Your business continuity checklist
Hard-earned lessons from the pandemic can help you meet current and future challenges
4 minutes read
- Today’s disruptions underscore the need for longer-term, more comprehensive continuity plans
- Plans should address work process changes, securing liquidity and how to return aﬅer a forced departure
- Flexibility and communication with stakeholders can help prepare businesses for a resilient future
Business continuity planning is designed for disaster. If power fails, a factory is ﬂooded or a hacker breaches a company’s cyber defenses, a continuity plan can help a business regroup and recover. “It’s one of an organization’s most important functions,” says Lidija Nikolic, Business Banking Market Executive, Bank of America. “It can help ensure your survival.”
The coronavirus has taken the need for such planning to a whole new level. “The pervasiveness and duration of what has occurred requires a fundamental change in the way business continuity planning is approached,” Nikolic says. “In speaking with our clients over the past several months, we have seen new best practices emerge.” Use this checklist to help strengthen your own company’s plan.
1. Take a longer view
Before the pandemic, most continuity plans were designed to keep company procedures and technology functioning through short-term disruptions, Nikolic says. This crisis underscores the need for a longer view. Consider which elements of your existing plan showed signs of strain as the weeks and months wore on. Did communication channels stay open even as managers moved to remote locations? Were there adequate supplies of protective equipment to keep workers safe if they had to be on-site? Looking at what you wish had been in place during the early months of the pandemic can help you prepare for future interruptions.
2. Set concrete goals
Your ﬁrst priority will always be to ensure employee safety and the ongoing operations of your company. The pandemic highlights the need to address speciﬁc topics such as adapting to changes in work processes, securing liquidity and planning a return to the oﬃce or other company facilities aﬅer a forced departure. Your continuity plan should identify speciﬁc benchmarks to help you measure progress in each area as you respond to a disruption, Nikolic says. For example, frequently comparing current revenues and expenses with pre-pandemic levels can illuminate trends and help determine the feasibility of reopening parts of your operations.
3. Update, test and safeguard technology
In the wake of previous crises, many companies established alternative locations where employees could work in an emergency, says Nikolic. “They also created very robust mobile technological connections that have been invaluable today,” she says. Still, few continuity plans anticipated a situation in which virtually all workers would need to use virtual private networks (VPNs) and other secure communications processes at the same time. Update your plan to provide for regular testing and upgrading of remote technology and cyber security.
4. Consider strategic upgrades
When a company is forced out of its physical locations, normal ways of doing business can’t continue. While the speciﬁc nature of future challenges may be hard to predict, you can establish best practices for rapid response, including the chain of command for restoring time-sensitive, critical functions, and who will step in if top managers or others with crucial responsibilities are incapacitated.
5. Create or update your phone tree
Continuity planning shouldn’t neglect this basic tool, Nikolic says. It’s essential to have an up-to-date list of all employees’ phone numbers and a procedure to get important information to everyone in an emergency and make sure employees are safe. A phone tree can also serve as a backup and an extension to digital communications, helping make sure that managers can remain in touch with each other and that essential business functions can continue. “For example, payments to vendors and others oﬅen have to be authorized at multiple levels, and this list can make that possible even when online connections are disrupted,” Nikolic says.
6. Ensure a strong cash position
Beyond establishing plans for employee safety and continuing operations, the top priority should be to safeguard the liquidity and the cash position of the company, says Nikolic. As part of assessing current and future liquidity, projections have to take into account a wide range of potential outcomes and be adjusted to reﬂect new information — at an ever-increasing frequency. “Sometimes it’s week to week,” she says. “Now it’s oﬅen day to day.”
7. Plan how managers will communicate with staﬀ
Your plan should make provisions for frequent updates to employees across the company.
“In this crisis, there has been a great deal of understandable nervousness about how companies are faring and what that means to employees,” says Nikolic. Silence from the top is likely to be misinterpreted, she says, and sharing even diﬃcult news tends to be valuable, helping employees feel informed and engaged.
As you revise your continuity plan, Nikolic suggests communicating regularly with your suppliers, customers and creditors, as well as with your internal team, to evaluate both your response to the pandemic and what needs to be in place to meet challenges down the road. Your banker and other stakeholders can help you meet immediate liquidity needs and work with you as you set a course for a resilient future.
- Business continuity planning
- Workforce management
- Cash flow management
Lidija Nikolic | Business Banking Market Executive, Bank of America