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How Companies can Prepare for Business Continuity During a Crisis

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  • Name
    Jeanee Snipes

If your office becomes inaccessible for any period of time, are you prepared to ensure business continues as normal? Having a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place is a great start when preparing for the worst. When COVID-19 started to spread throughout the globe, many companies were not prepared to shift their workforce to a primarily work from home team.

 

Early on, ZorroSign executives made the decision that all employees across the globe would work from home until further notice. This decision was easy to make, as the organization had a solid BCP in place, so invocation was seamless.

 

Develop a Business Continuity Plan

 

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is when a company develops a plan for preventing and recovering from any potential harm to the company; knowingly or unknowingly. These could include fire, flood, natural disaster, cyber attack, criminal mischief, global pandemic, etc. The goal of the BCP is to prevent unnecessary damage to organizations assets or personnel and to ensure company assets are recovered and personnel can quickly get back to work after a disaster or crisis.

 

Wondering if your company is on par with companies around the globe when it comes to disaster preparedness? A recent survey conducted by AvidXchange determined that only 37% of 500 companies surveyed had the appropriate technology in place to abruptly shift employees to telecommute, also known as working from home, in the event of an emergency. This survey was eye-opening and demonstrated a large gap in BCP. Below are a few of those gaps:

  • Only 61.8% of businesses have a BCP in place.
  • 48% of businesses that have a BCP in place can only operate two to three weeks with their current plan.
  • 19% of businesses reported none of their employees have the right company provided technology to work from home.

Based on the survey results above, it’s easy to see that most companies are not prepared for the current global pandemic. Below are some key elements that all companies should include in their BCP.

 

Business Continuity Plan Elements

 

Each company’s BCP will be different and unique to the individual business. However, there are four main elements every BCP should include, this will ensure that all business operations have a prevention and recovery plan. The four elements are:

  1. Identify purpose and scope – Clearly identify and state the purpose and scope of the BCP. Include all business operations and detail any exclusions.
  2. Determine responsibilities – Clearly identify who has permission to invocate BCP, along with what employees have authority before, during and after an incident. These identified employees should be given clear roles on the Business Continuity Response Team (BCRT).
    1. Documentation – identify a document owner that will be tasked with keeping track of BCP approvals and change history for company records. The document owner should be responsible for ensuring BCP procedures are reviewed and tested regularly.
    2. Change management – BCRT leaders should control the message and get employee buy-in for the BCP. The BCP document owner should publish it where it is easily accessible to all stakeholders in both digital and hard formats.
  3. Develop Business Continuity Plan – Information in the plan must be understood by and accessible to everyone in the organization, and details of how and when the BCP will be invoked should be included. In order to create a thorough BCP a few items should be addressed:
    • Define potential risks to the company and conduct a business impact analysis.
    • Identify how potential risks will affect company operations.
    • Identify and implement safeguards to mitigate identified risks. Be sure to identify how to recover critical business operations.
    • Practice and test out safeguards to ensure they accomplish the desired outcome.
    • Continually review and update the BCP so it is always up to date.
  4. Communicate and Train – Clearly determine how, and under which circumstances, the pre-identified BCRT will communicate with employees, stakeholders and emergency contacts. The last step is to thoroughly train the BCRT, as well as employees.

 

Quick List – 5 Actions to Take Today to Prepare for Tomorrow

 

ZorroSign takes business continuity very seriously. Having 100% of the workforce fully functional independent of location is the standard for the company’s BCP. Here are a few things we recommend any company without a robust BCP implement immediately, in order to prepare employees for an emergency that could result in an extended time away from a physical office:

 

  • Company Issued Equipment – Issue all employees company laptop at start of employment. Desktop computers are not useful in emergency situations, as work location may abruptly change, not allowing transition of equipment that is not easily portable.
  • Collaboration Software – Implement use of team collaboration software; this allows employees to effectively and efficiently communicate, before, during and after a disaster. Microsoft Teams is an example of a great tool. During a crisis where employees change their work location abruptly, having a communication collaboration tool is essential.
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) – A MDM tool is software used by IT departments that allows them to identify what company issued mobile devices are accessing, their location, remotely lock a device, and even wipe a device clean if lost or stolen. MDM capabilities are very important with an increase in remote workers, as this can protect company intellectual property, as well as physical assets. An example of an MDM tool is Microsoft Intune.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) – Ensure all employees are using a VPN when accessing office network and resources. A VPN is the easiest way to protect company data and be cyber aware, while protecting data security.
  • Employee Internet Connectivity Audit – Make sure all team members have good internet connectivity. This can be accomplished through a simple employee survey. Work to help employee’s with unreliable internet connectivity to either use a secure mobile hot spot or identify solutions for increasing their stability of a reliable internet connection.
  • Cloud Hosting – Host all critical environments in the Cloud. This will allow full continuation of ongoing projects independent of employee location. Cloud hosting should include disaster recovery options.

 

Communication & Training

 

Having a BCP in place is a great start to having a business being able to function during a disaster. However, without proper communication with all stakeholders and employees, and without proper training, a company’s BCP will not be effective. It is important to communicate the plan with all employees, not just those on the Business Continuity Response Team. Training employees on what to do in the event of an emergency and when to execute the BCP is a key part of a successful plan.

 

A tip for maintaining a usual level of communication and efficiency when working remotely is to have team leads prepare daily task lists that include all project dependent variables and ensure they are assigned to appropriate employees. Conducting quick stand-up meetings at the start and end of each day via a collaboration software tool like Microsoft Teams can also identify employees that need a little extra help to achieve their targets. Restricting all communication to trusted tools like Microsoft O365, Outlook and Microsoft Teams can help protect the company’s intellectual property.

 

Conclusion

 

Having a Business Continuity Plan is kind of like purchasing insurance, you invest in it hoping to never have to use it. The unprecedented impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the business world is reassurance that a BCP should be a part of all business’ operations plan.  Having a strong BCP in place could mean the difference between being in business once the crisis ends and continuing business operations as usual and not experiencing negative business fallout do to a disaster. It’s not too late, if your business doesn’t have a BCP in place start the process of creating one today. If you have a half-baked BCP in place, take the time and build your plan out completely. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 epidemic is impacting every part of business and society, so we encourage you to stay safe, work smart, stay home.