COVID19 Underscores Why Organizations Need Business Continuity Programs

Unfortunately, many organizations don’t see the value of business continuity management programs (BCMP) until it’s too late.That may be the case for many organizations worldwide as measures to thwart the spread of COVID-19 has led to quarantines, limited citizen movement, employee absences, and in many cases, operations forced to close doors for extended periods of time.

For some, the closest thing adopted for organizational resiliency is a work-from-home option for employees. But is a remote-work strategy all you need when faced with a health crisis that keeps growing in scale? We say no. It may be a start, but it’s not enough for true resilience.

In one study about the impact of COVID-19 on organizations, 51% of respondents said they do not have a business continuity plan or a pandemic preparedness plan to help them respond to and mitigate risks from a significant global health outbreak.

At the end of April, the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at John Hopkins University, which is tracking the spread, reported 1,046,022 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, along with 61,288 deaths. Worldwide, the number of reported cases has surpassed 3.2 million with almost 230,000 deaths linked to the illness.

Mitigating Risks and Getting Ahead of Disruptions

Does your organization have plans to mitigate operational risks associated with health incidents like coronavirus? If not, now is the time.

According to the 2020 BCI Horizon Scan Report, health incidents officially toppled both IT and telecommunication outages as the leading cause of business disruptions during the past 12 months. That includes absences related to sickness, as well as stress and mental health issues and occupational disease.

COVID-19 wouldn’t necessarily make this list in previous years, but after the impact of the coronavirus on communities, businesses, and the economy, these infrequent, but predictable and disruptive health events known as “grey swans” are likely to move to front of mind during your next BCMP review.

You Don’t Need It, Until You Do

The “you-don’t-need-it…until-you-need-it” attitude toward BCMP may come full circle with the COVID-19 outbreak

Prior to the outbreak, respondents to the Horizon Scan Report said non-occupational disease is at the bottom of their lists of concerns for the next year, but COVID-19 is likely to change this.

Throughout the world, coronavirus disrupted supply chains and manufacturing stopped, slowed, or experienced parts and product shortages. The full impact of this illness and related quarantines and shutdowns around the world have still yet to be actualized.

However, one report estimates that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will decrease 5% each month during partial economic shutdown. Looking at the first two months so far, $2.14 trillion (10%) will be spent in two months of the pandemic.

We should consider this a wake-up call for organizations of all sizes about the importance of quality business continuity planning, the value of routine evaluations, testing, and exercises, and how critical it is to keep your business continuity plans current and reflective of current conditions and related challenges.

Here are some other ways COVID19 Underscores Why Organizations Need Business Continuity Programs:

Emergency Communications

Timely, accurate communication with your employees, key stakeholders, suppliers, vendors and customers is paramount during a crisis like this outbreak. Effective communication is the key to your emergency response.

If you’re facing potential closures or you need to share event-specific information with your team, an emergency notification system (ENS) can ensure you reach the right people at the right time with the right information.

An ENS that’s integrated directly into your business continuity management solution means all of your important contact data—including contact groups that help you pinpoint the right messaging to the right people—is quickly and easily accessible wherever you are.

Supply Chain Management

Because coronavirus is impacting countries around the globe, and because of our ever-connected global supply chain, disparate supply chain management and poor communications tools can cost you valuable time when working through a crisis such as COVID-19.

The chairman of Tyson Foods recently warned the public that the U.S. food supply chain is breaking down, driven in part by reduced manufacturing and the shuttering of some processing facilities because of COVID-19 infections among employees. Officials at Smithfield Food have echoed a similar concern about potential shortages.

While these are examples in the food industry, other industries are likely to experience similar impacts, particularly companies that rely on companies in China as part of their global supply chains.

Breakdowns in your supply chain cost you money and business, so it’s important to do vendor risk assessments and have confidence in your supply chain resiliency.

Get Executive and Key Stakeholder Buy-In

Whether it’s news reports about loss of life and illness, event cancellations, or coverage of tumbling stock prices, business professionals are seeing firsthand the impact a grey swan event like this can have on organizations of all sizes.

This is a prime opportunity to get executive and key stakeholder buy-in about why business continuity planning is important. Whether you’re looking to implement your company’s first BCMP or you’re looking for additional support, resources, or financial backing, the COVID-19 outbreak is a unique learning—and teaching—opportunity.

In our 2019 Business Continuity Benchmark Study, almost 50% of respondents indicated that lack of executive support is one of the greatest challenges for business continuity programs.

Conversely, business continuity programs with executive-level support tend to be more successful—specifically, those with a high-degree of executive support are almost three times more successful than those without.

And since most of your employees should already be familiar with the coronavirus, it’s also a good time to promote business continuity program engagement throughout your organization, especially for mid-level managers and employees who have response and recovery related tasks as part of your business continuity plans.

It’s also important to understand how leaders make critical decisions during a crisis. For example, here are some decisions you might have to quickly address in times of crisis:

  • Should your organization close and temporarily halt operations?
  • Is it appropriate for all of your employees to work from home?
  • After a health crisis subsides, can your teams be efficient and successful with a work-from-home and in-office combination?
  • Ahead of a crisis, do you foresee issues with a vendor that may complicate operations during an event? If yes, is the best decision to go ahead and switch to different, less risky, vendor partner?

Addressing these and similar questions ahead of a crisis can help you adapt to more objective—and less emotional—decision-making when a disruptive event occurs.

Do you need help integrating mitigation, response, and recovery processes for a major health-related incident into your business continuity management program? From crisis management, to emergency notifications and mobile access to your plans and playbooks, Castellan can help you prepare for a disruption before a health crisis permanently immobilizes your business. Contact a Castellan professional today. We’ll be happy to help.

Ready for some hands-on help? Let’s discuss how to best achieve your resilience goals.