At some point, most organisations will face and respond to an event which may threaten day-to-day business operations. Very few businesses have plans for an incident of global proportions. We imagine these events as apocalyptic in scale. In the face of such an event, is anyone going to be worried about doing business?
In mid-2019 if you’d spoken to business leaders about the kinds of events that could impact business big and small, right across the planet, they would have imagined nuclear war or an asteroid strike. These are massive and real threats. Who would have imagined the danger to global business of something so small that the naked eye can’t see it?
The SARS-CoV-2 virus that has all but shut down the oil trade and slowed world business to a trickle of what it was is just 120 nanometres in diameter, that’s the length the average human fingernail grows in two minutes.
The devastation to human lives, families, jobs, business, and the economy is confronting us all daily. As bad as this global pandemic is, it could be a lot worse. There are deadlier and more contagious viruses.
We are learning daily to re-evaluate what is important to us. There are also many vital lessons to be learnt for organisations large and small.
Here are a few lessons that the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has taught us about business continuity:
1. Business Continuity is essential for all organisations.
Business continuity planning is a practice that many organisations put off. Business continuity practices take time, effort and resources. Those resources are being used elsewhere in our businesses. Very few, if any, companies have resources to spare. Additional resources, whether you’re a corner shop or a large multinational, are seen as excessive, wasteful or a risk. Business continuity has a cost, and like insurance, benefits that we hope we never have to reap. Many of us, especially small businesses, have received a nasty wake-up call from this outbreak. Some firms won’t recover, and those that do will have a newfound respect for risk management and business continuity processes.
2. IT Disaster Recovery is not Business Continuity.
IT disaster recovery plans and offsite recovery facilities have proved useless in the face of the disaster that is Covid-19. Most businesses have been running IT-as-usual in a world that is a staggering distance from business-as-usual.
Business continuity is, as its name suggests, a business practice. Many situations where we instigate our business continuity and recovery plans, require the implementation of aspects of our IT disaster recovery plans. IT disaster recovery is, however, just one, often very supportive part of business continuity. Business continuity without IT service continuity is not a good idea. Still, an even worse idea is having IT disaster recovery, even IT service continuity, without business continuity plans to support. Business continuity plans that include IT continuity are assuming increased importance as we become increasingly reliant on technology for business.
3. That meeting could have been an email.
This is a line that I love. There isn’t much that wastes more time and resources than unnecessary meetings. In the wake of this global pandemic, we are waking up to a new realisation of what is genuinely business-critical. We are finding that many of the meetings we couldn’t do without, can be done without. Whether we had business continuity processes in place or not, this event has forced us to reprioritise our business activities. We are quickly learning which of our services and products our customers truly need, and which are just ‘nice to have’. Fresh perspectives on our customer’s real needs, have given us new perspectives on our own needs.
4. IT Solutions are often precisely that.
Businesses who have undergone any form of digital transformation are increasingly grateful as the fallout from this global pandemic continues. Digital business like online-only banks, digital and streaming services and sellers of other virtual products have weathered this storm better than most.
Many industries outside of traditional manufacturing have quickly and necessarily adapted to remote working and facilitate working from home for many office staff. As a result, our dependence on and respect for IT service providers, both internal and external, has grown immensely.
IT solutions are proving to be the solution to many of the challenges posed in what may well be an era of working from home and physical distancing long after the outbreak is a thing of the past. IT solutions bring with them new and often challenging risks, but are often a great way to eliminate, control or manage other business risks.
Etienne Shardlow is CEO of Symphonise Consulting. With 24 years of experience in Information Technology, Etienne is our lead trainer and senior consultant. He is a certified ITIL Managing Professional and ITIL Expert. He is qualified in numerous best practice frameworks and methodologies in the project management, governance of IT, change management and IT Service Management space.