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Business continuity management lessons learned in 2020

As organizations around the world were abruptly thrown into having to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, business continuity management became a key focal point. With hindsight there is, of course, much to learn about how things can be improved for future events. Here Marc Hardwick highlights some key lessons learned…

Get the decision-making model right from the start

Strong clear decision-making and communications, both within organizations and externally with clients and stakeholders, has been fundamental to successful reactions to the pandemic.

The creation of a dedicated crisis management team benefits this process greatly and should include functional leaders with representatives from HR, legal, communications, finance, corporate security, IT, country leaders and business units. Meeting daily, decisions can be made quickly and consistently, and then cascaded down. Getting this model right from the start is critical to ensuring decisions can be made speedily whilst accommodating the different needs of various stakeholders. 

Act with speed and agility, securely

The need for speed and agility has been obvious across the board since the outbreak of COVID-19. Organizations have implemented new, often digital, solutions creating value in rapid time. Acting quickly to make people safe, and to move as many staff to a work-from-home (WFH) model was key for many companies in the early days of the pandemic. Central to the success of this new way of working is to make sure staff can work securely on a continuous basis, ensuring data protection is completely robust.

Remember to be empathetic

One of the most interesting trends since the start of the pandemic has been the rising prominence of ‘employee experience’, which has really come of age. Early data suggests that employees can be more willing to engage via technology than in a face to face environment now. Whilst many people have thrived with WFH, it is important to recognise that some have struggled. Managers and HR have had the challenge of helping staff adapt who may have difficult family circumstances or suffer from a lack of suitable workspace. It has also been difficult for new recruits to settle in and for less experienced staff to secure the support they need through the WFH model. Such things must be accounted and planned for effectively by companies in the future.

Transfer learnings

Operating with a broad range of clients across a wide range of geographies has allowed some companies to watch the pandemic spreading from one country to another, allowing them to adapt and apply new learnings. This approach can also be applied to the ‘return to office’ process, where learnings from early markets can be transferred into those countries that follow. Businesses must consider what colleagues from different countries can teach them.

Resetting and reimagining

Whilst the pandemic is still very much with us, we are starting to see a shift in organizations moving from reactive mode into one of reflection. They are considering their next moves with the benefit of having been part of an involuntary pilot scheme which has enabled them to look through a different lens with many previous business assumptions set aside.

Faced with a challenging road ahead, they realise that surviving, and thriving, will require more than just incremental change. Companies must adjust their views and create a narrative for the ‘new normal’. Priorities have shifted and question marks are being raised over everything from employee engagement, to collaboration approaches and skills requirements.

Accelerated changes

The impact of the pandemic and the realities of conducting business during lockdowns, has without doubt highlighted the vulnerability of traditional analogue business models. We should ultimately see an acceleration of business transformation and, over the longer term, this will help to drive an increase in the volume and scope of new digital transformation projects.

For many organizations, the pandemic will permanently change the way that they engage with clients. From moving physical site visits to virtual walk rounds to bids and RFP responses being submitted via microsites instead of in-person, new initiatives are saving time and allowing clients to access propositions at their own pace and time.

Organizations now recognise that they will not exit the pandemic the way they entered it and are likely to possess a much greater understanding of what technology can achieve. Where possible, organizations are gradually moving from a ‘crisis management’ position to refining their longer-term strategy sustainable in a COVID-19 environment. Ultimately organizations will emerge having adapted to new workplaces with new workforces. Its highly likely that trends around the future of work will lead to an acceleration of digital projects and transformation able to work anywhere at any time and business continuity plans will no doubt continue to evolve.

The author

Marc Hardwick is Research Director, TechMarketView.



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Business continuity can be defined as 'the processes, procedures, decisions and activities to ensure that an organization can continue to function through an operational interruption'. Read more about the basics of business continuity here.

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