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Crisis Management Essentials for those that do not have a Business Continuity Plan for COVID-19

08 June 2020 | Shivani Jariwala & Girish Krishnamoorthy

From where we stand today, the COVID-19 pandemic will have a profound and widespread impact on the world. The ripple effect it has created will take time and innovation to return to status quo, at least as we knew it.

The situation is grave at the business front. New dynamics are being created, with the lockdown of the physical boundaries and surge in workers engaged from their home locations. With COVID-19 spreading and no respite in sight, it is wreaking havoc on both business supply chains and business demand.

To add to the situation, cybercrime is at its peak. A report issued by Digital14 in April: Cyber Threats In The Midst Of COVID-19 Pandemic, reported:

  • 100,000+ malicious web domains registered with the words COVID, virus, etc.
  • 350% increase in the number of phishing websites spike from January 2020 to March 2020
  • 14,000% increase in the number of emails, sent between March 10 and March 24, distributing false information on COVID-19 and infected people’s phones and computers via malware
  • 200% increase in customer complaints filed due to COVID-19 related scams in the United States doubled from 3,000 to 7,800 the last week of March 2020

At Digital14, we have clients reaching out to us with various levels of Business Continuity Management (BCM) preparedness. Some have no BCM planning in place; others do but have not planned for pandemic scenarios, or the associated challenges.

To respond quickly, I have provided a crisis management framework below that will assist you with the essentials. The framework will focus your organisation, helping your team prepare and respond to guarantee core business services are available, operating, and managed:

1. Crisis Team Readiness and Awareness

Get the right team together and identify your goals. Define the crisis management team roles and responsibilities. The team should consist of people who understand core business competencies to make judgment calls with limited information. This team assesses the criticality of different business activities and organises them into tiers for response/recovery. For example, essential IT infrastructure (i.e., VPN) is a top priority today when all the teams are working from home.

2. Conduct a Risk Assessment

Understand the current and potential risks that will adversely affect the organisation. Keeping the current COVID-19 pandemic in mind, analyse various scenarios, such as the impact of 35-40% of the workforce being out sick and potential work-from-home related cyber vulnerabilities and technical challenges. Once you have a list of top risks, assess those risks to determine the potential impact on your organisation, enabling you to choose the most effective use of resources to reduce the potential effects.

3. Business Impact Analysis

A business impact analysis is a process of determining the criticality of business activities and associated resource requirements to ensure operational resilience and continuity of operations during and after a business disruption. The BIA quantifies the impacts of disruptions on service delivery, risks to service delivery, and recovery time and point objectives, respectively. These recovery requirements are then used to develop strategies, solutions and plans.

4. Business Continuity Plan and Strategy

Develop an approach that will ensure its recovery and continuity to reduce the deficiencies you identified during the risk assessment and business impact analysis processes. Plans and methodologies are determined by the organisation’s strategy. There may be more than one methodology or solution for an organisations strategy. Examples of methodologies and solutions include: identifying an alternate work area, a Consortium or Reciprocal Agreement, developing a social distancing strategy, building collaborative work from home scenarios and many others.

5. Tabletop Based Scenario Testing

A tabletop test is a meeting to discuss a simulated emergency discussing plans to manage the details of the occurrence and aftermath of a natural or human-made disaster. This popular modern method of testing your organisation’s Business Continuity plan allows you to run through a potential disaster scenario. A standard tabletop exercise process will include:

  • Set business continuity goals
  • Select essential functions or plans to be tested
  • Choose participants from each department
  • Establish ground rules
  • Develop a disaster scenario, related to your local environment
  • Confirm assumptions involving available resources, such as phone, internet and staffing
  • Determine whether the exercise is tied to any key vendors
  • Document and discuss the results
  • Advise through the process of applying lessons learned

Conclusion

The multifaceted nature of this COVID crisis is proving overwhelming for many businesses, threatening their continuity. Effective business continuity strategies can safeguard organisations, employees and enable the delivery of services to customers and protect infrastructure. Do not assume this will end within the coming months. This is likely to be the new normal for some time. Plan for that so that you are prepared no matter what happens.

At Digital14, we believe, addressing this COVID-19 crisis cannot be an “off the shelf business continuity solution”. The answer is working closely and intelligently with your clients, partners and providers. We can provide assistance in crisis management essentials which is a rapid development of an effective BCM plan. Having your plan will ensure that key business services are running and can be managed effectively during any crisis.

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