3 Organizational Changes to Improve Business Continuity
The pandemic forced companies to adapt their policies and procedures on the fly. Now, let’s look at what long-term solutions can be implemented to address disruption.
As companies emerge from the economic downturn, many are asking themselves “What can we do to better prepare for a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic?”
To find answers, they should look at three key areas of their company’s policy and procedure framework to examine how short-term stopgaps can be transformed into dynamic, long-term solutions.
1. Creating a Comprehensive Business Continuity Plan
Challenge: Many companies have found it hard to implement adaptations for long-term disruption. That’s because business continuity plans (BCPs) are typically developed for short-term disruptions, such as a natural disaster or power outage.
Short-term response: Following the shift to remote work, two categories of companies emerged: those with existing BCPs in place and those without. Those with a plan responded by scaling existing BCP policies to address the extent of long-term remote work, personnel needs and operational management. Those without a plan were forced to cope on the fly, a potentially costly and destabilizing position.
Long-term solution: Moving forward, both new and existing BCPs should incorporate everything from human capital considerations to funds for technology investments and additional equipment needs. Make sure your revised BCP covers:
- Establishing a crisis response team
- Budgeting financial reserves for emergency investments into technology, safety protocols, equipment and hazard pay as needed
- Planning for cost-cutting regimens and rapid changes in supply and demand
Testing of BCPs has also taken high priority for organizations. The best way to evaluate your BCP is to do so frequently and unexpectedly. Planned BCP tests are good practice, but if the last 18 months have taught us anything it’s that you need to account for uncertainty as best as possible and make sure your employees and operations perform accordingly.
2. Adapting Treasury Management to Remote Work
Challenge: Remote work environments exposed gaps in technology systems, connectivity, access and capacity. Companies had to quickly respond as best as they could with what they had in place while considering overarching shifts in adoption of modern technology.
Short-term response: The temporary fix was to scale virtual private network access to all employees and hope that arrangement would work. For some companies, the plan was executed well. But most organizations had to make significant adjustments in bandwidth, network capacity and application architecture before things could return to semi-normal.
Long-term solution: Investing in cloud-based technologies—which seamlessly integrate into other platforms and provide remote teams with access—can be optimal for scalability. However, don’t forget the importance of comprehensive planning, like reviewing the uptime and downtime specifications of various systems to optimize network access. Additional planning points may include:
- Implementing new controls to reduce network capacity constraints—i.e., by giving employees only as much access as their jobs require so as not to overwhelm the virtual environment
- Mapping out protocols in manual and automated environments with updated contact lists to serve as a contingency plan if system outages or technology disruptions occur
- Continual testing of virtual and remote environments on planned and surprise schedules, include third-party tech providers
3. Revising Travel Policies for Employee Safety
Challenge: The COVID-19 pandemic caused global shutdowns, widespread border restrictions and other events that forced companies to review their travel policies. But before the pandemic, when was the last time your corporate team reviewed its travel policy to account for employees in high-risk areas? Such disruptions may happen again, so it’s crucial that you focus the conversation around what to do next regarding travel and how to keep employees safe.
Short-term response: The quick fix for many companies amid the rapidly spreading pandemic was to shut down travel for all employees. Businesses took these steps knowing the likely impacts to sales and supply chain risk given disruption to the free flow of goods and people.
Long-term solution: As post-pandemic business travel ramp up, BCP adjustments will be needed to support sustainable travel. Consider dedicating an entire section of your BCP to travel. Also, consider what abilities you possess to track employee business and personal travel (when such information is volunteered). It may be worthwhile to have a plan for the reinvestment of travel budget funds should travel reductions happen. Such funds can be redirected to assist with other BCP objectives, for example.
Prioritize Efforts to Improve Business Continuity
No amount of planning could have prepared us for what 2020 had in store for the global economy and workplace. The pandemic shined a light on gaps in processes and operational inefficiencies. Long term, it’s essential to mitigate disruption with revised policies and procedures. The pandemic showed companies how resilient they are and what they can achieve with the right policies and procedures in place.