8 Key Ways to Manage Business Disruptions Caused by Coronavirus Outbreak
Coronavirus; also known as COVID-19; reached a critical phase outside China, impacting the worldwide population and economic environment. The virus has spread in several countries and regions of the world, outside China, with devastating effects.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently stated that Europe is now the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic as very high and increasing numbers of cases of the deadly coronavirus are reported in Italy, Spain, and neighbouring countries.
According to WHO, more than 140 countries, regions, and territories have reported cases of the coronavirus. And whilst the number of reported new cases in China is falling, it is rapidly increasing in Italy, Spain and some other European countries.
As at Monday, March 16 2020; these were the official figures reported in several countries:
- In Italy, over 27,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus, with 2,158 deaths
- In Spain, over 9,900 people tested positive for the virus, with 342 deaths
- Whereas in France, over 6,600 people tested positive for the virus, with 148 deaths
- For the USA, over 4,700 people tested positive for the coronavirus, with 86 deaths
- And in the UK, over 1,500 people tested positive for the virus, with 55 deaths
Governments of several countries across the world are taking extraordinary measures to combat the pandemic, including shutting down schools, restricting public movement and gathering, postponing sports events, and even imposing border controls in their respective countries.
After the coronavirus, nothing will be as before, we will have to sit down and rewrite the rules of trade and the free market.
COVID-19 has been ruled as a significant impact on businesses from all sectors, and businesses & organisations should understand, learn, and immediately provide appropriate & adequate response, to ensure business continuity. The global financial losses resulting from the impacts of the virus is estimated to be approximately US$2.7 trillion.
Virgin Atlantic recently asked its staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave over the next three months, to help the airline cope during the coronavirus pandemic. The warning comes after many countries around the world closed borders or placed extensive restriction measures on arrivals.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, the potential of business disruptions is very significant. Businesses and organisations need to ensure that potential and possibly inevitable risks associated with pandemic are well factored into their business continuity and disaster recovery plans, as well as their incident response plan.
The coronavirus pandemic is very most likely already causing disruptions to business operations, and could affect contract performance.
Companies have to think on their feet and have crisis meetings, twice, sometimes three times a week just to try and keep up with the changes in government regulations and what they have to do to try and manage the situation.
In a previous post, I’d written about how much time is generally required to conduct a risk assessment. We’d all agree that, given the current full-blown stage of the coronavirus pandemic, most businesses and organisations would have gone past risk assessment phase, and now in the phase wherein appropriate controls and measures are implemented and followed through.
With such a dynamic situation like COVID-19, it has the potential to be as disruptive, or more, to an organisation’s continuity of operations as a cyber intrusion or natural disaster
Let’s look at some ways that your business or organisation can manage and limit the impacts of coronavirus pandemic on your business operations and functions:
- Communicate frequently with your team
It is imperative in these times to communicate with your staff. They might get concerned about their health and how they will continue to work as the situation worsen.
You have to communicate with your staff informed news about the evolution of COVID-19.You must both formally and informally direct your staff to follow relevant directives and guidance provided by governments and health authorities regarding the matter, including how to improve and maintain good personal hygiene levels.
Business leaders, department heads, and team leads should respond promptly to questions raised by staff and colleagues. You provide direct responses to their questions, escalate the questions to senior staff, or you could simply point them in the direction of more reliable, trustworthy, and accurate sources relating to the questions asked.
- Encourage remote working
Several businesses and organisations require their sales team, support team, technical team, and senior executives to travel and visit customers locations across several regions and even countries; these teams are generally the lifeline of these businesses.
On top of that, nearly all businesses and organisations have locations that several staff are required to be physically present at during business hours.
In these times, however, you’d need to ensure that your staff can perform their daily tasks efficiently from remote locations like their respective homes. You may need to invest in internal communication systems or secure corporate Virtual Private Networks (VPN), to allow your staff to do their jobs from these remote locations from home.
Staff members who do not feel well, whose daily tasks do not require physical presence in business locations, or whose commute to work locations exposes them to potentially high-risk areas should be encouraged to work from appropriate remote locations.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a special publication on telework security that you may find useful on this very matter.
Following these steps would help your business and organisation to avoid a possible epidemy that could affect all your staff and cause severe business disruptions.
