Preparation by a business on Covid-19: Business Continuity Planning

Preparation by a business on Covid-19: Business Continuity Planning

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PREPARATION BY A BUSINESS ON COVID-19:BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANNING

INTRODUCTION

The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic that has crippled the world globally, it has led to deaths, businesses counting losses and closing down, unemployment, financial crisis and economic downturn. As at 16th of April, 2020 over 136,000 people have died from the pandemic which has led to government of many nations enforcing a lockdown order

Covid-19 has bought health and global economic challenges that cannot be controlled by a business owner, but there are certain things a business can control by putting some things in place. The most important factor here is preparation for the aftermath and this can be done by drafting out a business continuity plan peculiar to the type of business one runs. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses have been forced to plan for the following inevitable occurrence

  1. Staff Absence: Government have restricted movement in certain areas and states in order to curb out the spread of the virus. This simply means that staffs will not be able to work from the office location or meet physically, thereby leading to the introduction of work from home in order to ensure their safety
  2. Disruption to the supply of necessary materials or contractors
  3. Inability to meet physically with clients
  4. Cancellation of travel and interstate movement of people and commodities
  5. Cancellation of public meetings and gatherings

According to Investopedia, business continuity planning can be defined as all the process involved in creating a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company or a business.  A business continuity plan ensures that personnel and assets are protected and are able to function quickly in the event of a disaster that was not expected like the Covid-19 pandemic. A business continuity plan is a very relevant part of any business, it should be treated with high priority in preparation for the uncertainty that is bound to happen.

A business continuity plan will ensure that there is minimal disruption to their operations and the business remain visible during the Covid-19 pandemic.  A business continuity plan includes the following

  • Policy, purpose, and scope of the plan
  • Goals and objectives
  • Key roles and responsibilities
  • Risk mitigation plans
  • List of tasks required to keep operations flowing
  • Explanation of where to go during an emergency
  • Information on data backups and site backup
  • Plan maintenance protocols
  • Coordination with local emergency personnel
  • Contact information of management personnel

WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR A BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLAN

When disasters happen, it leads to threats and disruption which bring about loss of revenue and higher costs and a reduction in the profitability of the business. Businesses cannot also rely on insurance alone because it does not cover all the costs and losses. A business continuity plan matters due to the following reasons

  1. The business will feel more prepared to handle the unexpected.
  2. The business will have a plan to continue providing acceptable service after the disaster.
  3. The business will better preserve its corporate reputation, image and revenue stream.
  4. The business will be relevant and visible even though there is a pandemic
  5. There will be reduced financial loss to the business

STEPS TO TAKE WHEN CREATING A BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLAN

There are certain steps to follow when drafting a business continuity plan for one’s business.  It is better and safe for a business to have and create a business continuity plan before a disaster strike, it is worth the organization’s time and will give the business the best chance at survival when an unexpected event like the Covid-19 happens. These steps are:

  • FORM THE BUSINESS CONTINUITY MANAGEMENT TEAM
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This is the first step to take when drafting a business continuity plan, companies and organizations should formulate a business continuity management team that will be responsible for creating and executing the business continuity plan.  The makeup of this team is dependent on how large or small an organization is. The business continuity management team should include a manager, an assistant manager, and an administrative assistant from each department. These individuals will ensure that all activities on the business continuity plan are implemented

  • CARRY OUT A BUSINESS IMPACT ANALYSIS

After a team has been formed, the next thing to do is to conduct a business impact analysis. This has to do with understanding the physical, operational and the financial risks that will occur to the business when a disaster occurs. These various type of risks are determined by the business impact analysis procedure. A business impact analysis will allow a business or an organization to identify the some various risks and threats to the operations, financial performance of the business, reputation, staffs and the supply chain.

After the business continuity management team has identified the certain risks and threats to the business, they should discuss how it will affect the various operations of the business and the solutions that are recommendable in order to prevent it or manage it

  • IDENTIFY THE RESOURCES NEEDED WITH A GAP ANALYSIS

After the business continuity management team has carried out a business impact analysis, the analysis would have revealed the resources that the organization presently has and the resources that will be needed in the long run.  A gap analysis would identify the business recovery requirement against its current resources.

  • EXPLORE AND ADOPT RECOVERY STRATEGY

After the identification of the needed resources by the business with gap analysis, the business should explore it options and adopt a recovery strategy that will suit it. This is very important because it will enable the business to bounce back after a disaster. If an organization is impacted by an unexpected event and the financial losses begin to grow, it will be very difficult for a business or company to bounce back without a recovery strategy or plan.

