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What We Now Know About Business Continuity and Pandemic Planning

The global shut down of business has dropped stock prices, plummeted corporate balance sheets, and drawn an unprecedented number of Americans to the unemployment rosters. For the sheer scope of the business impact, COVID-19 is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Here’s why traditional business continuity plans aren’t enough and how they will evolve moving forward.

Business Strategy and the Coronavirus

Never has our global supply chain been such a liability. Conventional approaches to continuity planning simply lack the business strategy necessary to plan for the Coronavirus pandemic. Business leadership must revise their plans to protect employees and reduce their financial risk. As regional operations are shut down, and workers go remote, how can companies evolve their crisis response?

Pandemics are one of the lower-probability risks from a financial analyst’s perspective, so many business continuity plans will lack the necessary playbook to move forward. We know now that companies should have specific pandemic policies in place to handle remote working environments that encompass IT security, communication, or other factors affecting the brand. Some of the differences between a “normal” crisis and a pandemic include:

  • The size of the impact. An important differentiator that business leadership should recognize in a pandemic versus any other corporate disruption is the sheer scale of the global impact. Everyone is affected by COVID-19, from suppliers to customers, employees, and even your competitors.
  • How and how quickly the impact is felt. We now know that there is a cascading effect from COVID-19 instead of a localized hit to business productivity and competitive markets. This makes the results harder to mitigate.
  • How long this will last. A tornado, while devastating to on-site operations, is a contained event. The same is true of a cyber breach. Business strategy dictates the correction of the disruption. But with a pandemic, the crisis is longer-term.
  • Workforce disruptions can include a labor shortage but also a significant shift in workflows that impact productivity. For the coronavirus, the disruption was both in the shut down of businesses, necessitating layoffs or furloughs, as well as the new global work-from-home requirements.
  • Coordination with local, state, and national leadership. A one-time weather-related event requires coordination with government leaders. But during a global pandemic, companies must work within the parameters of legal restrictions on gathering publicly or other new rules that require a long-term effort to collaborate with elected and appointed officials.
  • Infrastructure instability or disruption during “normal” business continuity planning may rely on public infrastructures to get business done as usual. But a pandemic is different; the infrastructure is there, but businesses may not be allowed to leverage it.

A pandemic recovery plan minimizes risk to your organization. 

A pandemic shifts the scope and length of a disaster to an entirely new level. The average business continuity plan seeks to contain a targeted crisis, whereas a pandemic response is both lengthier and different from the “standard” plan. That makes the COVID-19 outbreak a serious and long-lasting wake up call for business leadership intent on building a business strategy that continues corporate profits.