The Importance of Business Continuity Planning in the Age of Uncertainty Due to Covid

Why Many Corporates were unprepared and how Smart Planning can help them

We are living in highly uncertain times. The only thing that is certain now is uncertainty and with lockdowns and other measures announced with little notice, businesses have to be prepared for disruption to their operations.

Moreover, the Pandemic has made working from office an activity fraught with risk as employees can contract Covid which can then lead to the entire office being sealed for sanitization.

Indeed, the number of threats to smooth business operations seems to multiply each day and hence, BCP or Business Continuity Planning becomes critical for corporates.

For instance, the first nationwide lockdowns world over were announced during March 2020 with little time for preparation and this caught almost all corporates by surprise.

As they grappled to continue operations through activating their Business Continuity Plans, they found that their Risk and Mitigation Models that were modelled for extreme risks were still left wanting.

As WFH or Work from Home became the New Normal, only those businesses that had anticipated such a risk to business operations were able to continue their operations in a seamless manner. Therefore, smart BCP is the need now.

How Bill Gates Predicted the Pandemic and the Learning from Experts Proved Right

Having said that, it is not that policymaker’s world over was not warning of such a Pandemic disrupting our ways of life. Indeed, legendary business leaders in conjunction with Think Tanks and Defence and Business Risk Consultancies have been warning about a Pandemic for over a decade now.

Moreover, if not anything, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that was the precursory to the present Covid 19 strain should have alerted BCP experts to the dangers of a virus spreading fast through the Global Economy at short notice.

Given that the Intertwined and Integrated World is tightly knit through Trade, People, and Supply Chain links, the risk of transmission in a viral manner is more.

This is the reason why Bill Gates and others had published reports warning their fellow business leaders of such an eventuality in the last few years.

Therefore, those corporates that were caught like Deer in the Lamplights have only themselves to blame for not anticipating the risks from a Contagious Pandemic.

Of course, it can also be argued that no matter how much one prepares, when Disaster Strikes, the actual implementation and rollout of BCPs depends on the human element that is very unpredictable.

Look East: How South East Asia Learnt Its Lesson from SARS and Why It Helps Us

So, what are the lessons that corporates can learn from the present Pandemic?

First, all business leaders must understand that Tomorrow is going to be Vastly Different from Today and hence, Longer Term planning for eventualities must factor in the Extreme Unpredictability of the Present Times.

Next, given the seriousness of the Pandemic, it is a good move to invest in Employee Health and Wellbeing as this can then help them thwart any contagion spreading amongst their employees.

Third, in our professional experience, we prepared BCPs that covered risks from War, Cyber Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Terrorist Events, but there was little planning for Pandemics.

Therefore, the biggest takeaway for corporates is that they prioritize Health and related Risks to Wellbeing which would make them more resilient in the future.

If not anything, the Covid Pandemic must be a Wakeup call for all of us to take these risks seriously.

Of course, South East Asian countries were better prepared as they had already been affected by the SARS virus in the 2000s and hence, they operationalised their BCPs that were factoring in these risks.

It would be a good idea for the Western countries to Look East and learn accordingly.

Trust, But, Verify: Use Technology Judiciously and Reduce People Dependence

A key aspect of the disruptions caused by the present Pandemic is that Technology must be used judiciously.

To explain, in our professional experience, we have come across BCPs that stress too much on how Technology must be used to the Fullest to ensure seamless continuity in operations. While this is 100 percent true, it comes with a Caveat that Technology in the present times can be a Curse instead of a Blessing.

With so much Fake News circulating, we recommend Corporate Planners to be Circumspect about the sources from which they get their information.

Above all, they must follow the Motto, Trust, and But Verify, which means that any news that they receive must be crosschecked with other sources to ensure that it is genuine.

In addition, we also recommend subscribing to the services of Reputed Business Consultancies so that they are better prepared and more importantly, informed in real time.

Next, we also suggest that delegation and decentralization of power and authority is taken up as Vital and Executive Decision Makers can themselves be Infected leading to others floundering about.

In short, accurate, reliable, and timely updates as well as less people dependence can help corporates plan for pandemics.

Think Global, Go Glocal and Be Vocal for Local

Last, this Pandemic is also the First Serious Crisis, apart from the Great Recession of 2008, to emerge from our Globalized World.

Therefore, our suggestion is that Be Vocal for Local to use the words of Prime Minister Modi and to be Glocal in approach wherein we think Globally, But, Act Locally.

After all, it is those people whom we come in touch everyday who matter and hence, Deglobalize and Go Local wherever possible.

To conclude, BCP during such crises has to rise to the challenges as discussed and what we need is more visionary leadership and missionary purpose.

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