Article provided by ContinuitySA
Increase your business’s chance of surviving the COVID-19 emergency, and capitalise on what you have learned to prepare for an uncertain future.
The impact of COVID-19 is spreading across the continent, with more countries following the global trend of implementing some form of infection-control regulations, and many moving to full lockdowns.
Businesses, like the rest of us, were largely unprepared for the scale of the crisis, and the unprecedented far-reaching steps being taken to contain the virus. For them, the immediate question is what they need to do to enhance their ability to survive through the current crisis, and beyond. Based on our experience with clients across the continent, it is clear that companies should be looking at several things now to build resilience to weather this and subsequent crises.
Rethink your business model
The immediate response to COVID-19 has been to get as many staff as possible to work from home. This can work well but companies need to ensure that their IT and communications infrastructure can cope with a vastly increased number of people logging into the corporate systems at once. Ensuring that your ICT infrastructure is robust enough is critical, and should be prioritised.
However, some businesses or functions simply can’t be done from home because of the need for supervision, shortage of security at home or specialised technology; for example, call centres. One needs to think more broadly than just remote working and consider how to implement a distributed business model. Many office spaces are open plan and densely tenanted, and do not conform to social distancing guidelines. Having an alternate work area facility can be helpful in allowing people to spread out more and reduce risk—many of our clients have taken advantage of their work-area recovery contracts with us to do just that. Alternate work areas add considerably to organisational resilience because they can be used to achieve different goals.
Switching to a distributed business model requires specific management techniques and tools to make it work—make sure your managers are equipped.
Put a solid communication framework in place
At a time of crisis, effective and regular communication is critical for large organisations, SMEs, and governments alike. South Africa’s President Ramaphosa has earned praise for his decisive action and regular updates as much as for the content of what he said.
It’s very important to understand who your stakeholders actually are. Employees, shareholders, regulators, suppliers and other business partners, to name a few, all need to be updated at regular intervals with relevant information. Your suppliers, for example, need to know if you are still working and what your demand for their products is likely to be, and so on.
Your employees, in particular, will need regular communication to ensure they remain motivated and informed. At our company, for example, we are holding a regular virtual gathering for all our people across the continent as a way to keep them updated on what is happening in the business.
Take decisive action
Like all crises, this one will require decisions to be taken early on, and then implemented vigorously. Our leaders have by and large shown us the way, and companies must follow suit. Some of the decisions will be hard, but after careful thought they need to be taken and acted on.
Focus on cybersecurity
Remote or distributed working is intrinsically less secure. Endpoint devices may not be adequately protected, and mobile devices can be lost or stolen. Also of concern is phishing—people at home may be less vigilant.
Last, but not least: be positive
It’s been remarkable how being isolated has led to a greater sense of solidarity. We are all together in a battle against a common enemy—we should do our best to leverage that sense of unity.