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COVID-19 business continuity planning in five steps


In the evolving COVID-19 situation, you may feel overwhelmed with new information and the impact on your organization. The parameters are changing daily and businesses have to make difficult decisions.

While you are already deep into your action planning, our objective is to help you manage the impact of COVID-19 with an integrated response.

Effective planning

During this time, relationships are very important and now is the time to build trust. Five key focus areas should shape your planning process.

Review your business continuity plan (BCP) to see if you have a response for dealing with pandemics. If not, you need to develop a response, starting with defining the roles and responsibilities of the relevant stakeholders. For example, define what managers, directors, and employees should do. This is critical to the response framework and managing risk going forward.

Next, create a BCP team by establishing a core group that represents all functions and departments across your organization. This group should meet daily to achieve two key priorities:

  • facilitate two-way information sharing
  • undertake scenario planning and workshop solutions to respond as the situation changes

Thoroughly assess corporate needs with a review of any existing risk assessment and a Business Impact Analysis (BIA), while considering how you would respond to any new threats.

Run scenario planning in parallel with step one. It is an effective way to ensure that a crisis response is well thought out and executed, and a key component of any organization's training and awareness program. For instance, engage your finance department to determine the economic impact to the organization, cost implications (both organizational and customer-centric), and opportunity identification. Considerations in this step might include:

  • renegotiating contracts
  • creating crisis response communications
  • allocating additional resources in most needed areas

This step focuses on protective measures, communicating the plan, and new pay and working arrangements. Considerations in this implementation step might include:

  • monitoring and managing rapidly changing health advice
  • flexible or remote working arrangements
  • travel bans
  • leave entitlements
  • pay changes, or impacts on bonuses and sharing plans

Planning should not only cover policies and legislation, but also consider support mechanisms for the mental health and wellbeing of team members.

In establishing the overall remuneration impact, all initiatives implemented should be tested by the BCP team during scenario planning. Data is key to supporting decision making.

Creating an Information Technology (IT) plan is critical. Your information systems teams will play a crucial role in facilitating remote workability and ensuring core systems have the necessary controls in place to support continuity of operations. Considerations in this step might include:

  • remote capabilities across the entire organization for all functions through dedicated links, VPN, remote access through authentication
  • reviewing, assessing, and updating your disaster recovery plan (DRP)
  • reminding and enforcing IT controls throughout the organization regarding restricted site access, cyber-security (see below) and IT policies.

In these challenging times, it's also important to be cognizant of phishing emails and cyber-attacks on systems. Emails disguised and headed by trusted sources will become prevalent, e.g. "Click here for the latest update on coronavirus from the Department of Health", etc.

Opportunity planning is very specific to industry and is about the legacy you want to leave as an employer and member of the business community. Gaining employee trust is the most important opportunity at this time, but there will be specific ones in your industry.

Considerations in this step might include:

  • What can be done online?
  • Can we move planned maintenance activities forward that were planned for the future?
  • How can we supply the BCP team with pertinent information and relevant scenarios that they can work through?

Every business will have opportunities, not only in people management, but also in timing and infrastructure. With effective leadership and commitment, these opportunities can become reality.

Leverage your knowledge network

As you go through the planning process, there are many unknowns, but following these simple steps will help you overcome the gaps and provide certainty on where to focus your attention while responding to COVID-19.

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