Business continuity amid the COVID-19 outbreak

The changing Business Continuity plan

In the light of COVID-19 we’re seeing a lot of interest in business continuity at the moment. Or more specifically, the changing of existing Business Continuity plans. More often than not, businesses will concentrate their Business Continuity plan on getting key departments or personnel to work in an extraordinary situation. For example – a business with 100 people may pre-select 10 key team members to be able to work in an emergency. However, with the risks that COVID-19 pose, organisations are now looking to have the option to mobilise their entire workforce.

My thoughts on business continuity

Major IT changes can take time. Making changes quickly can be tricky – and also risky. I hope you find the ideas below helpful…

Keep security in sharp focus

When you need to act quickly it can be tempting to take shortcuts to provide your staff with what they need to work. But don’t cut corners! When making any changes to enable remote working, even temporarily, it’s important to retain the security and integrity of your IT infrastructure. Remember that cyber criminals will be looking to leverage the current climate and this could take many routes. For example – finding weak links in remote access, or your staff receiving fake COVID-19 alert emails enticing you to click on a link for the latest updates.

Your staff may have a home computer but…

It’s easy to assume that staff will be happy to use their personal devices to connect in to work from home. But the truth may be different! Installing work-based software on personal computers isn’t always simple. Not only can it bring major risks to the business, it may massively increase the IT overhead required as a staff member’s personal computer devices may not be well looked after. That simple request to “install this software” could take hours if the machine is in a bad state. Additionally, many work-based software has device management functions – are your staff happy that their personal devices might be managed by work?

Will remote workers be well connected?

Some will have broadband at home with Wi-Fi. Other team members may rely on 4G networks. Do any of your staff members have bandwidth limitations or data caps? This could affect your team’s experience – systems may seem very slow or could stop working all together when data usage caps are hit. How do you raise these caps? Do staff know if they can claim for this?

Use collaboration tools

When workers are in different locations, being able to easily communicate and collaborate is key. If you’re using online collaboration tools such as Office 365 and SharePoint you’re in a great position. When people aren’t in the same office, think about using other tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack to help staff collaborate without producing too much email traffic. Use emojis to help convey any emotions in text. Remember – text can be read in many different ways!

Set team expectations

The team need to know how to use any new solution. They also need to know when it is acceptable to do so – is it clear who makes the decision on some, or all, of the workforce working from home? How is this communicated? Your teams also need to know that this remote working offering may be temporary – a short term remote access solution for exceptional circumstances probably won’t technically look the same as a long term remote-working solution.

Don’t forget phones

It’s great that your team can now work from home. But can they take phone calls? Tackling this issue could be simply forwarding people’s external phone numbers to mobile phones. But what about being able to transfer or record calls?

It’s essential to speak with your telephony supplier or vendor about that options are available.

Test and resolve

Don’t wait until the last minute to invoke your remote working plan. Ensure each team member has tested remote working and highlight any issues that need resolving to your IT team.

An opportunity for change?

In today’s world having the ability to work from home can be an important part of attracting the right staff. Take this opportunity to think about what you want from your ICT systems moving forward. Including your Business Continuity planning as part of this –

  • Do you want to include the whole team able to work remotely?
  • How important is the value of dark office space? In a major emergency would it already be fully subscribed?
  • Could Business Continuity based around homeworking be the best route?
  • How quickly can you recover from a cyber-related issue? Does your backup enable quick recovery?