Continuity of Business during Pandemic


Brief about Business Continuity

Continuity of Business or Business Continuity is a blueprint to deal with challenging disasters natural or man-made for an organisation to function close to business as usual without any disruption.

It involves planning to table top exercises and crisis management scenarios on how to ensure key business products or services remains operational, recovery of important systems and technologies, people and processes mapped in case of disaster.

BCP as a practice is often implemented and tested in large enterprises or organisation’s – private and public, MNC’s and government agencies. Since each business is unique, a comprehensive tailored BCP program is always advisable to best suit an organisation’s operational requirements.

BCP in Pandemic

Usual BCP plans focus upon scenarios such as Earthquake, Act of War, Vandalism, Terrorist attacks etc but usually not Pandemic. Today the global risk for catastrophe is not from nuclear attack but from biological attack or pandemic. Very few organisations undergo the Pandemic scenario, the major reason being the rule of the land or federal decision makers or Government Leadership takes control of the external situation.

Important aspect to remember is that in crisis scenario businesses usually focus upon assets such as building, equipment’s and products. It is always considered that people will be available immediately after the crisis or the event has occurred. In Pandemic, that is an outbreak of infectious disease it is the reverse wherein the employees would be unable to report back to work. Public health measures such schools, universities, social and religious gatherings etc. would be confined, limited or restricted depending upon the severity.

We have seen that during the WWI (Spanish Flu) where millions of people lost their lives across the globe to the recent Ebola outbreak, we still haven’t learnt the lesson wherein we are prepared to tackle such a catastrophic disaster at community, state or federal level. The key reason is there is no system in place to test and measure such a scenario holistically from medical teams, to specialist such as epidemiologist in place who have experience and can go on ground along with joint forces to ensure outbreak is controlled.

One of the key aspects for businesses here to ascertain in such situation is to resonate the brands responsibility towards its employees alongside social & moral responsibility towards the society as a whole. Organisations need to focus upon the essential business activities to exercise during the pandemic with limited staff or with rotation if possible. A planned and phased approach to start work immediately after recuperating from pandemic needs to zeroed upon.

Focus on Employees and their Well Being a Must

Here organisations need to have a people centric approach towards continuity of their operation. Employees could be off work due to reasons :

  1. being quarantined or being sick themselves or their immediate family members being sick or quarantined during pandemic.

  2. Public health order by the state or federal authority.

  3. Volunteering role in-case of emergency declared by the federal authority.

  4. Worst case scenario of Death or disability due to infection by the virus.

Hence organisation needs to look at possibility of work from home in the early stages of pandemic to ensure employee safety and public health at large. One cannot ascertain as to how many people could be off work in case of pandemic as factors such as rate at which the virus could spread and how many people will fall sick, how deadly the virus is etc. would largely depend upon such factors.

A planned or phased approach towards such a scenario will only be possible if organisations no matter small or large have undertaken a business impact analysis or contingency plan to evaluate the potential impact of disruption to their business operations encompassing people, process and technology.

Organisations needs to evaluate what is indispensable for their business to operate such as availability of personnel, assets, supplies, utilities, systems and most crucial data alongside incident response plans in case of emergencies which are enlisted below:

  1. Identify and train people as back- ups for critical functions.

  2. Identify critical machinery, services, applications systems, data etc and create a back-up of all those assets and availability to access them remotely.

  3. Availability of utilities such as power supply, water etc., although an external factor but needs to considered.

  4. Availability and dependency on third party vendors and suppliers – identify critical ones and their SLA’s during emergencies.

  5. Legal implications and business responsibilities to fulfil as an organisation towards clients and customers.

  6. Call tree of all management or critical functions in case of emergency to take informed decision if anyone is unavailable for duty.

  7. Organisation cash flows to ensure financing operations, payroll, invoicing and recovery.

  8. Lastly an updated list of all emergency contact numbers of employees, hospitals, blood banks and government agencies.

A Quick Overview - BCP Strategy

Lastly organisations leadership team needs to be ready with the BCP strategy during the Pandemic, if they have not then should follow the below mentioned brief process:

  1. Assess

  2. Design

  3. Exercise

  4. Maintain

Situation such as pandemic need to have a dynamic approach by the key leadership team depending upon the situation. Organisations should follow above steps on an ongoing basis and need to assess their business operational situations daily and weekly, to take informed decisions.

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