  • TEST THE RESULTS AND MAKE IMPROVEMENTS

A business continuity plan takes lots of time, adjustments and recommendations. It changes and adapts as the business grows.  It’s always a good idea for a business owner to test its business continuity plan for lags in order to make sure it is effective, results from the plan are also observed and recommendations are made available for improvement

WHAT A BUSINESS SHOULD DO IN ORDER TO PREPARE FOR A PANDEMIC

  • ALWAYS MAINTAIN A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

A business owner must ensure that all the staffs in the organization strictly adhere to keeping their personal hygiene and maintaining a healthy environment. The following steps can be taken in order to maintain a healthy environment in an organization:

  1. Provide sanitizing supplies for the adequate cleaning of the surfaces of office equipment, furniture, steel doors and machineries
  2. Ensure availability of hand sanitizers in all departments and entrances of the organization
  3. Ensure adequate and good ventilation at the office or site location
  4. Ensure that employees or staffs report any form of illness especially the ones relating to Covid-19.
  • COMMUNICATE OPENLY AND FREQUENTLY WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES
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Business owners should always make sure that there is an efficient medium of communication that exists between the employees and the owner.  They should educate all their staffs on the threat posed by the pandemic, preparations made by company in case of a lockdown order by the government. Employees should also notify their managers if they plan to travel or have been to a particular area that is identified as a concern

  • THE BUSINESS CONTINUITY MANAGEMENT TEAM SHOULD REVIEW THEIR CHECKLISTS

The business continuity management team should ensure that all their checklists are reviewed

  • IDENTIFY THE BUSINESS ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS AND EMPLOYEES

Business owners must prioritize their key functions and ensure that the necessary employees are available to perform them for the business continuity in the long run. Take for example, the service of a clerk or a secretary whose job is to only to attend to visitors and clients that are scheduled to have a meeting at office location won’t be needed in situations like this unless after everything is back to the normal order

  • DETERMINE THE OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES THAT ARE RELEVANT TO THE BUSINESS AND WHAT THE BUSINESS CAN DO TO MAINTAIN NORMAL BUSINESS

Businesses must ensure that if there are interruptions in the supply chain or the transport system, how they will be able to cope. Will they consider virtual communication with their employees and clients or will they modify existing contracts in order to protect their clients

  • TRY TO ALLOW EMPLOYEES TO WORK REMOTELY WHEN POSSIBLE

While this isn’t possible for most of the function, business owners must evaluate and establish policies and tools that will allow employees with administrative or financial work responsibilities to do so from home. This will also help curb the spread of the virus

COMPONENTS OF A BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLAN

A business continuity plan covers the direction and control strategy, communications, monitoring, property protection, life safety, recovery strategy to be adopted, implementation and maintenance. This has to do with questions ranging from

  • DIRECTION AND CONTROL STRATEGY

This has to do with the business continuity management team ensuring that adequate control measures are put in place in case a pandemic or a disaster occurs. It has to do with questions ranging from

  1. Creating a company task force on pandemic preparedness within your company
  2. Whether there will be an incident commander or manager
  3. Map of the area
  4. Assess the importance of business activities
  5. What business units are critical to the continued functioning of the business?
  6. Within those business units, who is best placed to address COVID-19 disruptions and lead design and implementation of relevant mitigation activities?
  7. What are your flagship products or services?
  • COMMUNICATIONS

These are measures set up in order to enhance better communication between the employees and the business owner. This is very vital especially when there is restriction of movement in a state where the office or business is located. This has to do with questions like

  1. Whether staffs will be able to work remotely
  2. Can I keep key team members physically separate to reduce risk of transmission?
  3. Are the reporting lines in my task force clear?
  4. How will you respond to various scenarios (e.g. school closures, quarantine of areas, employees suspected or confirmed to be infected)?
  5. How will you communicate: what the plans are and what employees must do to prepare?
  6. How will you respond to rumours and anxiety among your employees?
  7. How and when will you make an “all clear” announcement and a potential return to standard processes
  8. Can I encourage a move towards providing documentation electronically?
  • PROPERTY PROTECTION
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This has to do with ensuring the company’s assets are safe in the case of a pandemic disaster like the Covid-19

  1. Are there equipment maintenance issues to manage during a closure?
  2. Do I have adequate security in place when sites are closed?
  • MONITORING

This has to do with measures put in place in order to ensure that all staffs strictly adhere to the rules, regulations and amendments given by the organization. This has to do with questions ranging from

  1. Whether a plan has been enacted?
  2. How will you handle staff concerns regarding job security?
  3. Do your suppliers have business continuity plans in place throughout COVID-19?
  4. What level of service do your customers expect during the pandemic
  5. Are there specific regions or sectors within your supply chain that are adversely affected by COVID-19?
  6. Have I forwarded deliveries to an alternate site?
  • LIFE SAFETY

This has to do with ensuring that all employees are safe and that the organization is not doing anything that will endanger its staffs.

  1. Can you implement an “early warning system” using supply chain risk assessment tools?
  2. Have I informed all relevant stakeholders of the closure (including employees, contractors, suppliers?
  3. Are there enough protective wears for those at the office site
  4. Are all surfaces of furniture, plant and machineries sanitized in order to reduce the spread of the virus

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the only way a business can react fast when an unexpected event occurs is by having a business continuity plan.  This will enable the organization to mitigate the impacts and other risks in order to prepare the business for further development after the Covid-19 pandemic. A business continuity plan to continue the business is very essential

A business continuity management team after being created must ensure the smooth running of the business continuity plan. An organization ability is withstand failure due to changes in its environment is as a result of the business continuity planning.

About the author

Onamakinde Dare Daniel is a highly motivated accountant with knowledge in Accounting, Taxation, Management, Audit, Costing and Research. He is keen on tax matters due to its ever dynamic nature.

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