Business Continuity through a COVID lens

Jan 4, 2021Talking Points

Cher Lewney, Transformation Consultant

Redefining Resilience – ensuring business continuity throughout COVID and beyond

When the UK went into national lockdown in March 2020, most businesses across the country had to take immediate action to mobilise their workforce to work remotely in order to continue providing virtual services for customers. For some organisations, this was an extension to the flexible working arrangements that already existed. For others, it was something new entirely, and a concept which would present multiple challenges and yield varying levels of success. One thing most businesses have in common, the global pandemic has prompted them to realise the importance of having a solid business continuity plan.

We are many months on from the assumed temporary position where we expected ‘normality to soon resume’, however it’s clear now that some things will never return to how they once were, and instead we’re having to carve out and adapt to a ‘new normal’. So this is the perfect time to take stock and figure out what’s next, and if you haven’t got a business continuity plan or if you have one that’s not been reviewed for some time, there’s never been a more prudent time to address it.

Redefining resilience

In a COVID world, how can you reduce business impact and make your organisation more resilient? We’re busy working with clients on their business continuity planning and helping them figure out the answer to that all important question. At One Consulting we are passionate about three key factors that contribute to successful business continuity:

Technical Capability, Culture and Wellbeing, New Ways of Working.

Let’s take a look at each point in detail.

Technical Capability

Many companies acted swiftly to roll out laptops, provide remote access to systems, and enable connectivity using video communication software such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. This may be adequate for transitory periods, but in some organisations the underpinning IT infrastructure will not be adequate in supporting such business operations or strategies for the longer term.

Here are some key questions you should be asking yourself around technical capability:

What are your most important / business critical operations and functions?

Is your technical capability sufficient or is a review required?

Are your disaster recovery and business continuity plans up to date and fit for purpose?

Does your infrastructure enable true agility, including the ability to access business applications seamlessly and with ease from any place, at any time, via a range of devices?

Do you need to review any governance and controls that may be required in order to deliver change and transformation programmes, projects and service delivery?

Do you have a clear and tested framework for decision making and incident management?

What are your employees’ perceptions of the tools they have to do their jobs?

What is your company’s intended longer term operating model (for example plans to manage a partial or full return to the office)?

If you’re looking for independent expert support to help you answer these questions, as well as highlighting any other key considerations, we can help!

People and Culture

COVID-19 has seen a vast amount of workers move to full-time home-working almost overnight. For those staff left in key frontline roles, the company culture they are accustomed to has also changed considerably. It’s essential that organisations continue to ensure the wellbeing of their workforce is nurtured, that employees are engaged, teams continue to work efficiently and relationships between coworkers (as well as relationships between the business and customers) are maintained.

Communication is key – employees, stakeholders and customers will look for reassurance that you are prepared, and communicating your plans will encourage them to remain productive and committed during a crisis. Be clear and concise, as disinformation and confusion can be catastrophic for your workforce and customers, and is often incredibly hard to rectify.

It’s likely that operating models will continue to look different in the longer term, and businesses therefore need to consider how to build and maintain a culture that works within these new parameters. Here are some useful questions to ask yourself:

Do you have the number of staff required to meet acceptable levels of service, and do you have contingencies for staff who may be ill, or who are forced to take time off to look after loved ones?

Are employees equipped to work remotely? Are there any IT / Network limitations that may affect remote workers?

Have you reviewed workforce arrangements and travel?

If you’re looking for some independent advice around how to build and maintain a healthy and strong working culture amongst remote working teams, get in touch!

New ways of working

Organisations understand all too well the importance of keeping their critical services running.

Having a business analysed view of the critical functions that need to remain functioning versus those that are not so vital, and having a clear understanding of existing capabilities and the need for additional requirements, is key in ensuring successful adaptability to change.

Some useful questions you may need to ask yourself:

Do you need to review and update your corporate strategy to ensure your business is positioned to be efficient, provide good quality services to customers, and continue to adhere to governance and regulatory requirements?

Have you reviewed your workforce arrangements? The future is unknown, and even when people start returning to work there will be certain considerations in the workplace such as social distancing measures for staff and protocols for site visitors.

Have you got clear policies in place for your remote workforce? Considerations include staff sickness, people taking unpaid or paid leave to care for sick relatives or to cope with continued childcare issues / school closures. An evaluation of your supply chain and their ability to adhere to SLAs may also be needed.

COVID benefits

It’s almost a strange sentence to write, but there are some positives that have come from experiencing a global pandemic that we should learn from and build upon.

Certain assumptions we made about what was possible in the way our services were delivered, have been disproved. For example, it was assumed that people would not be open to attending medical appointments online, and there was resistance in shifting appointments out of surgeries and hospitals. Necessity forced change, and we can now consider how to embrace this change and adapt to more modern, economical ways of delivering services to the community.

There has been an enormous focus on digital inclusion in order to prevent vulnerable people in our communities from becoming isolated during lockdown. Funding has been made available to provide broadband and devices that have enabled much needed access to key services. Although not everyone who needs it has benefited from it yet (there is still more that needs doing in this area) we’ve taken a big step forwards and again and we can continue to build on this!

Many businesses who already operated digitally or those who were able to adapt quickly, have not only survived but positively thrived throughout the year! In almost all cases, the maturity of digital processes and the ability for customers to access information or self-serve online, has hugely shaped ease of operations and overall business success.

Moving forwards – Scenario analysis

COVID has marked a turning point for most businesses, and we still can’t predict what the future landscape will look like. How will the face of business continuity change to meet future, unforeseen needs? It’s imperative that organisations think about changes to their business and operating models to ensure resilience in an ever changing world, and nothing tests theory like a good hard dose of reality – so with continued uncertainty in coming months, scenario planning is critical. Organisations must be prepared for best and worst case scenarios and ask themselves if they are honestly equipped to cope. It’s important not to lose sight of other risks, however – with a crisis such as COVID dominating most people’s attention, organisations can become vulnerable in other areas, particularly where technology is concerned and with the majority of people working remotely (think of cyber security, adhering to governance around personal data and info etc).

Prepare, respond, emerge more resilient!

We can help you to review your business processes, customer services, regulatory assurance, programme and project delivery assurance or high-level business objectives. Our team of experienced consultants can review and advise on your existing Business Continuity Plans or help with the development of new plans and processes, ensuring you are robust and resilient and able to face the new world head on. Please contact us if you would like to know more.

We’d love to hear your stories about how you kept your business going through the pandemic and how you’ve continued to service your clients while dealing with a huge shift in how your business operates. What are the new ways of working you’ve implemented and what challenges have you faced? What are your critical factors for successful business continuity planning?

[OneConsulting is a dynamic consultancy business with a difference. Our work enables and empowers our clients to truly transform through the use of modern working practices, where people, processes and technologies are aligned in complete harmony. As customer-focused organisations face new challenges, we increase efficiencies and productivity, improve quality, reduce risk and increase innovation through an end-to-end approach. Our mission is to help all of our clients to remain viable and well governed organisations.]