The Need for Business Continuity Plans Amid Pandemics

As I write this blog, the news is dominated by coverage of the Coronavirus. So, I’m considering this to be a no-setup-required kind of message. There’s no way you don’t know about this insidious disease, unless you’re off-the-grid. And if you’re off-the-grid, you’re not reading this anyway.

While we all hope that this pandemic comes quickly under control and passes easily out of our consciousness, I believe the time has come for businesses of all sizes to take a hard look at the following question:

How would companies cope with a situation in which human beings needed to minimize physical contact with one another; even at the most casual levels of physical contact?

I felt a strong personal discomfort as I typed that question. The ramifications are more serious and more unpredictable than I can fathom. But what if we needed to do exactly that?

I saw an overseas news item last night in which customers entered their fast food orders on a touch screen under the watchful eye of a guy with a spray can and a rag, standing 20 feet away. After each customer, he would disinfect the touch screen, and go back to his starting location to await the next customer. Not a perfect strategy, but I can’t say they’re wrong.

For many enterprise (and smaller companies), it might be time to develop contingency plans for a fully-remote workforce – or something close to fully remote. While I’m sure that the following roadmap will not work for some businesses (retail, for example) let me suggest the following:

  • Identify which employees truly MUST be on-site, and to what extent. Can any of their functions be deferred? Can you build a strategy for keeping them safe? What are your legal exposures if you require their presence?
  • Survey your employees on their broadband connectivity. Ask what they use, and request speed test data that can be derived from any number of websites. Reassure that you are not judging them or holding them accountable for the results. But you need to know the truth of who might, and who might not, be within reach. Remote applications obviously require bandwidth.
  • What are the unique circumstances of your company or vertical market that need to be addressed?
  • Contact your Trusted Advisor. Expect the conversation to include technologies like virtual private networks (VPNs), Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS), remote desktop, various security offerings, and more.

Figure out your plan. What is the threshold at which you decide to put your strategy into motion? Bear in mind that other companies will be trying to accomplish the same thing, causing service delays that might make temporary outages unavoidable.

Western society has not undergone such calamity in our lifetimes, so this as much an art as a science. There are no guarantees. While it’s certainly too early to hit the panic button, contingencies should be on everyone’s mind.