Only 16% of firms thought their business continuity plan worked well through the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s according to a survey by Deloitte.
The purpose of any business continuity plan is to mitigate risk and ensure recovery after a disruptive event. Almost every company across the world had to activate some sort of continuity action during 2020.
Now is the time to see if your plan held up under the stresses of a pandemic.
Were Customer Requirements Fulfilled?
Some companies had their demand drop off a cliff, like those in the hospitality sector, and others saw a boom, like hand sanitiser suppliers.
If your organisation experienced a steady stream of demand, or a boom, the business continuity plan should have ensured delivery to customers. It should link with your operational resilience plan, too.
The perfect plan would ensure that all customer requirements were fulfilled without them needing to be aware of any disruption. With the pandemic, that was unlikely. Even in the best of circumstances, key customers would have been asking about your situation and how you are protecting your workforce.
Were Your Supply Chain Relationships Good Enough to Maintain Supply Through Shortages?
The huge surge in demand for some products ultimately led to shortages, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and iso-propyl alcohol (IPA) which is used in hand sanitiser and cleaning products.
The cessation of travel also lead to labour shortages. For example, the construction sector in Singapore suffered when the border with Malaysia shut.
Were there shortages in your supply chain?
Relationships with suppliers prove invaluable during difficult times. Were your needs prioritised by your suppliers, or were you left behind?
If so, your supplier relationship management strategy should be updated.
Here are more about tools and techniques to improve risk management.
Were Communications Upheld?
Your evaluation should cover the two-way communication between you and your customers. This is important to:
- Manage customer expectations for delays
- Understand customer demands and plan accordingly
Too many companies continued supplying as normal when customers had shut down or weren’t able to accept deliveries in the usual manner.
Your business continuity plan should include a communications strategy.
How did your suppliers’ plans perform?
The best business continuity plans will include an examination of critical suppliers.
Even if those suppliers performed well during the pandemic, it will be useful to understand whether it was a planned, sophisticated approach or whether they worked it out ‘on the fly.’
Particularly with smaller suppliers, there can be an understanding gap over what you mean by a business continuity plan and how they understand the term. Collaboration and education will improve any response to future events.
Were You Comfortable With The Latest Technology?
We probably all saw that virtual communications were here for the future, but we perhaps didn’t foresee it coming quite so quickly!
Deloitte found that “firms that had a mature cloud strategy were better positioned to handle the shift.” However, firms with offshore teams found it more difficult.
It’s not just technology that underpins working from home. Often, management styles had to change to accommodate a workforce that wasn’t in one open plan office anymore.
Did your management style translate to a decentralised team? This can be measured by setting SMART goals and targets.
Was The Shift To Shelter-In-Place Effective?
In the same Deloitte survey, 50% of respondents’ business continuity plans didn’t cover extreme shelter-in-place commands.
Gaille Media, a Texas-based marketing agency, had its offices devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Staff couldn’t enter the building for three-months, and even after the flood water subsided the building was too damaged to be re-occupied.
But, because they had utilised cloud-based file storage, their team was able to continue working without any effect on their customers. It worked so well that they continued to work remotely after the disaster.
The goal with any business continuity plan should be exactly that: operations continue without your customers noticing.
It’s more than just working from home technology, it requires workflows and communication through the organisation to customers and suppliers.
Could You Monitor Workforce Health And Isolation?
Banham Poultry, a UK chicken farmer, had an outbreak where 120 employees tested positive for coronavirus. The led to a shutdown which cost £2m ($2.6m) a week.
The evaluation of your business continuity plan should consider whether your organisation could have continued during a loss of a large portion of your workforce. Additionally, it will need to cover the monitoring of employees who worked physically close together.
Coronavirus offered an unusual situation where even those without symptoms had to self-isolate for up to two weeks to protect others. This led to a situation where employees needed to be tracked back into work.
Mental Health Awareness
The pandemic also revealed that it wasn’t just physical health that was at risk. A staggering 80% of British workers said working from home had impacted their mental health.
The pandemic has been mentally tiring, and a lot of people have been isolated from their friends, family and support networks. This isolation has lead to 7.4million Brits feeling lonely and isolated, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Similarly, there’s a temptation to be ‘always on’ when working from home, checking emails and taking calls late into the evening. According to a survey by the Martec Group, 59% of employees don’t enjoy working from home.
An evaluation of your business continuity plan should include whether employee welfare was adequately considered.
Did You Take Advantage Of Government Support?
Governments across the globe tried to support businesses through the crisis to maintain economic stability. These measures included supporting employees through ‘furlough’ schemes, grants and loans.
If the role didn’t already exist in your plan, an updated version should identify who would investigate the available support. This can include speaking with banks and local business groups to keep the company was kept up to date with available support.
Conclusion | Did You Rely On Your Business Continuity Plan?
Perhaps the biggest question of them all.
A third of firms surveyed by Deloitte created new plans on the spot through the crisis. The most important evaluation is whether your plan stood up to the test of a pandemic.
A business continuity plan isn’t a static policy, it needs to be updated and evaluated to continue being effective.
Now is the perfect time to evaluate the success of your organisation’s plan.