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ASCM Insights

Business Continuity in a Pandemic: Safeguard Your People and Partners

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Organizations worldwide have been reacting to the COVID-19 outbreak in many ways. Public health, appropriately, is the first priority right now. But the health of businesses and the global economy are also essential to public welfare. Thus, it is urgent that organizations review and update their business continuity plans and procedures to ensure operational resiliency.

The most valuable asset of any business is a healthy and available workforce. The pandemic has already resulted in a largescale move by organizations toward working from home in order to practice recommended social distancing. This is a major disruption to normal operations, but many companies were at least partially prepared and are already functioning with remote workforces.

As you protect your workforce and help ensure its continued productivity, it is important that you

  • establish a strategy that enables employees to continue to function without endangering them
  • have a plan to isolate your employees should the threat of possible infection arise
  • ensure your employees can effectively work from home
  • verify that you have the tools, technology, capacity and security measures in place to support a large, remote workforce
  • review your human resources policies to ensure employees will not be personally affected if they must be quarantined for an extended period
  • modify any policies as necessary to give greater flexibility to normal working arrangements
  • determine your priorities and minimum staffing requirements to support these, in case you need to function with a significantly reduced workforce
  • identify key employees and ensure other staff members have received appropriate training to comprehensively cover their absence
  • create a communications plan that includes providing regular updates, along with actions taken, to employees and other key stakeholders.

 In a global economy, virtually every organization is connected to, or dependent on, another. You may not be directly affected by the pandemic, but a vendor at a critical point in your supply chain probably is. Understanding your dependence on entities outside your organization is critical. Are your critical third parties (suppliers, vendors, service providers) prepared?

To protect your operations and ensure continuity of services, it is important that you

  • map your dependencies to understand where disruptions might affect your value chains
  • review the preparedness of your critical third parties
  • identify single points of failure in your ecosystem. 

When assessing the impact of a disruption, it’s important to recognize the amount of time before the actual impact occurs. So, as you review and update plans, conduct walkthroughs and exercises. This is the best method for identifying gaps, and it will give you the highest chance of success. Active participants will become familiar with the goals and objectives of the plan and begin to use it as guidance rather than a prescriptive list of tasks to be followed without applying rational thought. Practicing the execution of your plan ensures all parties understand their roles and responsibilities.

During your preparedness reviews, assess the tools used to maintain relevant information and execute plans. Old technologies and obsolete tools threaten even the best plans. Identify any deficiencies in the tools you have available, and create a comprehensive list of requirements. The sooner you begin to upgrade your tool set, the sooner you will be able to reduce your risk.

Communicate, maintain situational awareness, and provide current and accurate information. Your organization’s ability to respond to disruption hinges on the effectiveness of your planning, your tools and the training of your people.

About the Author

Bob Sibik Co-founder , Fusion Risk Management

Bob Sibik is senior vice president and cofounder of Fusion Risk Management. He has nearly 40 years of experience in the areas of information technology disaster recovery and business continuity, data protection, and risk management.

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