Is it banal to say that COVID 19 presents serious, prolonged and multi-faceted challenges to almost every organisation? As the consequences of COVID 19 unfold, company risk profiles are changing, almost beyond recognition. In this article, Denia Ellul and Dominic Fisher explore the implications of this crisis from a business continuity perspective.
Businesses sustain livelihoods. As we can see all around us, owners and managers will invariably do what they can to survive. On the other hand, business continuity planning is not about being in ‘survival mode’, but rather planning ahead. As the mantra goes, ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail’.
Textbook business continuity planning would involve improving readiness for incidents affecting an organisation which might result in the non-availability of systems, premises or people (or a combination thereof). Typically, the output from this process would be a business continuity plan (BCP), which is a document which would be used to help organisations form a timely response to such incidents so as to minimise disruption.
Notwithstanding the disruption involved, BCPs should be regularly tested so as to finetune organisational responses. For many organisations COVID 19 has been a ‘real life’ test in which they have found their BCP to be inadequate. The worst thing such an organisation could do now is to chalk this saga up to experience and carry on as before. Instead, we should ensure that maximal learning takes place. In reviewing and updating BCPs, common areas of improvements include:
- Ensuring that business continuity objectives tie in with organisational objectives.
- Making business continuity arrangements more comprehensive. Do yours cover non-IT incidents and protracted situations? Many BCPs are overly focused on ‘disaster recovery’ and fail to consider the kind of scenario which is currently being faced.
- Improving awareness. It shouldn’t be a shock for someone to learn that they form part of a ‘crisis response team’.
- Having governance arrangements in place to ensure that the plan is a ‘live’ document.
Even if your workforce is now happily working from home, when reviewing how to take business continuity forward we should all be cognisant that we have entered a more volatile environment. Many existing risks such as supplier failure or innovation by competition have been amplified by COVID 19. For most organisations it will make sense to intensify business continuity activity for the foreseeable future.
Organisations should also be aware of the increased interest external stakeholders are taking in their business continuity arrangements. For example in March the MFSA issued a circular emphasising the regulator’s expectations of licenseholders vis a vis business continuity and also underlining the link between business continuity and conduct issues such as complaint management.
To sum up, we are in unprecedented times. Give business continuity the attention it deserves.
How ARQ Can Help
Do you require assistance with any aspect of Business Continuity Planning? ARQ Group has a multi-disciplinary team with a wealth of legal, IT, risk and regulatory expertise and practical experience from within regulated firms and at regulatory bodies.
In the context of your organisation and the risks you face, we can provide you with an independent and objective assessment of your BCP arrangements. ARQ can also assist in drafting or updating suitable plans and policies tailored to the needs and requirements of your organisation and provide advisory services with regards to the implementation process.