How COVID-19 reinforced the importance of Business Planning?

The situation is grave at the business front. New dynamics are being created, with lockdown of the physical boundaries and surge in workers engaged from their home locations. With COVID-19 spreading exponentially by the day, and no respite in sight, there’s plenty of evidence it will wreak havoc on both business supply chains and business demand. These are hard times, life has changed dramatically for all of us in the past few months, weeks, days and is now changing by even hours.

Here are 10 steps that we have implemented to maintain our business continuity during COVID-19. We hope these can help you and your business too.

1. Preparing a framework for pandemic preparedness
We have a team that is assessing and managing all critical business functions – it is reporting to the management directly, so that there are no communication gaps anywhere. This team assesses the criticality of different business activities and organizes them into tiers for response/recovery. For example, IT infrastructure like VPN occupies the top tier today when all the teams are working from home, while training activities occupy a lower rung.

2. Ensuring safety of employees and their families
Proactive steps have been taken by our HR team to ensure that employees and their families stay safe during this crisis, as employees are the ones who can ensure business continuity. Detailed advisory regarding work from home policies have been issued. Before initiating work from home, drills were conducted to foresee and manage the challenges, if any. The employees and their families have been asked to stay indoors and stay safe by practising social distancing. They know that we are committed to help them remain safe in every way possible.

3. Embracing the digital lifestyle
Our society is rapidly advancing to becoming completely digital in an incredibly short period of time. All executives have to abide by no in-person meetings and business travel rule. No target or sales is more important for us than the human life. This information has been conveyed to all in the organization and has been reiterated through multiple channels.

Tools are bringing people together in innovative ways and are giving people the chance to reconnect in tough times. We have completely switched to meetings, file sharing and chatting via Office 365 video conferencing solution – Microsoft Teams to get the experience of in-person meetings.

4. Monitoring the situation closely
The world is flooded with COVID-19 news at present and not all is real. We are keeping a close watch on the situation with the comprehensive and reliable information available on sites of Government of India, The World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control, to be prepared in case the situation becomes more severe. We are relying only on official government statements and advise others too to stay away from rumours.

5. Real-time listening to detect shifting customer sentiment
The key to mitigate risks and find opportunities in these ambiguous times is rigorous scenario planning – best to worst case. Customers have now, more than other times, a desire to feel secure and have greater expectations from brands to offer them protection and care. They need to know that we are considerate towards their needs. Thus, we have established and maintained open lines of communication with sales and account teams so that they can report customer context and concerns from the front.

We are also active socially and are monitoring our social media channels to listen in to our customers’ feedback.

6. Reviewing financial implications
We are in constant communication with our partners and suppliers to understand any financial issues that may arise. We have also ensured that we have enough working capital in hand – a requisite for all businesses in these unprecedented times. In our to-do list is to seek loans and government -sponsored financial relief for supporting cash flow. We are also looking for cost-effective ways to get things done.

7. Reviewing HR practices and policies
We have identified business critical resources in our organization.Steps are being implemented to ensure business operations in their absence. Absenteeism rate is closely monitored, and we are considering extra sick leaves for those who fall sick.

8. Establishing a communication program
In these troubled times, increasing efficiency and productivity is of utmost importance. We understand that it is hell lot challenging in these times due to remote work but it’s important and can be done when people are kept in the loop and they feel involved at all times.

We have assigned a spokesperson for our company who sends out preapproved scripts and messages to different stakeholders, including employees, customers, partners and more, as needed.

9. Reassessing our IT actions
The time today highlights the true value of the internet and the IT teams that are working to ensure business continuity, with teams working from homes, and the potential that the digital lifestyle could offer us in the future.

From e-learning to working from home to building new businesses that will shine in the post-covid-19 era, we have understood that IT as a business function is the one that needs to be most prepared for business continuity. Nevertheless, we need to look at remote data center management and cloud solutions for critical systems.

We have rescheduled nonessential IT work and have re-prioritized key applications.
“Acronis is directly responsible for saving our company 1200 hours per year for IT operations staff in backup and recovery workflows.” CIO, high performance IT company.
Read details in a report by Forrester.

10. Reconsidering the security factor
We are more aware of security than ever before as our employees are working from home and this opens up new avenues of risk. We have secured Wi-Fi routers, have trained people to learn more about phishing and scams, and have shared tips to protect our people from fraud.

We take regular cloud backup of our data and recommend other organizations to do so. We all need to invest more in security controls and training to help protect both – our assets and our employees.

These steps are ensuring business continuity for us and I hope that following them can also help your business ride the storm safely. These are testing times when empathy is the need of the hour – it’s changing the way we engage with one another – we should try and help each other by lending a helping hand. The pandemic won’t last forever, but the stances we take now will resonate long after things will return to normal.

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