Insights 10 April 2020

Intensive Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to fight against COVID – 19

In the past, a pandemic crisis might not constitute a threat to the going concern of businesses. However, the outbreak of the new coronavirus disease or “COVID-19” has intensified and widened in scale in Thailand, causing the chance of a national lockdown in order to end the spread of the disease. Thus, small to large-scale businesses in all industry sectors of the country are looking for a way to go further, especially if the country is faced with a lockdown and people are required to stay at home. In such an event, businesses will not be able to continue their normal operations or their businesses will be brought to a halt. At the same time, many organizations are starting to ask their employees to work from home so that the businesses can continue amid the outbreak situation. “The heart” of doing business in this extraordinary time is about having a fast-track business continuity plan (BCP)

There are 4 steps of designing Intensive Business Continuity Planning (BCP) or “I D E A” with details as follows:

Identify-key-business-functions

Step 1 (I): Identifying Key Business Functions

This is about identifying key business functions or work processes by describing any functions or processes that may be disrupted as a result of the outbreak of the COVID-19, thereby affecting the business operations, the stakeholders, and the corporate performance. As it is not possible to provide 100% protection for every function in an organization, it is important to prioritize critical work processes that must be monitored and find ways to address those processes being classified as first priorities.  After identifying key business functions or work processes, the organization can allocate necessary resources such as personnel, computers, equipment, necessary information, and relevant systems or even external service providers to support business continuity without any disruption. It is also important to find the right trigger to activate the BCP. If the BCP starts too early, the costs of the operations will be excessively high. On the contrary, if the BCP starts too late, the business may not be able to adjust itself in a timely manner and may suffer extensive damage. In the case of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is advisable to base the trigger of the BCP on the government’s notices or the number of the patients.

Determining Risks & Business Impacts

Step 2 (D): Determining Risks & Business Impacts

This is about analyzing risks and evaluating business impacts clearly seen in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. At present, “human resources” becomes one of the high-risk factors according to the analysis and assessment of many sectors. The virus outbreak could lead to shortages of personnel or key persons who operate in important work processes on a business as usual basis, hence the disruption to the operation and the business discontinuity. This could ultimately affect the organization’s reputation and reliability, resulting in losses of business opportunities and revenues. Also, at this step, it is very important to determine a Recovery Time Objective (RTO.)

Establishing Practical Countermeasures

Step 3 (E): Establishing Practical Countermeasures

This is about establishing measures and guidance for responding to threats that are practical. At this step, coordination must be made with internal and external agencies concerned in determining measures or alternative ways for running business. The measures must be practicable and commensurate with the particular business. According to the example above regarding risks and impact from shortages of personnel, one of the widely implemented measures to address the issue is to allow employees to work from home. However, there are a number of factors to be considered, such as whether it is practical for the employees to work from home, whether the tools or technologies provided by the organization can accommodate teleworking, whether the information necessary for the work is in the digital format that is readily available to support human needs, etc. Therefore, before organizations will start implementing the “Work from Home” policy, they shall assess the readiness of a number of factors that will support the successful implementation. “At this time of pandemic crisis, many Thai organizations are inevitably adapting themselves to digital transformation.” Also, communicating measures and guidance for responding to the COVID-19 to the major stakeholders and other people in a broad-based manner plays a key role at this stage. Without a proper and comprehensive way of communication of the specified measures, there could be a chance of a chaotic situation or a wave of resistance from the employees as they could misunderstand that the organization does not pay attention or importance to their lives and safety and consequently lose faith in the organization, thereby impacting the organization in the long run. On the contrary, if the organization can communicate the countermeasures appropriately, clearly and in a timely manner, the employees will feel secure and cooperatively comply with every step specified in the BCP, hence the organization’s ability to ride out the crisis.

Accomplishing BCP Effectiveness

Step 4 (A): Accomplishing BCP Effectiveness

This is about testing and revising the BCP on a regular basis even though the organization has already identified key business functions, determined risks and business impacts and established practical countermeasures. It is well noted that once the situation has changed, there is no guarantee that the past achievements can be applied to the new situation. Therefore, regularly testing the BCP will help assure everyone that the plan is efficient and practicable when the crisis starts. In the end, the BCP should not be only a piece of paper for the executives and employees to shed their tears when failing to steer the organization out of the crisis.

All key work processes shall be tested and the BCP efficiency shall be measured. The testing should be conducted based on a simulated scenario to evaluate the level of readiness of the team during the crisis. The testing should provide a real-life practice, rather than just a dry-run drill. This COVID-19 crisis will become another historical event to be remembered by people around the world. To overcome this crisis, it is not about the size of an organization, but about readiness and mindfulness in responding to situations.

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