“I don’t know what I don’t know”. This phrase has never been truer than it is right now when it comes to COVID-19 and its impact on business continuity.

For many companies the approach to business continuity is not as robust as it should be in terms of including it into their risk management processes. For those that have reasonably mature business continuity plans (BCPs), contagious or infectious diseases was not even on their radar.

So what has the COVID-19 pandemic done to change this point of view on business continuity risk management?

It has exposed the areas of weakness in continuing business operations that were never considered previously. The C-Suite is for the first time strategising around the materialisation of a contagious or infectious disease risk event – COVID-19. Given the interdependence of companies in the global economy, the scenario analysis models that are being prepared should be based on a when and not if scenario.

 Where should you start?

  • Hold strategy sessions with your C-Suite (virtually, if possible) where the business continuity impact by COVID-19 and the resultant crisis management is the only agenda item.
  • Examine the critical processes needed to continue operations, including your supply chain and go-to-market cycles to identify the areas exposed to interruption.
  • Know which areas of interruption can be mitigated and which areas can’t. This is crucial to quantifying the risk exposure and measurement in relation to the risk appetite of the business and the funding resources available. For example:
    • Vendor dependencies
    • Staffing strategies
    • Consumer decline
    • Business interruption insurance policies. Critically evaluate your damage cover in relation to contagious or infectious diseases and whether your cover extends to risk events taking place at your vendors, which then has an impact on your supply chain.
  • Develop and stress test crisis plans with your BCP team. This includes items such as remote work policies.
  • Develop a crisis communication plan and conduct staff training and communication on your COVID-19 BCP and crisis communication plan.

Remember that business continuity is about being effectively prepared. Don’t make assumptions on an existing BCP, critically evaluate it, design and implement mitigating revisions, stress test your BCP and make sure that you train and communicate the BCP and crisis management protocols to your staff.

Thillen Pillay

Regional Director: Risk Advisory, Johannesburg

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