Yes, you read it correctly, there is an upside to the Coronavirus Pandemic!

Perhaps I am being selfish but for Business Continuity practitioners, such as myself, we have surely benefitted from the considerable efforts of the organisations we work with in managing their response to the effects and impact.

Before I go on, this in no way detracts from, or diminishes the horrific human toll of deaths, illness, stress and the impact of the constraints we have all lived under over such a sustained period.

I want to start with the fact that almost every conference, seminar or discussion group I have seen or attended over the years has included a workstream on securing buy in to Business Continuity or attracting senior level support for the topic. Business Continuity is, as I have said before, a bit like your roadside assistance cover. You begrudge paying the premium but when you need it, as I found out recently (another story, another day), you are glad that you did!

So, based on my experiences over the period of the pandemic these are some of my observations:-

  1. My relationship with the business and getting to the right people whenever I need to has improved exponentially. Previously I was struggling to get air time, I probably didn’t even know the right people and some were reluctant to answer my requests or engage – now I have a hotline to everyone I need and get included and consulted on all sorts of initiatives and activities
  2. My understanding of the business is so much better now. Witnessing the impacts at different stages has made the whole thing real for me – a quantum leap from the level of understanding we gain from completing a Business Impact Analysis. Now we can see the impact on front line and the issues to be overcome in maintaining delivery of service. In some ways this is like an enforced testing regime, there has been no escape, no postponement, ‘we just need to get on with this right now guys’. As a consequence there are no more assumptions, our strategies and solutions are proven, validated and accepted by our stakeholders. There are massive precedents on how our organisations will respond to events in the future.
  3. The value-add of functions such as Business Continuity, and I would also like to reference our Health and Safety, Information Security, Communications and Contract Management colleagues who have stood shoulder to shoulder with us throughout, is acknowledged by the business. No longer are we seen as an unnecessary Corporate overhead, we have moved much closer to the business and are recognised for helping support, guide, manage and direct the business response to all sorts of situations that have arisen.
  4. I believe I have also become more efficient in delivering the core elements that make up our discipline. Appreciating the fact that managing the organisation’s response to the pandemic has absorbed a lot of time from the people we engage with on a regular basis for developing, reviewing and maintaining plans has encouraged me to streamline tasks and minimise the time and amount of effort required from them. I can do this because I know so much more about the organisation. The pandemic has also directed me to redesign aspects of the approach, particularly the Business Impact Analysis.
  5. The willingness of the organisation to invest in and support Business Continuity related initiatives is much improved. Adding significantly to remote working capabilities, both in terms of technology related elements as well as procedural or service delivery elements has been an area in which quantum leaps forward have been achieved. Previously we would have struggled to convince our organisations of the justification for investment or change in these areas.
  6. The confidence we have now in our incident management teams is also much improved. No longer do we have to hand-hold or lead them, the teams have been in ‘incident mode’ for so long it has become a well established discipline evidenced by the fact that they regularly invoke their teams for non-pandemic related incidents now without having to be prompted – they know it works.
  7. And finally, the pandemic has taught us all a lot about ourselves and each other. We know so much more about each other’s strengths, personal qualities, likes and dislikes so we are working much more collaboratively. Much of this has been achieved whilst relying on Zoom or Teams calls with people we may never actually meet face to face. Our ability to form effective relationships and tune-in to people is much enhanced. One of these days I may even put my camera on but for the time being I am just concentrating on not being ‘on mute’.

In Business Continuity management terms I believe that both as practitioners and organisations we have been able to move forward over the past year. For sure, and for the reasons outlined above, I would never have wanted a pandemic to provide such an opportunity. My hope is we can capitalise on this progress, maintain the engagement and sustain the momentum. I wish all practitioners good luck on these points.