While the world grapples with COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, many organizations are heads-down franticly trying to pivot and adjust on the fly, in order to continue operating in the dramatically shifting landscape.
Information, and in some cases, misinformation is piling up. Markets are volatile. Your upstream suppliers are shutting down or reducing output. Your employees are missing work, forced to attend to personal needs. Directives from federal, state, and local governments may be making demands of you to protect your employees, help contain the outbreak, and “flatten the curve.” Your customers are rattled, worried about your ability to continue to deliver products and services.
Experts are warning that this will not be the last outbreak of COVID-19. Historically, outbreaks similar to this disease, have multiple cycles, where the virus spread recurs. This could mean that we are dealing with COVID-19 and its aftermath for another 12 to 18 months. Certainly, we should be planning for the next outbreak, whether it be a resurgence of COVID-19 or the next new virus to spread worldwide.
Given all that’s happening, some companies are arriving at the heartbreaking conclusion that they are unprepared or underprepared for this pandemic. The only remedy is a robust business continuity program.
A well-designed business continuity program involves a lifecycle approach to BC planning, training, testing, and maintenance. It is your organization’s insurance policy for when disaster strikes. If your company does not have a BC program – now is the time to develop one. If your company has a BC program that does not adequately address epidemics – now is the time to revise and expand your BC program.
Pandemics are unique in the BC landscape; they are widespread and long lasting. This makes them unlike most other BC events like fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, etc., which are limited to a smaller geographic area and have shorter durations.
In many ways, identifying critical business processes for “standard” BC events is relatively straightforward. Moving operations to a secondary facility outside the affected area, contracting with secondary suppliers, acquiring temporary office spaces, etc., are useful mitigations for these events.
For pandemics, however, straightforward mitigations may not be feasible or even apparent. Additionally, upstream service or supply disruptions may affect critical sub-processes, or even sub-sub-processes, causing a domino effect that results in your company not being able to continue operating.
While no one wants to look at a global pandemic as an “opportunity,” it is imperative that your company takes this time to analyze the risks to your operations posed by pandemics, identify mitigation strategies that work, and implement them into a comprehensive BC program.