Covid-19: Exploring the Real Value of a Business Continuity Plan During Crisis
CEO’s Blog | Patrick Katenkamp
Countries across the globe are following strict measures to control the COVID-19 virus. As a result, businesses across all industries have implemented plans to maintain business continuity. The new reality we find ourselves in is both unprecedented and unexpected.
Although many businesses design and implement crisis preparedness programs, the truth is that many were unprepared for a pandemic with such wide reach and speed. I am sure that a lot of CEOs reading this will agree with me. Our theories were tested by this extraordinary reality and now we are faced with the ultimate question: How do we keep our businesses moving forward when the world changes overnight? A big part of the answer can be found in your Business Continuity Plan.
During these days, we hear a lot about Business Continuity Plans, or Business Contingency Plans. For many businesses, a continuity “plan” is a set of files or documents that outlines how specific businesses will continue operating during an unplanned disruption in service. Usually included in these written plans are a series of check-lists, changes for processes, workflows, and other action points – which are useful to many critical situations – but almost impossible to implement when a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic knocks on their door. Here is why.
What we have come to realize is that simply having a playbook is useless if it does not empower your organization to remain operational and cannot respond to a daily changing economic environment. Doesn’t sound easy, right?
Of course, each organization is different – and so are the elements and mechanisms that keep them operational. However, despite the size, nature, or location of your business, I believe there are a few standard characteristics that your next BCP should have.
1. It must be practical. Can your BCP be realistically implemented or does it just look nice on paper? Does it respond quickly enough? Can the organization execute on it?
2. It must be focused. Does your BCP set priorities outside of normal business planning? Does it allow you to secure cash for the coming weeks, chase receivables, secure further funding, and manage cost?
3. It must be adaptable. Can your BCP change and evolve from a quarterly focus to a weekly or even daily focus? Does it employ agile crisis management and empower the organization to make rapid decentralized decisions?
4. It must be cross-functional. Does your BCP allow for cross-functional teams to govern themselves? Can those teams cut across the normal hierarchy and make rapid decisions through decentralized decision making?
Answers to the above questions will play a significant role if you wish to characterize your plan as ‘valuable’. Your BCP must be able to guide your organization in all aspects when affected by a crisis. It should include an actionable plan that addresses the needs of employees, customers, partners, and the business ecosystem on a global scale. It should not necessarily tell you what decisions to make. Instead, it should provide you the right tools to make quick decisions to adapt to any change, no matter how fast. Most importantly, it should empower the organization to make decentralized decisions.
A well designed BCP will help align your organization’s response and avoid the many risks that come with decentralized messaging – which often leads to fragmentation across the business. To avoid this, a coordinated approach that revolves around a central ideology is required for the swift implementation of complicated processes across multiple regions. Focus on responding quickly, not perfectly. The world will be different before you are done.
While we all must safeguard the health and safety of our employees, customers, and society, we must also ensure the continuity of our services and customer support so they too can navigate these uncertain times. This is an emotional time for us – and for our customers. They are under stress and their businesses are under stress. Now is the time to build relationships and partnerships that will last for many years to come. Our customers still remind me – and other MSX colleagues – of how we helped them through the financial crisis in 2008. Our response to this crisis will not only determine the outcome for our business and customers, but also the entire industry. If one link in the chain breaks, the line will no longer hold. Our ultimate goal is to allow the entire business ecosystem to endure.
At MSX, we serve vehicle manufacturers. The operational disruption of the automotive industry due to COVID-19 has been dramatic. OEMs are facing tremendous challenges. Manufacturing plants have closed down, supply chains have been disrupted, dealers have been closed, and vehicle sales have decreased almost all around the world. So, how do businesses continue to support their customers – who have also been impacted – if a BCP is not in place? The truth is, they cannot and we cannot. All businesses must take immediate action to develop and implement a strategy that fits their organization.
In a post-COVID-19 world, Business Continuity Planning will play a critical role in every CEO’s agenda.
Well designed and maintained BCP’s will give new meaning to overall crisis management. Ultimately, BCP’s will no longer be destined for the appendix and will finally receive the focus and approach they deserve. In the end, an agile BCP that allows for fast decision making, remote work options, and cross-functionality might be the new reality rather than just another PDF.