Many organizations are trying to figure out how to sustain in the midst of COVID19. While we have been advocating business continuity plans for decades, many organizations haven’t seen the necessity. COVID19 seems to be demonstrating that necessity. Understanding that many organizations are not familiar with business continuity, I’m offering some considerations in this article and have written on the topic in the past as well. You may be tempted to short-cut the planning process in a sense of urgency… don’t do it. This can result in missing important things.
- Don’t do it alone. The first step in all emergency planning is to build a team. Get the right people together in a room to talk things through. It ensures you have multiple perspectives and helps you divide the work.
- Document, document, document. Documentation is a key to successful planning and implementation. It helps support effective communication and understanding internally and externally.
- Identify your Mission Essential Functions. Mission Essential Functions are those activities that are absolutely necessary to keep your organization running. Things like finance, payroll, HR, IT, and critical organizational operations (the activities that make you money or the activities that are part of your core organizational charter) are among your Mission Essential Functions.
- What else to think about? What work can or can’t be performed remotely? Consider how your organization will handle the absence of your own employees if they become ill, must care for an ill family member, or have to care for children if schools are closed. It’s also important to identify considerations for key partners (shippers, suppliers, etc.) if they are unable to conduct their services for a time. How will these things impact your organization?
- Engage HR. Your Human Resources staff are critical cogs in the wheel of business continuity. They will help identify HR/personnel/labor union policies, contracts, and other matters that may encumber the success of your business continuity. Once problems are identified, set them to addressing those problems. Sick leave policies, remote work policies, child care, and worker safety are among the priority discussions we’ve been seeing lately.
- Engage IT. Information Technology is a big aspect of business continuity. Most business continuity plans call for many of an organization’s staff to work remotely. Amazingly, so many organizations still have policies against working remotely, or at least no standard addressing how remote work is to be implemented, conducted, and managed. HR and IT should be partnering on policies and procedures to address accountability, expectations of the organization, expectations of staff working remotely, and expectations of any staff still working in the office.
- Along with policy matters, there are also matters of hardware, connectivity, and procedures. What staff will be working remotely? Has the organization provided them with the tools to do so? Do they have internet connectivity from their remote location? What systems and information will be accessed remotely and how? How will system security be monitored and maintained? Will a help desk be available to address problems?
- Test, test, test. If you’ve not engaged a number of your staff in remote work before, now is the time. Have some staff work from home and see how it goes. Don’t just pick your most tech-savvy staff, either. Now is the time to identify and address problems.
- Consider the impacts of your changes. Whatever organizational operations you are changing will have some impact on how you do business. Where will your phones be directed to? How will you conduct meetings? How will signatures be handled? How will you accept deliveries? How will staff send mail from their remote work location? Will you still meet face to face with clients/customers? Does the office still need to be staffed?
- Staff Communication. Ensure that staff know what’s going on. Don’t leave them in the dark on this. Keep safety as the central point of your messaging. Listen to their questions and concerns, and be timely and honest in your responses. Keep open lines of communication.
- Stakeholder Communication. Vendors, clients/customers, shippers, boards of directors, even the public at large… they all need to know what’s going on and how the continuity event will impact them and their interests. Just as with your staff, listen to their questions and concerns, and be timely and honest in your responses. Keep open lines of communication.
The items I listed here are some of the more common concerns and considerations I’ve seen as of recent. There are a lot of other aspects to business continuity and business continuity planning. Pressure may be on, but move with urgency, not reckless haste. If your plan and systems aren’t properly in place, your organization will suffer from poor preparations.
© 2020 Timothy Riecker, CEDP