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It is clear that organizational response to the COVID-19 pandemic has generated much opportunity for future improvement with regard to business continuity and resilience. but will we learn the lessons? Petra Morrison highlights the top four things to act on…

If we assume that the global scale of this COVID-19 crisis and the spotlight on responses has persuaded more executives of the value of business continuity and of operational and organizational resilience, the following are my top four predictions for 2021. If, however, lessons have not been learned, these predictions can be read as my top four pointers to take from 2020 to improve your planning.

Demand for improved understanding of the business: Vital questions are still being asked in boardrooms and at the dinner table: ‘Didn’t we know?’, ‘Why didn’t we know?’, ‘When/Why did we know but do nothing about it?’, ‘Why were we not prepared?’ Common root-cause reasons for these questions are lack of knowledge, lack of the sharing of knowledge, inaccurate risk or impact assessment, and the failure to complete the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle – failure to take those improvement actions or failure to treat those identified risks. To avoid a repeat experience at the next crisis, executives will be looking to improve the visibility and quality of the business, market, and risk data they use to make decisions. Done well and for the right reasons, the potential value to organizations is huge, and consequently we should also see increased adoption of digital tools across the business that facilitate this. 

Demand for improved internal controls: As executives improve their understanding of the business, they will want to improve control of what they understand, particularly if they acknowledge that the world around us is often changing faster than we can anticipate. With executive support, here is where risk management, change management, audit, responder, continuity and recovery disciplines can really add value, so we should see increased adoption and increased efforts to embed key principles into the organizational DNA. Forecast this for yourself – can you really see a successful future if you can’t see what’s in front and ahead, and if you aren’t in command and control of your resources?

A re-evaluation of what is actually important: Businesses will want to re-evaluate their understanding of what is important and how assessments of importance are applied across their organizations and across multiple circumstances. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that when push comes to shove, even some traditionally important things have to give way. Practically, this is likely to manifest in changes to risk appetites and impact assessments as organizations review how they both assess risks and estimate the potential impact of losses. In the world of business continuity, there is a question: ‘To BIA or not to BIA?’. Considering that ‘IA’ (impact assessment/analysis) is already in use and yielding value in a much wider range of business disciplines, the answer seems to be ‘yes, do BIA’. So, the prediction here is not that we throw out our existing tools and processes, but that we will add and refine them (for example  in the UK, the Bank of England, Prudential Regulation Authority and Financial Conduct Authority are already exploring enhanced impact tolerance methodology) and learn to apply them with more finesse and across wider situations for better intelligence and prioritisation.

The continued rise of collaboration: A siloed approach has to take a step back to allow increased collaboration when it comes to assessing risks, resolving issues, and responding to crises. Teamwork is key. More of it, and better at it, please. Risk managers and continuity managers will increasingly talk together, and together talk to everyone else. They will introduce business relationships where none currently exist, and will structure and facilitate the business to improve both the quality and frequency of cross-business talk, both to achieve the above points and also to grease the decision-making wheels at time of crisis. We’ve already seen accelerated adoption of collaboration tools to support homeworking for existing teams and, as more people get comfortable with digital technology their ease of use will enable people to reach out across more boundaries than ever before.

The author

Petra Morrison is an award-winning Business Continuity Management Consultant at Daisy.

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Business continuity can be defined as 'the processes, procedures, decisions and activities to ensure that an organization can continue to function through an operational interruption'. Read more about the basics of business continuity here.

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