The new normal: Minimizing future disruption

Natural disasters. City-wide power outages. Office-closing accidents. These big, unpredictable regional disruptions are what most leadership teams imagined when designing business continuity plans. And while these unexpected events can radically impact our everyday operations, today’s disruptions to business continuity aren’t what we expected. Rather than a sudden shift, this pandemic has presented the challenge of managing slow build, or domino effect, of disruption.

This is not a post exclusively about COVID-19, but it is about the larger lesson we need to learn from this pandemic—your continuity plan needs to be flexible enough to handle the new normal of business disruptions. These threats to business continuity are slow rather than sudden, global rather than regional, and primarily human-centered rather than exclusively environmental or technological. As we all continue to optimize our plans as we go, the key point is that we must continue to prioritize our people as we plan for potential scenarios.

Forecast potential disruption

While sudden disasters happen without warning, they also tend to end quickly. This allows you to act decisively on your recovery plan as soon as the sudden disruption is resolved.

However, some of the biggest disruptions to business continuity build slowly and can last indefinitely. Consider political events like the Arab Spring, which began in December 2010 with one act of protest in the small country of Tunisia and eventually led to protests that toppled governments across the Middle East over the next year. In the meantime, supply chains and international businesses in the area were so disrupted that economic expansion in the area was still slow five years afterward. The lesson here is to not only pay attention to slow moving events, but to forecast some of the likely outcomes.

While you may not have planned for entire workforces going remote for an extended time, you can plan for how you will continue managing the employee experience through likely winding turns and on the other side of the disaster.

Focus on digital enablement and wellness

As you scenario plan in real-time, it’s easy to focus on the technological impact. In addition to considering server backups and methods to keep networks online, there are devices to secure, bandwidth concerns to consider, collaboration tools to adopt at a larger scale, and more.

However, we must address the technology through the lens of employee experience. Today’s COVID-19 pandemic is not attacking your data center or your extended network—it’s attacking people. This demands you to empower employees to do their best work remotely for as long as it takes to resolve the situation. While you may have quickly implemented tools and technology to move entire workforces remote, now is the time to evaluate how equipped employees are to successfully utilize that technology for an indefinite period, and how supported they feel to manage work-life integration through all of this.

In addition to evaluating and optimizing your tools and training, continue re-communicating what’s available, and build out policies that empathize with the current employee experience. Each of these steps will help maintain contuniuity and provide a better work experience in the middle of a tough situation.

Acknowledge that the new normal is an unknown

One thing about our “new normal” is certain—it’s filled with unknowns. As you scenario plan to minimize future disruption, be sure to consider the threats and disruptions that are ongoing, global, and people-centered. This can empower your employees to not only stay productive during a crisis, but also to work together better and make your organization stronger.

For recommendations and best practices to help evolve and elevate business continuity strategy in your organization, download Gartner’s 2020 Strategic Road Map for Business Continuity Management.

Your business continuity depends on your people, not just your tech

As you design your disaster recovery and business continuity strategy, it’s easy to focus on the technological impact of adverse events. There are servers to back up, equipment to protect, and networks to keep online when disasters strike. Replacing or repairing this technology is costly and time-consuming, and any loss in service will certainly impact your operations.

However, the latest threats to business continuity are threats to your employees, not your technology. Today’s COVID-19 pandemic is not attacking your data center or your extended network—it’s attacking your employees as they commute to and collaborate at work. This demands you have a business continuity plan that empowers employees to collaborate and do their best work remotely for as long as it takes to resolve the situation. For example, Amazon has asked employees at its Seattle headquarters to work from home for the next several weeks, and other big tech firms have restricted travel for the indefinite future. The lesson here is not to panic, but to prioritize equipping employees with the tools and technology they need to have the best possible work experience in the middle of a tough situation.

Are you ready for the new normal of business continuity management?

One thing about our unknown future is certain—your company is going to face challenges to your business continuity program. As you think about your approach, be sure to consider the new normal of business continuity management by planning for threats and disruptions that are global, ongoing, and people-centered. This can empower your employees to not only stay productive during a crisis, but also to work together better and make your organization stronger.

For recommendations and best practices to help evolve and elevate business continuity strategy in your organization, download Gartner’s 2020 Strategic Road Map for Business Continuity Management.

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