as it should. With that information, you would have a head start on the next steps. All too often, business continuity planning ends up being a one-and-done process. If this pandemic has taught us anything, we made many false assumptions about creating our plans. Going forward, how can we mitigate such mistakes?
For example, we have often considered that employees might have to be out of the building for up to five days, but did any of us imagine that our doors would be closed for months? If we had, we might have prepared differently for the shutdown. Boosted our digital capability, for example. Made sure we had enough Zoom or other such licenses. Made all our applications available via the cloud for those widely dispersed employees. I know you can identify many other steps you could have taken in advance to make everything easier - planned rather than reactive. Consider that you need to ensure that if this happens again, you won't be looking back with 20-20 hindsight.
Usually, a business continuity plan focuses on the number of things that could affect the business and its employees. In some cases, vendors/suppliers also must be factored in. Very few plans consider the amount of disruption to the environment, market, and supplier population to such a degree that we recently experienced. With what you have seen this year, you need to consider what you would add or change to strengthen your plan if a similar situation occurs again. How will you build resilience into your organizational DNA?
So is this really a good time to update your plan? Absolutely! Knowing what worked, what didn't, and what wasn't even considered, this is the best time. Act while the results are fresh so you won't get caught again without the most robust plan possible.
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