The current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak “is testing CEOs everywhere,” reports Crain’s Chicago Business. “Nobody knows how badly the virus will hurt worldwide economies, which industries will be hit hardest, or how long any pain will last. In other words, pretty much everything a CEO wants to know before deciding how to respond is unknown.”
This outbreak is a stark reminder of the vital need for business continuity planning, to facilitate the performance of essential functions during emergencies, health pandemics or other situations that may disrupt normal operations. To date, there is no sign of the COVID-19 outbreak abating, with more than 100,000 cases worldwide as of March 7, and 3,400 deaths. In the United States, there are over 500 confirmed cases, with 12 deaths to date. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, according to the World Health Organisation. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and kidney failure.
This is a crucial time to review your company’s continuity capability, taking a comprehensive and integrated approach to the ability to protect employees and continue to provide essential services to your customers.
As we learn about the increasing risks of the coronavirus, do not overlook the need to assess your pandemic readiness, and review your company’s continuity plan. Taking a comprehensive and integrated approach to protect employees, insulate operations, and supply chain stability to maintain essential services for your customers.
Based on our experience, it is imperative for businesses to implement a continuity program management cycle that starts with the development of plans and procedures. The focus should be on:
- Identification and delineation of essential functions
- Succession planning of leadership and emergency delegation of authority
- Safekeeping of vital records and databases
- Identification of alternate operating strategies
- Continuity communications
- Validation of capabilities with testing, training, and exercise programs
A proven continuity program management cycle ensures consistency across all continuity programs and supports the foundation and pillars that comprise the business’s continuity capability. It establishes consistent performance metrics, prioritizes implementation plans, promulgates best practices, and facilitates consistent cross-functional continuity evaluations.
The four pillars of the cycle involved in performing essential functions are leadership, employees, facilities, and communications.
LEADERSHIP: Ultimate responsibility for continuity
Responsibility for continuity planning resides with the highest level of management of the organization. The senior leadership is ultimately responsible for the continuation of essential services during an emergency and for related planning. Organizational responsibilities typically include the development of the strategic continuity vision and overarching policy, the appointment of key continuity personnel, and the development of a program budget that provides for adequate facilities, equipment, and training.
Effective implementation of continuity plans and programs requires the support of senior leaders and decision-makers who have the authority to commit the organization and the necessary resources to support the programs.
EMPLOYEES: A clear line of succession is essential
Emergency management leads are often responsible for developing or assisting in the development of continuity plans and programs for their jurisdictions. They are also available to assist in reestablishing essential functions and services during emergencies and disasters.
Continuity of direction is critical to ensure continuity of essential functions, including a clear line of succession in the absence of existing leadership and the necessary legal and other delegations of authority to carry out relevant duties.
All employees should be sufficiently trained to be able to perform their duties in a continuity environment. To ensure that required skill sets are available, personnel should be both cross-trained and vertically trained to be able to perform the functions of their peers and the persons senior and junior to them in an emergency.
FACILITIES: Geographic dispersion is helpful
Facilities are the locations where essential functions are performed by leadership and staff. Organizations should have adequate, separate locations to ensure the execution of their functions. Geographic dispersion should allow for easy transfer of functional responsibility in the event of a problem in one location, enhancing the organization’s resilience and reducing the risk of losing the capability to perform essential functions. Geographic dispersion of leadership, data storage, personnel, and other capabilities may be essential to the performance of essential functions following a catastrophic or quarantine event and will enable operational continuity during an event that requires social distancing – as may be necessary in the current COVID-19 outbreak.
COMMUNICATIONS: A critical role in crisis management
The ability to communicate is critical to daily operations and essential in a crisis. Telecommunication resources are essential to support continuity plans and programs. All organizations should identify the communication requirements needed to perform their essential functions during both routine and continuity conditions. Communication systems and technology should be interoperable, robust, and reliable. Planners should consider the resilience of their systems to operate in disaster scenarios that may include power and other infrastructure problems.
Organizations should use technology to perform essential functions as an intrinsic part of daily operations, utilizing voice, electronic chat, data, and video solutions as appropriate. Communications and business systems, including hardware and software for continuity operations, should mirror those used in day-to-day business to assist continuity leadership and staff in a seamless transition to crisis operations
Liberty’s Proven Approach to Continuity Planning: The Goals
- Minimize loss of life, injury, and property
- Mitigate the duration, severity, or pervasiveness of disruptions that do
- Achieve the timely and orderly resumption of essential functions and the return to normal operations.
- Protect essential facilities, equipment, records, and
- Be executable with or without
- Meet the operational requirements of the respective organization. Continuity plans may need to be operational within minutes of activation, depending on the essential function or service, but certainly should be operational no later than 12-hours after
- Meet the sustainment needs of the organization. An organization may need to plan for sustained continuity operations for up to 30-days or longer, depending on resources, support relationships, and the continuity strategy adopted.
- Ensure the continuous performance of essential functions and operations during an emergency, including those such as pandemic infections that require additional considerations beyond traditional continuity
- Provide an integrated and coordinated continuity framework that takes into consideration other relevant organizational, customer, and third-party continuity plans and procedures.
In conclusion, continuity planning is a business imperative, for both public and private organizations – and never more so than during today’s coronavirus outbreak.
Contact us to develop the detailed and coordinated continuity plans and programs you need to safeguard both your employees and your customers.
For further details on how we can support your organization’s continuity planning, contact Liberty Advisor Group.
ABOUT LIBERTY ADVISOR GROUP
Liberty Advisor Group is a goal-oriented, client-focused and results-driven consulting firm. We are a lean, handpicked team of strategists, technologists, and entrepreneurs – battle-tested experts with a steadfast, start-up attitude. Our team, with an average of 15+ years of experience, has delivered over $1 billion in operating income improvement and over 300 M&A deals for our clients. We collaborate, integrate and ideate in real-time with our clients to deliver situation-specific solutions that work. Liberty Advisor Group has the experience to realize our clients’ highest ambitions. This year, Liberty has been named to the 2019 Best Places to Work in Chicago and to FORTUNE’s list of Best Workplaces in Consulting and Professional Services.