Business continuity planning has long been an important part of running businesses, but not always at the forefront of leaders’ minds. However, with the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic, any emergency plans a business had in place prior to Q1 2020 were put to the ultimate test. Not only did the pandemic move many workers to remote environments, but also stressed supply chains and business operations due to lack of worker availability. More than nine months into the pandemic, NOW is a great time to re-test and improve your business continuity plans.
The goal of business continuity planning is to identify what is both essential and non-essential to your business, so you can navigate the rough waters of business disruption. A business continuity plan should include:
- A comprehensive strategy for keeping the business operating day-to-day
- An assessment of essential and non-essential operations and processes
- An analysis of key employees/positions and how each would be impacted by business disruption and, specifically, the potential loss or unavailability of key employees
- A review of facilities and analysis of how the business operates if one or more location becomes unavailable
- A plan to protect, secure, back up and replicate, if necessary, critical data systems, infrastructure and applications
Here are a few steps to take to test and improve your business continuity plans:
1. Set up a cross-functional business continuity planning team of key employees to review plans regularly.
Establish a command center for a virtual workforce to measure quality, productivity, compliance, insights and intelligence, people engagement and workforce well-being. This group should meet regularly to review each of the sub-plans in detail and determine what challenges may come in the future to strike change in the current plans.
2. Have conversations with your key vendors, suppliers and customers regarding the challenges faced during the pandemic.
These conversations should not only focus on your organization’s pandemic plans, but theirs too. What are they doing to ensure that products will be provided as needed to continue business operations? Ensure that you are part of their conversations because it is important to understand how the provider will maintain high availability of their applications and deal with service disruptions. Furthermore, speaking with customers to ensure they can re-align their expectations of service is crucial. It is far easier to maintain customers than to procure new ones, especially during a pandemic.
Read more about managing suppliers in our blog: “Supply Chain Management: Sourcing Backup Suppliers.“
3. Ensure your business continuity planning involves succession strategies for go-to employees that help the business tick.
Identify the go-to employees in your organization and determine what skill sets are required if they become suddenly unavailable. For example, if your CFO becomes ill, you will need to consider how the loss of that person and their knowledge will affect the plan. Are there a set of employees who can step in to cover these essential functions, or do you need to temporarily leverage an outsourced CFO to ensure maintainability? Succession planning is key to be able to identify who in the organization can perform these important functions during a time of crisis.
4. Identify priorities and reassess critical processes.
What are the key processes that sustain the organization? Where can you improve operational costs and efficiencies in a pinch? Take a long look at these processes and even determine what bottlenecks and gaps are in the current process, then stress test it with business disruption. Common functions include employee payroll, healthcare and supply chain as well as highly important processes and other services such as payments, insurance and banking.
Where are these processes the weakest and why? Or, are these processes laden with unessential tasks that can be reduced in the time of business disruption? Understanding the answers to these questions is necessary when facing large-scale challenges.
5. Make preparation a higher priority.
Business disruption comes in all shapes and sizes. COVID-19 has been a stress test for all businesses. Being prepared and reviewing your business continuity plans regularly can help you face these types of challenges head on. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help by providing knowledgeable consultants in times of need, we invite you to contact 8020 Consulting or click the image below.
About the Author
Prior to joining 8020, Kendra was the VP of Finance at Centric Parts and also held Director of Finance positions at PetSmart and Karl Storz. Other experience includes positions at St. John Knits, Panattoni Development Company and external audit experience at BDO Seidman. Her expertise includes financial planning & analysis, operational strategy, budgeting and forecasting, reporting, cash flow forecasting, sales operations and compensation, risk management, project management, KPI management, business process re-engineering, and financial systems implementations. Kendra holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Washington State University, an MBA from Pepperdine University and is a California CPA.