Business Continuity during a Crisis

A business continuity plan outlines the procedures and instructions an organization must follow in the event of a major disruption, such as a fire, flood, cyberattack or even a sudden shutdown as has happened with the current pandemic. When business is disrupted, it can cost money as lost revenues and extra expenses mean reduced profits. Insurance does not always cover all costs and it certainly cannot replace lost customers.

Business continuity plans are strategies to restore business operations to a minimum acceptable level following a business disruption. They require an analysis of the resources available to the company, including personnel, facilities, equipment, materials and information technology, and the formulation of a plan to utilise these resources to ensure that business operations are continued in spite of any sudden disruption.

Having a business continuity plan has become all the more critical during these uncertain times. The economy is open again, but what if public health conditions trigger another “lockdown”? Or, what if an employee tests positive for Covid-19 and the company has to be closed for contact tracing and sanitisation exercises? Planning for a sudden shutdown has now become part of our “new normal”.

Staff with in-depth knowledge of business functions and processes are in the best position to determine what business continuity strategies will work. Possible alternatives should always be explored and presented to management for approval and input on major decisions. An analysis of the resources required to execute recovery strategies should be conducted to identify potential resource gaps. For example, if one machine fails but other machines are readily available to continue production, then there is no resource gap; however, if all machines are damaged due to a flood or sudden electrical surge, business continuity planners may have to look into making arrangements for production to be continued at some other facility.

Utilisation of external facilities, whether owned or contracted, to continue business operations is therefore one option to compensate for lost production due to issues affecting the main site. Partnership or reciprocal agreements can also be arranged with other businesses or organisations that can support each other in the event of an emergency or disruption. Once space is available, office spaces may be shared, machinery may be borrowed, and additional staff and resources may be provided, bearing in mind the potential impacts to each other’s operations. However, these types of agreements must be negotiated in writing and documented in each business’s continuity plan.

Telecommuting is another useful business continuity strategy which allows staff to work from home through remote connectivity. This has allowed for the continuation of business operations in a wide array of sectors during Covid-19 lockdowns across the globe. As part of a comprehensive continuity plan, companies should also consider measures to ensure that remote employees have a suitable home work environment and access to a computer with required hardware, software, and a secure broadband connection. Developing a business continuity plan helps to insulate companies against sudden shocks to the business environment. It maps out a plan which shows how available resources can be used to continue business operations in spite of emergency disruptions. Now more than ever, in these uncertain times and with many organisations suffering the impacts of worldwide lockdown measures, it is essential that businesses construct a plan on how to maintain company productivity even during emergencies and minimise the potential for suffering further losses.

Contributor: Sadiyah Mohammed

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