By Mamadou M. Diop, Senior consultant – Business Continuity and Crisis Manager - April 29, 2020
In good weather, the human spirit has trouble thinking about the event of a disaster. If certain major organizations have a management system integrating Risk Management and eventually Business Continuity Management, many structures remain powerless. The world pandemic linked to Covid 19 confirms this opinion. This sanitary crisis, unforeseen or considered unlikely in the risk scenarios analysis, placed almost all companies in difficulties. It already shows the importance of a more global approach in the implementation of business continuity.
For numerous structures, business continuity is not an issue. However, in a degraded situation where their activities would be partially or totally interrupted, a Business Continuity Planning (BCP) would help them activate organizational, technical and operational answers quickly, allowing them to keep on producing goods and services while ensuring the protection of their collaborators and of their assets.
Other companies don’t make of business continuity such a strategic issue as quality or risk management. Insofar as they have difficulties in assessing an investment’s ROI in a Business Continuity Management System (BCMS), they regard the step as a luxury. Indeed, only confrontation to a severe crisis provides proof that the losses incurred are often higher that the investment cost into safeguarding the activity.
The BCP are elaborated and formalized in the context of an implementation of a Business Continuity Management System (BCMS) whose requirements are described by the ISO 22301 Security and resilience international standard. They are specific to each company, taking into account their priorities and requirements of their businesses and activities.
Regarding the companies having a BCP, they discover, through the experience of the current pandemic, that their plan had not sufficiently anticipated two of the major impacts of this sanitary crisis:
It seems that the BCP often focus on purely technical production continuity solutions: implementation of redundant infrastructure and systems, fallback sites... The BCP neglect two aspects just as critical as the material assets in a major crisis: the human factor and the strategic partnerships.
A crisis is an exceptional situation. It is therefore impossible to think of everything. But the best weapon to resist in wartime and to better bounce back once the crisis is over is to prepare in peacetime. How? By integrating crisis management and business continuity into the global management system, taking into account the most potential threats for each organization’s business.
The implementation and management of a BCMS depend on a decision of the executive management.
They require the appointment of a pilot: a Business Continuity Manager having the required skills and decision making capacity.
The BCMS methodology takes place into the PDCA Deming wheel (Plan, Do, Check, Act). It is about:
The major sanitary crisis that the world is facing calls for a more global approach of business continuity in the « implementation» phase. Furthermore, it puts the spotlight on a production continuity solution which had already proved its value during the social crisis of last December in France: teleworking.
Some companies had adopted and organized teleworking in the frame of a collective agreement or a Charter before the Covid 19 pandemic. Many others, throughout the world, have inaugurated in emergency with more or less difficulties. Indeed, the roll out of teleworking requires many prerequisites and investments which, over the crises and in view of the environmental challenges, appear less and less unprofitable:
Business resumption will not be « business as usual », that is to say a return to before crisis operation without a change in the method. This approach seems unrealistic in the light of the numerous impacts of this crisis. For that reason many companies will need to come up with a new operating model and with an associated transformation plan for achieving it progressively.
This new model will need to address more elements critical for business:
Few organizations had, in their risk assessment, anticipated the major sanitary crisis we are going through. Nevertheless « what does not kill us a priori makes us stronger» when we learn the right lessons and use the potential opportunities for improvement.
Among the much postmortem documentation that we will be able to make from this crisis in the end, three lessons already emerge: