The Coronavirus outbreaks have swept through the globe like wildfire. While some are fighting the virus in the medical facilities, the others are doing their bit by practicing social distancing. This leads us to believe in the black swan theory, i.e., an event that comes as a surprise but tends to have major repercussions down the line.
Eventually, everything is losing its order and the global economy has been suffering too as the cloud of uncertainties is heading towards organizations with business continuity becoming an uphill battle.
The surging unemployment rates give us a clear picture of the grave situation at hand.
In March, the unemployment rate increased by 0.9 percentage point to 4.4 percent. This is the largest over-the-month increase in the rate since January 1975, when the increase was also 0.9 percentage point – U.S. Department of Labor
Until now, organizational resilience covered different types of business disruptions, such as damage to critical infrastructure, security attacks, network outages, and hardware/software crashes. But, the Coronavirus pandemic, brings us to make a Hobson’s choice with remote work setups.
For these remote setups to work, agility needs to be embraced at a holistic level by redesigning the business continuity plan with a more practical approach. The planning would require a mix of technology and business strategies to create long-term sustainable value for your business.
To start with, you would have to form a plan-ahead team to make some gritting decisions in these not-so-favorable times. After all, sitting back idle and waiting for the storm to the end will do no good, but building a strategy for continued survival will.
He who fails to plan is planning to fail – Winston Churchill
Five Phase Strategy to Devise a Robust Business Continuity Plan
Here’s a five-step strategy introduced by Gartner to help redefine the idea of work, no matter how much time it takes for this long night to end. The objective is to implement a robust recovery strategy that will help your business flourish in the times to come.
1. Redefine the Business Model
In these gloomy times when the economy is hitting a slump, the financial well being of the world is being jeopardized. At least, your business can stay afloat by redefining the traditional business model. Coronavirus disruptions are driving a seismic shift in how a business should function.
Phase one involves analyzing your current business continuity model by asking relevant questions that focus on customers/clients, value proposition, workforce capability, and financial constraints.
Such questions should be framed around:
- How to manage the efficiency and productivity of the running projects?
- How to deal with the changed psychology and mindset of your client and employees?
- How can you benefit from technology to maintain the quality of communication across the organization’s hierarchy?
- How will you manage to foster productivity while sticking to the cost constraints?
- Does the current remote setup support access to the World Wide Web and the technology needed to keep the workforce moving?
- What should be redesigned with respect to company values, vision, and mindset?
How is Net Solutions Tackling Phase One?
Even before a nationwide lockdown was announced in India, Net Solutions conducted internal meetings to tackle business disruption during Coronavirus.
The situation at hand brought us to think of new ways to evolve and deliver our work commitments.
It was apparent that the current business model would no longer serve the organization’s needs. So, the plan-ahead team took charge by analyzing every minute aspect and asked the right questions before coming up with a business continuity plan.
- Would it be possible for us to setup a remote team network?
- What do we need to carry on with the smooth business operations?
- How can we ensure continued communication and collaboration among the teams?
- What are all the risks and uncertainties involved?
- How will we handle the availability of hardware, software, and uninterrupted access to the World Wide Web?
- How can we ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the running projects?
- How will the decisions taken affect the teams at large?
The plan-ahead team held discussions, and teams across departments were also looped in for feedback. Again, all of this was done in a virtual environment as we had already restrained from conducting physical meetings from early on.
2. Recognize the Uncertainties
A strategic planning approach should be embraced to measure your organization’s uncertainties by analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, i.e., having a SWOT analysis in place.
Redefining work means identifying and addressing unseen problems and opportunities in the work, for everyone at all levels and at all times – John Hagel, co-chairman for Deloitte LLP’s center for the edge
SWOT analysis is generally conducted where decision-making needs to be done, and keeping the Coronavirus outbreaks in mind, this could be your best foot forward.
The analysis should be designed around three dimensions — Work, Workforce, and Workplace. The plan-ahead team needs to map these dimensions against the SWOT analysis results so that the business continuity plan can be re-articulated from a fresh perspective.
Building a SWOT Analysis for Net Solutions
Before Net Solutions redesigned its work culture, the plan-ahead team got its head out of the sand (acknowledged the problem) to come up with a SWOT analysis.
Preference to product mindset over project mindset
Lack of means for handling conflicts
The increased cost of operations
No control over the pandemic
No PoC for remote work setup
Reliability on physical workspace
Absence of remote work policy
Presence of a traditional business model
Can leverage the cloud technology
Focus on remote-work driven technologies
Opportunity to work in cross-functional teams
Increase marketing efforts on the online platform
Unite different teams on a single communication platform
Focus on employee health
Improve carbon footprint
Clients going out of business
Duration of lockdown
Losing out to a competitor
Continuous employee engagement
3. Assessing the Overall Impact
The SWOT analysis will give clarity on the uncertainties at hand, which can further help measure the impact of the changing dynamics on your business. With this new information, your organization can significantly reduce the extent of confusion.
Work your way through and create a fool-proof plan on how to deal with each of the uncertainties in question. It is imperative to analyze uncertainties around these micro-level parameters, starting with:
- Can you afford to bear the consequences of these uncertainties?
- In what ways do you think the uncertainty can evolve in these unprecedented times?
- How can the evolution of the uncertainty affect your business operations?
- What can you do to address these evolving uncertainties?
Having a broad understanding of the impact of uncertainties can drive your efforts towards creating a stringent backup plan.
The overall Impact of Uncertainties at Net Solutions
Managing security in a physically bounded space is something we learned over the years, but the challenge of managing it across a distributed workforce is new. And then, there were other uncertainties to analyze and strategize around.
Because the impact of the stated parameters could result in inefficiency of operations at an organizational level, we were risking business continuity. And, we could have never let that happen, so we came up with a reliable plan to avoid Coronavirus disruptions.
And, guess what, the entire team at Net Solutions is running at 100% efficiency in a remote setup. A moment of glory, indeed!
4. Suggesting Design Changes
Planning takes the front seat when laying down design changes for your organization. For instance, how do you plan to reshape the work model? What strategies do you suggest? Including budget constraints and allocations at this point also play a major role in reshaping the business model.
Until now, CIOs have always taken the responsibility to allocate a portion of the budget towards maintaining business operations. But this time, they need to redistribute their budget between business operations and innovation, where the latter carries weight too. Most of the digitally-driven organizations have been doing that for a long time now.
Digital Vanguard organizations allocate less than half of their budget (47%) to business operations and 26% to innovation – Deloitte
Coming to the overall objective of the design change phase:
- Meet the requirements of the business, its clientele, and the workforce
- Drive innovation by shifting over to a new business model
- Ensure business continuity in the current scenario as well as post-crisis
What Design Changes did Net Solutions suggest?
Here are some design changes that were suggested for Net Solutions:
- Run work-from-home tests for a partially selected group of employees.
- Provide required hardware and software to the diverse teams for maintaining the quality of workflow.
- Embrace remote tool stack for collaboration, communication, reporting, progress tracking, document management, scheduling meetings, and audio/video production.
- Strategies to move the infrastructure over to the cloud.
- Stringent networking tools for ensuring the security of data and processes.
5. Implementing Design Changes
Finally, it is time to decide upon the design changes that would attract the maximum value for your business. The plan-ahead team needs to analyze every design change and measure its feasibility when moving one step ahead towards resiliency planning and implementation.
A resilience playbook needs alignment across the top team. It has to be a senior management priority, or it doesn’t work – Kevin Laczkowski, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Co.
The shortlisted design changes should be focusing on a collaborative work culture while sticking to agile principles and values. You could even form a remote agile team that ensures your business and technology work in tandem to deliver speed and quality.
Clearly, there is no PoC (Proof of Concept) for situations where a pandemic refrains everyone from stepping out. But it is all about being agile to the core.
What Design Changes did Net Solutions Undergo?
Here are the design changes that were implemented by Net Solutions:
- Critical software was moved over to the cloud.
- We are continuously investing in technologically innovative tools that can improve our remote work effectiveness.
- Google Docs is widely being used for sharing documents across the teams.
- Deployment of VPNfor enabling secure and reliable access to the organization’s network. It has antimalware protection and cloud-based threat detection capability to handle uncertainties around cybersecurity.
- We continue to hire for new positions at Net Solutions in a virtual environment.
- It is essential to continue with the learning process. So, we make sure to conduct virtual knowledge sharing sessions where everyone can contribute towards everyone’s growth.
- We prefer “Slack” for communication and collaboration across the organization.
- Daily work reports are being communicated over “Slack” and “Basecamp” for progress tracking.
- A daily agile scrum remote meeting is scheduled for each of the departments to discuss their work schedules and the challenges they face in the weekly sprint cycle.
COVID-19 disruptions have been hitting us hard. Economies are suffering, unemployment is rising, and businesses are losing out to the emerging uncertainties. We can only hope that the pandemic lifts its shadow soon, but, for now, we need to weather the storm by taking some extraordinary measures.
Learning and evolving is the key to business continuity. The phases discussed above might not give you the exact protocols to follow but will surely help your organization get a direction. You can continue with being agents of change as new perspectives emerge.
The idea is to focus on speed and discipline and keep driving the foggy lanes with your collective efforts. And, rightly so, if life goes on, then why should we stop?