Silver Lining: Could a Negative Year Bring Positive Changes to BCM?

Richard Long

Even horrible events can sometimes lead to a few good consequences. Without minimizing the awful toll of COVID-19, it’s worth noting that the pandemic has driven a handful of positive changes in the world of business continuity management.

World War II was a global catastrophe but historians credit it with bringing about advances in medicine, undercutting the rationale for racial segregation, and showing women could do the same jobs as men.

By the same token, the COVID-19 pandemic, though it too has been a global catastrophe, might one day be recognized as having contributed to some positive new developments in the world.

As a BCM consultant, I’ve already noticed a handful of ways in which COVID has impacted the practice of business continuity and IT/disaster recovery for the better.

In this post I’d like to note a few ways that COVID has compelled organizations to raise their game when it comes to business continuity management.

As I see it, the pandemic has had four main positive impacts for BCM.

1. Raising Support for BC

COVID has driven home to the leaders of organizations of all stripes that significant negative events can and do happen. It’s also shown them that, to protect their enterprises, they need to be aware and prepared. As a result, executives have begun showing more willingness to fund the conducting of risk assessments and the development of business continuity plans and strategies. This will provide protection into the future not just against pandemics but against a whole range of BC threats, ranging from cyberattacks and natural disasters to scandals and incidents of workplace violence. Human nature being what it is, the current receptivity amounts no doubt to more of a window in time than a permanent change. It’s up to us to capitalize on the opportunity to take steps now that will protect our organizations into the future.

2. Creating an Army of Work-From-Home Experts

The long period of quarantine has created an army of work-from-home experts. It has given millions of people practice at doing their jobs at home. This amounts to important training that will be invaluable for any organization that needs to close a central facility and have employees carry on from home in the future, whatever the reason. Of course, once work from home tapers off, this ability will be lost unless companies make a conscious effort to retain it. They can do this by, for example, updating their action plans to incorporate what’s been learned over the last 10 months, rather than letting all that hard-won wisdom be lost. Letting this knowledge slip away would mean that, next time out, they would have to start work-from-home all over from scratch. Consider scheduling regular remote / work-from-home days to keep the capability fresh and current.

3. Making Everyone a Remote-Collaboration Whiz

The pandemic has made us all aces at working collaboratively from dispersed locations. Before COVID, few people used collaboration tools. Now millions of us have. We know what tools to use, how to access them, and how to interact with our colleagues while using them. We’ve gotten sophisticated about using Zoom breakout rooms and virtual whiteboards. We’ve gained experience in participating in meetings while dealing with interruptions from barking dogs, inquisitive children, and growling garbage trucks. We’ve also learned ways to manage and minimize such disruptions. The skills learned from doing this—provided they are consciously kept up—will be invaluable in the future. Those skills will be useful if the organization continues using a remote or hybrid model, or if the organization returns to a central location and is obliged to disperse again by a future event. Being comfortable with collaborating remotely is especially important for crisis management teams. The fact that the pandemic drove us to get good at such collaboration will likely benefit CM teams moving forward, even when the worst of COVID-19 is behind us. To get the most from our recent experience, CM plans should be updated to incorporate what people have learned during the lockdown.

4. Teaching Us to Think Outside the Box

COVID has forced us to become outside-the-box thinkers and problem solvers. The pandemic has been very destructive, but it has also compelled us to become creative in terms of solving and working around problems. People have been driven to find new ways of performing critical business processes. Sometimes, these new ways have been better than the old ones. This proliferation of new ideas is a potential gold mine for the organization. The COVID-born habit of thinking outside the box—if consciously cultivated and sustained—could benefit the company for a long time into the future, helping BC planners include new and innovative solutions in plans and strategies.

Preserving Our New Skills

COVID-19 has been a global calamity, but it doesn’t take away from the sympathy we feel for its victims to acknowledge that the pandemic has driven a few positive changes in the world of business continuity management. These include making management more supportive of BC, giving people practice in working at home and using remote collaboration tools, and driving people to think up creative new ways of getting their work done. These new skills, changes to BCM, and insights have the potential to help companies grow and stay more resilient far into the future, provided a conscious effort is made to preserve and leverage them.

Further Reading

For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to BCM, and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from MHA Consulting and BCMMETRICS:

About
Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.
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