The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty to all aspects of day–to–day life.
Reacting and responding to a pandemic has taken a toll on businesses across all industries causing massive disruptions to supply chains, compelling workforces to operate remotely, in some cases shifting production to critical items like masks and ventilators, or closing their doors indefinitely.
It’s difficult for businesses to plan for a crisis and pandemics are especially unique and not often top of mind. Compared to a fire, flood or other disaster that might impact one location, pandemics spread rapidly throughout a population, disrupting all aspects of an organization’s business operations.
The current disruption has highlighted the importance of not only being agile, but also the need to have a regularly updated and robust business continuity plan to reduce the impact of both internal and external volatility as well as enable organizations to meet their strategic objectives in the midst of disruption.
Business continuity plans enable organizations to assess any impact on their operations. Therefore, it’s vital that there is visibility and transparency into your plan so that your remote workforce has the information and tools they need to continue to do their jobs through disruption.
Business leaders and employees across industries are currently addressing the state of their operations as they grapple with the coronavirus outbreak.
In the early stages of this crisis, as many businesses adjust to remote work, impacts on business operations include tracking impacted employees, identifying any impact on operations due to reduced staff, and tracking the viability of operations in various plants, locations or countries based on the local situation, among many others.
Many leaders may be asking themselves: How do I keep my team moving forward through disruption?
Companies can’t prevent pandemics or disaster, but they can help to mitigate the impact on their organizations with continuity plans that outline the procedures needed to keep the business running, according to the Business Continuity Institute.
But a lack of transparency, visibility, or accessibility within your operations make achieving business continuity that much more difficult. It is critical that you are able to track and manage everything you need to keep your operations going.
This means providing employees and business leaders with the real-time insights, information, and data they need to keep working.
According to IBM, business continuity plans emerged from disaster recovery planning in the 1970s where the emphasis was primarily on IT recovery. In the 1990s, businesses began to think beyond disaster recovery and more about the entire business process to prevent not only losing customers, but their competitive advantage.
Plans often address how to keep core services operating, maintain and provide visibility into supply chains, prepare employees for remote working, assess any financial implications, identify contingency plans if parts of the organization are shut down or directly impacted, as well how to clearly communicate plans with your employees.
Robust business continuity plans include a disaster recovery plan, that typically focus on IT recovery, as well as a business impact analysis and any contingency plans to deal with operations that use external suppliers. These plans should be regularly tested and updated so they are well understood and can be executed. Testing plans is the only way to fully understand if they work.
In addition to businesses, state and local governments, schools and healthcare systems should also have plans that are regularly updated and tested to maintain operations.
Visibility and transparency into your operations is critical during business as usual, but even more so during periods of disruption.
How is your organization tracking and identifying things like alternate transportation if travel has been impacted? How is your organization tracking any impact to the supply chain? How are you keeping track of physical assets, like devices, equipment, or vehicles? Do the business leaders have insight into real-time information about employees, customers, and your business operations across all locations?
It’s important that there is cross-functional collaboration in order to address these various challenges. But, a recent McKinsey & Co. report on the current state of coronavirus found that companies may be hindering their ability to operate efficiently because they are currently executing their coronavirus responses within organizational silos, limiting coordination and visibility.
“For example, the procurement team is driving supply-chain efforts, sales and marketing teams are working on customer communications, etc.,” the report stated. “But these teams have different assumptions and tend to get highly tactical, going deep in their own particular patch of weeds rather than thinking about what other parts of the company are doing – or what might come next.”
Eliminating these silos is critically important when activating your business continuity plan so there is a clear understanding of roles, responsibilities and what needs to be done.
These plans should also enable the organization to track and manage employee safety and wellness, as well as outline plans to prioritize customer service, and keep operations going in terms of developing new products to meet any emerging needs.
Along with increased visibility and transparency, it is imperative that business continuity plans are quickly and clearly communicated to everyone within your organization, as well as your customers, to keep them up to date with the current business status and plans moving forward.
Low-code platforms have been on the rise across all industries as they allow users to accelerate innovation by uniting business and IT teams, improve workflow efficiency, and streamline processes. Unlike legacy systems that may be difficult to access for necessary data, especially when employees are forced to work remotely, low-code platforms are accessible by everyone.
Low-code platforms can help you activate and execute on your business continuity plans in the midst of disruption. These platforms enable users to develop custom solutions and are flexible enough to adapt to rapidly changing situations.
For example, companies, agencies, state and local governments and school districts have been forced have been forced to work remotely in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
A large school district turned to low-code technology to ensure students can stay connected with their teachers to continue learning during disruption. District officials built an application to monitor students learning, to ensure they were staying on track, as well as track equipment like laptops that were being dispersed to students, something that is typically impossible to do with traditional tools.
Organizations have had to be flexible, agile, and move through disruption by quickly digitizing the processes that make their business unique. Low-code platforms provide that flexibility, as well as visibility and transparency into your plans and processes to rapidly respond to the needs of your employees and customers.
For example, a large delivery services company quickly leveraged low-code technology to help continue their operations and be able to adapt to the rapidly changing environment. The application they built allowed them to track cases, store closures, and any negative business impacts that would require executive attention so that they could adjust their operations as necessary.
Like so many companies having to adapt to economic dislocation, companies need to increase their speed to delivery to keep up with the constant changes in the market. Seeing the power of customization and speed to delivery, one large manufacturer of automobile components has leveraged low-code technology to develop custom solutions to help their global manufacturing and supplier quality system evolve with the rapidly changing market.
And as the outbreak of coronavirus continues to spread, state, local and federal response is in a constant state of flux. A large telecommunications company with offices and assets across the world built an application with low-code technology to track compliance with state and federal laws. They also built applications to track sanitation services as well as supply and asset tracking to help set up employees with remote access.
Maintaining business as usual during a crisis is incredibly difficult. There is no advanced warning for when crisis will strike. But, having a robust and complex business continuity plan in place beforehand can help to lessen the impact to your organization.
There are different frameworks and different ways to create business continuity plans. What matters is that you have one in place and that it can enables you to shift as seamlessly as possible to remote operations, track your supply chain, lean on your contingency plans and ensure your employees are safe.
Low-code platforms are one way to help with the transition by enabling those closest to the work to build highly customizable applications that are scalable, governable, and adaptable to help you move through disruption.
Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty and unknown. If you don’t yet have a business continuity plan, this is the time to build one.
If you do, this is the time to activate it to keep your operations going, help you identify and track your assets, ensure your employees are safe, and provide greater value to your customers who need you more than ever.