Most organisations have business continuity plans in place – having a framework for operating during a crisis, and being prepared for it, is best practise.
Now that we’re in such a situation, many may need to adjust their plans because they won’t have been able to test them fully before Covid-19 hit us and understand how well they work in practice. This hasn’t been due to poor planning but down to how quickly the pandemic has spread and the speed at which we’ve had to respond. So, for many, the litmus test of their business continuity plans has been the very real scenario of having to send the majority (if not all) of their workforce home to work remotely.
Despite this, I think most organisations’ plans have proved to be up to the job: most people are working from home and things will settle over time. This gives you an excellent opportunity to reflect and optimise your plans. This is useful because this remote working arrangement is unlikely to be reversed any time soon, and it’s likely to have a significant impact on the way businesses operate in the future.
While you’re reflecting, it’s really important not to just focus on the nuts and bolts of the business continuity plan, but to take a more strategic approach. For example, instead of ‘we didn’t have enough laptops, so we’d better make sure we have more available’. How about ‘we didn’t have enough laptops but most of our employee have their own devices, so how could we approach the challenge differently to enable them to use those instead’? When you take this strategic approach, it allows you to examine your workforce’s demographic nature and to consider people’s preferences.
Ofcom’s 2019 report1 on the UK communications market found that 94% of the UK population has a mobile phone, with only those aged over 65 falling below that average, and 72% of 18-34-year-olds describe mobile phones as the most important device they use, compared to 17% of over 55s. Looking at social economic demographics, around 70% of those within the A, B, & C1 social groups2 have access to their own laptop, and a further 65% have access to a tablet. The A, B and C1 groups make up more than half the population and are mainly the office workers now required to work from home.
Carrying out a similar analysis of your workforce gives you a fantastic opportunity to thoroughly evaluate risk and opportunity, and to identify the best way to solve any challenges. This is the secret to Capita’s approach to business continuity: we consult to get a really deep understanding of the organisation, the people and the most critical processes that would cause the most hurt if they failed. We do all of this before offering any solutions (whether technological or not).
We put this approach into action at a healthcare trust, which had issues of staff availability and their ability to focus on the highest value tasks for their patients. Together we identified that certain administrative tasks, although very important, were pulling key resources away from treating patients. The solution was to automate those key processes, which reduced the trust’s staffing risks and enabled its people to continue the fantastic work they’re doing for us all.
Our role in supporting our healthcare service in this situation delivered a lot of value to the customer. By taking a similar strategic approach to reviewing your business continuity plans in the current unique and challenging environment, other organisations can not only survive but also adapt and start to thrive.