- Create a disaster recovery policy
A disaster recovery policy will normally help improve the resilience of any business to unforeseen incidents or force majeure, including outbreak of diseases like the coronavirus. You should define your worst-case scenario and prepare adequately for it. You should take into consideration all aspects of your business, and all associated risks and severity of potential impacts on these.
And as usual, your disaster recovery plan, business continuity plan, and incident response plan should all include your communication plan, RACI matrix, and all necessary information how to keep your business going.
- Sort out contingency planning
All businesses and organisations; at this moment; would be expected to already have standards, backup plans, policies, and measures in place to address potential risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
Such controls and measures are expected to describe the ways your business and organisation will respond in the unlikely event of incidents like the coronavirus pandemic.
You would be expected to have conducted a business impact analysis, which will identify and prioritize the information system and the critical components to support your business operations and functions. The exercise would also help your business and organisation to identify measures that must be taken to reduce the effects of system disruptions and create contingency strategies that will ensure that your business will recover quickly from the incident.
Every senior executive, department head, and team leader should have a clear role assigned, and should know what to do at every stage of the contingency plan. The actions should be specified very clearly and understood very well by your team.
- Be prepared to adapt your plan to current situations
The global coronavirus pandemic could be described as uncharted waters for several generations. Consequently, it is almost very difficult to anticipate the course of events that will happen due to coronavirus evolution.
So, you shouldn’t be concerned or afraid to revise or modify plans whenever the prevailing situation takes a different turn (for better or worse), and you’d realised that your plan or any parts thereof is no longer particularly fit for purpose.
Be ready to adapt, improve, and communicate!
This means that you should keep yourself well informed, and be ready to modify your plan as and when events require such modification. History suggests that you could do more wrong if you don’t take necessary actions that demonstrate your ability to improve and improvise if and when necessary. Be ready to revise your plans and communicate with your staff the reasons and grounds for these changes.
- Stabilise the supply chain
Several severe disruptions appeared in the supply chains due to shut down of nearly all factories in China. If your business is affected by these disruptions, you may want to research into finding new suppliers from different countries or regions, to help improve the resilience of your supply chain.
Perhaps more importantly, your business or organisation should research into how to effectively manage your supply chain for products that may register very unusually high spikes in demand during crisis times, if your organisation has any vested interest in such products.
- Respond to your customers’ new demands
There are good chances that this crisis would will most probably cause a shift in your customers’ behaviour.
The recovery from a coronavirus-triggered recession will usher in a new era in which how we live, do business and invest will fundamentally change.
Researches have shown that businesses and organisations that manage disruptions better generally do very well. The key reason attributed to such good results was the investment, time, and efforts committed by these businesses and organisations to their core customer segments and anticipation of their customers’ behaviours.
To effectively anticipate and address customers’ changing behaviours, businesses and organisations are encouraged to invest in digital online platforms as part of their strategies for multi-channel distribution network.
- Make sure that you have sufficient working-capital
For several businesses and organisations, expressing optimism about rebuilding and rapid recovery following critical disruptions and prolonged downturn to business operations and functions may be rather very challenging.
The disruption and shifts will underscore that we live in a time of great capabilities and great promise.
But to build and protect their wealth as the world adapts to a new era, investors should be revising their portfolios to mitigate risk and take advantage of the opportunities.
Knowing where, when, and how to get the right level of badly needed investment into your business or organisation could be the key differentiator in the next cycle of business post-coronavirus.
It’s very heart-warming to know that several financial institutions; like Barclays, NatWest, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); have announced emergency financing packages that they have respectively made available to businesses and organisations affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
In conclusion, the rather disturbing and disruptive global outbreak of the coronavirus could potentially have several unexpected severe consequences and implications on our lives, businesses, and how we get on with everyday tasks and thought process.
But rest assured, some great outcomes from all the mess are yet still very possible.
In order for any business or organisation to hope, anticipate and look forward to great outcomes, therefore, its senior executives, leaders, and key decision makers should not assume the worst outcomes but yet be adequately prepared for the worst nevertheless; by putting in place effective plans, measures, controls, and policies that will help ensure strong business continuity the post-coronavirus pandemic.