Continuity Planning at centre of Pandemic

You cannot have the same approach to build a continuity plan for pandemic and disaster scenarios. By nature, two are different events that force you to run for recovery. Before we look into an approach to build and execute a plan to deal with the pandemic, it is crucial to understand the difference between both scenarios.

Disaster is mostly momentarily & short term event and challenging to comprehend impact in some time. You can follow a pre-defined disaster impact assessment checklist to measure the effect and get into action as per your recovery plan. Its impact would be small to severe, and the impact could be longer. Still, one may able to define the recovery period. It could also be possible to figure out immediately whether recovery can happen or not. For example, Post 9/11 disastrous impact, many companies gone dust and could not be able to recover ever despite having a robust disaster recovery plan. Disaster situations can be put on paper, and the recovery plan can be built. There could be various benchmark to estimate the effect of disaster situations like natural disasters, technology failures, terrorist attacks, and many more.

On the other hand, the Pandemic situation is long drawn event, and impact can be felt only over a long period. One may never be able to figure out effect on immediate to short term basis. There is hardly any benchmark which can be mapped to build a plan to deal with pandemic situation. This is what we are experiencing it for COVID-19, which is forcing almost lockdown of situation across places and forcing companies to figure out ways to ensure continuity of operations.

I am not an expert on pandemic planning and looked at perspective from my earlier experience of running technology at Bank and building BCP & DR plan for companies.

Fundamental approaches to run continuity of operations in event Pandemic

Assess critical business processes: Though all business activities are essential to run operations, be it banking or Fintech or startups, you may not be able to run all business activities in a pandemic situation. For example, software development of new functionalities or new software may be put on hold while production support needs to be sustained or product enhancement can take a backseat while customer support to be continued

Look at critical resources: It is essential to figure out key resources mapped to your critical processes, which would be needed to support decision making, troubleshooting and can pull out extraordinary load. These are adverse situations and may need some heroic efforts too, without compromising on human health.

Be flexible: “Adopt fast and adapt quickly” need to be the mantra for management and teams while running sustainable operations in pandemic situations. Many organizations will have tough measures while working from premises esp banks or financial institutions, and cloud-based tools would be no-no in corporate network. Tools like Slack, Asana, Zoom, Skype will be convenient for teams working from diverse locations to collaborate better and ensure productivity. One may issue quick guidelines for employees to follow while working on these tools. Such guidelines may include not posting customer-specific or financial information etc.

Use technology as much possible: Various technology solutions like cloud, VPN. One may be averse to use cloud due to security and privacy concerns but such situations may force you to adopt such platforms to allow work to continue. Also, these platforms have able to put strong security measures too.

Assess, Reassess and Rebuild: As pandemic situations are here for a longer period with high level of uncertainty, it becomes more important to review your continuity operations at a frequency, reassess what is working and what is not working and take due correction.

These are some measures, but it would be more important to involve expert to relook at your continuity & resiliency plan and make it adaptable to the current situation.

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