Early numbers from the COVID-19 response reveal long-simmering challenges in ensuring business continuity for most organizations. In one employer survey, only 37 percent of respondents said that they had the right technology in place for employees to conduct critical business operations from home in the event of an emergency.
More companies had continuity plans (BCPs). But even among those companies, only 22 percent had BCPs covering more than two months of emergency operations, with business impacts of the pandemic sure to persist long past then. So, what’s going on, here? And how can crisis and continuity teams make resourcing changes to better ensure organizational resilience?
Let’s starts with considering the tools and techniques that enable continuity managers to achieve core objectives. By most metrics, the goal of business continuity management is to restore organizations to a state of “business as usual” as quickly as possible. No surprise then that there’s a widespread belief that continuity professionals only require operational tools and techniques (e.g. plans, checklists, etc.) to deal with time-bound disruptions.
Meanwhile, it has largely fallen to crisis management, especially in larger organizations, to respond to abnormal, unstable situations. These situations, chronic, persistent crises, tend to be of longer duration than incidents or disruptions. They, therefore, have necessitated a more “evolutionary” lifecycle – signal detection, searching and reducing, damage prevention, recovery, reviewing and critique – and management techniques (e.g. collaboration tools, incident reports, etc.).
These distinctions quickly break down, however, for the simple reason that what begin as time-limited incidents often beget crises. Not just that, latent continuity issues – the inability to reach a globally distributed staff, to name one – quickly become chronic crises with an external trigger, like the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the failure to plan for the likelihood that incidents and issues can become crises only impedes an organization’s ability to return to business as usual.
Luckily, unified preparedness and incident management technology can offer an alternative. What’s needed, specifically? Four considerations for procuring ISO 22301-compliant continuity management software that scales with events in real time come to mind:
- Smooth event transition. Your BAU (business-as-usual) continuity system should be able to retain information captured about the underlying continuity event, even as that event develops into a protracted crisis. Root-cause tracing is important for effective crisis management – and having information about the root cause event in the same system that’s used to manage the crisis will ensure a smooth transition from BAU continuity management to crisis response.
- Familiarity also breeds confidence. Nothing is worse than trying to get up to speed on a new system in the middle of a critical event. Having your continuity and crisis teams already using the same system regularly – with environments purpose-built for their respective roles and functions – will surely help as continuity disruptions escalate into major crises.
- Automated response. In the event of an escalating crisis, unified preparedness and incident management software should help continuity managers set up and activate crisis and incident management teams, including structures, roles, capabilities required, and on-call resources. Once those teams are up, running, and responding to high-impact events, the software should also help manage incident response tasks, log and share updates, decisions, facts and assumptions, as well as produce situation reports and briefings.
- Planning and review. Teams simply can’t adequately respond to critical events without first activating tested, best-practice plans and strategies. So, your solution needs to provide a comprehensive library of crisis and incident response plans and teams structures, covering anything from common disruptions to hazards scenarios.
And that’s not even the half of it. To disastrous effect, the COVID-19 crisis has surfaced many of the long-simmering challenges with developing and resourcing effective business continuity management practices. To learn how to find unified preparedness and incident management software that scales smoothly with events, download our Guide to Tackling Business Continuity Disruptions that Become Crises.