By Steven Greenstein, CBCI, Senior Advisor with Fusion Risk Management.

It goes without saying – what we are facing is a protracted global crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. Life as we knew it is being temporarily re-written on a nerve-wracking daily basis; it has startled and shaken all of us to our core. What do we do? We need to ground ourselves, act pragmatically, compassionately, and make sound personal and professional business decisions.

Companies with mature business continuity and enterprise risk management programs who have leveraged relevant big data are well positioned to respond. These companies have been creating actionable scenario-based continuity plans which have well-developed response, recovery and resumption strategies for workplace, workforce, supply chain and technology disruptions. As such, they hold a competitive and strategic advantage over those companies that have not.

As we analyse the unimaginable initial COVID-19 pandemic crisis impacts, we quickly understand that COVID-19 started as a workforce disruption (mass absenteeism), but soon thereafter morphed into a workplace disruption (mandatory quarantines of workspace), and now has disrupted the supply chain, logistics and distribution channel systems. To date, there’s only been some minor company or localised technology outages (VPN connectivity, equipment issues for remote workers, etc.), however, information security is now a much higher risk given the virtualisation of the ‘at home’ workforce. Bad characters will certainty try to profit from COVID-19, so expect an increase in cyber-attacks, ransomware, and fraudulent money laundering schemes.

So how do we plan for the unimaginable? How do we move forward?

Within the past few years, many companies have invested significantly in digital capabilities, transforming business operations, developing business impact analyses (BIAs), process mapping/inventorying all critical business services/functions, simulating disruptions to their workplace, workforce, supply chain, technology partners, essential vendors, etc. From these BIAs and exercises, organisations have created actionable business continuity (BCP), technology recovery plans (TRP), and strategies. This has enabled businesses to improve decision-making with relevant and meaningful data, increase agility, and fortify a culture of resiliency amongst important stakeholder groups such as employees, customers, third-parties, suppliers and regulators. Those companies that have already chartered this course by embedding a culture of resiliency and operationalising risk management are in a much stronger position to respond to COVID-19 and re-emerge to the market faster and with reduced impacts.

Areas of organisational focus and ongoing COVID-19 response should consider:

  • Preparation for increased absenteeism
  • Assess continuity of operations over time (30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc.)
  • Plan on how to manage service/product degradation over time
  • Determine appropriate level of inventory, assets, liquidity, etc.
  • Continuous monitoring of supply chains or providers for potential impacts
  • Analyse potential delays and backlogs - update forecasting/modelling
  • Setup reserve budgets (legal, professional services, financial, etc.)
  • Daily cashflow forecasting and investment strategies
  • Enhance info security policies, protocols and software amongst virtual/remote workforce
  • Develop succession planning for essential personnel and executive leadership team
  • Review HR and IT policy and procedure changes - engage external legal firm
  • Maintain workforce morale - innovate, collaborate and connect
  • Revise financial forecasts and reporting - engage external audit firm
  • Test Emergency Notification Systems (ENS)
  • Proactively analyse market and industry impacts
The aftermath

Coming out of this crisis, a post-COVID-19 wave of investment and digital enablement is likely in such areas as disaster recovery planning, processing mapping, big data harvesting and enterprise risk management and response strategies.

Brand equity and company reputation will be held to new standards and expectations post COVID-19.

When your organisation is conducting a debrief, ask the following questions:

  • Did your company respond well to COVID-19?
  • Was your company able to continue to provide essential business operations?
  • Was there a commitment to your workforce?
  • Were those affected by COVID-19 taken care of?
  • Did you transparently and frequently communicate with your employees, shareholders, stakeholders, interested parties?
  • Did your company maintain its vision, mission and purpose while demonstrating its ability to strategically navigate in unprecedented and rapidly unfolding times?
These are extremely important questions to be answered as organisations respond to COVID-19. It’s imperative leaders monitor their business continuity, crisis management and pandemic respond plan procedures and steps. This way, they can document all issues and challenges that surface. These issue logs should be assigned to responsible staff for action and resolution.

This is a turbulent time in our lives. We are in unchartered waters where the social, economic and financial impacts are looming large. With lessons learned from COVID-19, preparedness and planning for the next crisis will make all of us more resilient and in a better position to answer the question, how do you plan for the unimaginable?