Designed for Disruption: Business Continuity Planning in the post-COVID World

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Manoj Kalra

Note: Manoj Kalra is a member of SSON's Global Advisory Board.

In the pre-COVID world, disruption commonly meant industry incumbents facing risk of new entrants using new technologies or business models to capture market leadership. With COVID-19, disruption assumed a new state of omnipresence – and how!

The pandemic universally exposed us to a dynamic, uncertain and ever-evolving environment. An environment in which preparedness for change became the make-or-break differentiator. During the past three months, businesses have had to adapt quickly to a new and changing landscape. A landscape where working from home is no longer a luxury or an option. As face-to-face operations ceased to exist, organizations had to rethink how to accomplish critical business processes remotely.

According to McAfee, the shift to work from home triggered a 630% increase in external attacks on cloud accounts in the last few months. In this context, a robust and resilient Business Continuity Plan (BCP) with innovation and security at its core is critical.

Drawing from my experience, here are a few priorities to consider:

1. Rethinking service models

Disruptions caused by COVID-19 have driven a seismic shift in how a business should function. We need to analyze our current service models. The analysis should be designed around a continuity from anywhere, anytime and by anyone approach. Business leaders should ask relevant questions that focus on customers, distributed workforce capabilities and flexibility. Thus, the focus should be on:

  • Leveraging digital transformation to boost the bottom line and better manage human capital
  • Harnessing technologies to create a collaborative and sustainable work culture
  • Empowering the workforce with tools and skillsets to put innovation at the core of everything we do

2. Prioritizing security

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been a significant increase in cyberattacks. As organizations operate in these difficult times, the usual control, policies, systems, and processes need to be reassessed. With employees working from home, how do we secure individual, residential internet networks? Now is the time to revisit these challenges to identify and implement stringent measures to protect ourselves.

A robust cybersecurity policy should:

  • Anticipate widespread, systemic cybersecurity threats and invest in preventive tools and software
  • Educate teams on recognizing possible phishing emails and cyberattacks, through regular training and consistent, clear communication
  • Ensure that the business can continue as usual even in case of an attack, through comprehensive disaster recovery strategies

3. Embracing agile tech

For the remote work model to succeed, we need to embrace agility at a holistic level, by redesigning traditional BCP with a more dynamic approach. The planning would require a mix of technologies and business strategies to create long-term, sustainable value for your business.

Agile tech can play a pivotal role in:

  • Accelerating the shift to remote, digital-first models and data-driven decision making by stakeholders
  • Grappling with uncertainties by predicting where pockets of demand could emerge, and where you can strengthen supply
  • Right-sizing the IT infrastructure to channel freed-up resources and support systems

4. Enabling automation

Now, more than ever, mission-critical IT processes are integrated on the cloud, making automation an imperative. It requires thorough evaluation and planning.

Automation can help business processes by:

  • Eliminating inefficiencies by alleviating the knowledge workforce from redundant, repetitive, or non-value-added activities
  • Enabling a competitive edge that ensures business continuity from anywhere, anytime and by anyone
  • Smoothening hurdles in day-to-day operations and insulating the business from probable shocks

5. Inculcating a data-driven approach

Firms should continue to focus on building data ‘assets’ that can be reused.

A data-driven approach is essential for:

  • Providing real-time insights that prompt stakeholders to take informed decisions
  • Responding to economic and demand shifts through robust forecasting and planning tools
  • Empowering teams with new-gen analytical models that provide strategic direction in a dynamic environment

Reimagining the future with lessons from the pandemic

Conventional wisdom and long-held beliefs have been challenged during this pandemic, forcing many changes. In these uncertain times, our ability to drive positive change will depend on how we harness the lessons we’ve learnt for a better future.

I believe it is important to relook at conventional BCP approaches and redesign our organizations to tide over long-term uncertainty. We need to redesign our BCP for disruption, as omnipresent as it may be.

Eventually, these changes in our approach will only make us stronger.

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