Monday 9 March 2020 5:16 am

On the brink of a pandemic, does your firm need a plan?

Chief customer officer, 8x8

Time magazine has described the outbreak of coronavirus across the globe as the “world’s largest work-from-home experiment”.

With many Chinese businesses forced to close down to prevent further spread of the virus, it no surprise that the World Economic Forum suggests global pandemics cost the world $570bn every year.

It is not just viruses that can wreak havoc on business operations. Terror attacks, infrastructure failures, and even weather can all trigger mass office shut downs. During 9/11, I witnessed many businesses come to a halt in the face of a major disaster.

However, those with a continuity plan stayed in service amid the chaos.

As business threats continuously evolve, so should your business continuity strategy. Your planning should be an ongoing discussion which focuses on some key areas that are critical to any robust plan.

Do you have the right tech in place?

While ensuring staff health and well-being should always be the priority, you can’t expect your business to shut down completely.

In a competitive business landscape, those that can operate during a crisis will inevitably pull away from the rest of the pack.

The first step in an effective crisis plan is to establish what remote working tools you have and how they can be used to keep business moving. Once the technology has been tested and deployed, you need to train your employees to use the platforms to enable remote working when required.

Are your customers part of your backup plan?

How do you communicate with your customers in the face of a crisis? Missed face-to-face meetings, lost orders, and general lack of service can all lead to disgruntled customers and loss of business.

Cloud communications software allows your team to communicate both internally as well as with customers, no matter their work location.

Involve your workforce

If a crisis were to hit, your workforce would be just as affected as your business operations, so including them in contingency plan brainstorming is vital. Your employees can tell you what they need in order to do their job effectively, therefore ensuring that their feedback is captured is an essential step in any backup plan.

Through wider group involvement with continuity planning, your workforce will feel like part of the strategy, with a vested interest in supporting the approach in the face of a crisis.

Time to test run

Once you have the processes in place, it is time to test them out. By holding drills, you can assess how your business would be affected in a crisis.

Impact is likely to be minimised the more familiar employees become with the remote working system, processes and procedures — so frequent and regular drills are required.

In today’s world, businesses need to remain as agile as possible with challenging and uncertain times ahead.

It is time to see continuity planning as a critical part of any business strategy — a static plan holds little hope.

Samuel Wilson is chief customer officer and managing director of EMEA at video conferencing company 8×8.

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