The second wave of COVID-19 has made it clear that the pandemic and its effects will be a long-term concern, despite the announcement of new vaccines. As we head into 2021, it is more important than ever to adapt and plan ahead.
4C Strategies’ Senior Consultants Linda Stensdotter Renman and Robin von Euler, discuss how they supported the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) in its national response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Based on this exercise, and their experience of crisis management, they share six things organisations should consider when a major crisis occurs, and how this can help in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
1. Take a look at the big picture
The right approach is essential when facing any major crisis – and even though we’re not at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not too late to start doing this. Don’t simply analyse what the minimum impact could be, consider all the risks and look at ways to minimise them. Few organisations predicted they would be facing remote working conditions beyond the first few weeks of the pandemic, but many are now preparing for it well into 2021. This has an incredible impact on business and corporate culture. However, those organisations that adapt and prepare best, and think about consequences from a holistic perspective, may full well come out of the pandemic stronger. At 4C, for instance, we have grown during the year, employing more people across the globe and at the same time continued to deliver both software and consultancy services at reach. Finding new ways to onboard new staff and make them feel part of the company has been challenging, but has also delivered great results.
An organisation typically needs the support of business continuity experts to analyse the big picture and act appropriately. Being able to adapt an organisation to a crisis requires a team with the knowhow and mandate to do this. A competent and experienced crisis management team will focus on defining who should take what actions, rather than acting first, in the hope that they get things right.
2. Review what has and hasn’t worked on a regular basis
Many organisations wait for a crisis to end before evaluating their response. A major crisis, such as the pandemic, requires a more agile approach. What appeared to be the optimal business continuity plan one week, may no longer have the same relevancy the following week.
The spread of coronavirus is changing; we will begin to see more and more regional resurgence moving forward. This will lead to large organisations having to implement region-based incident management. For a high street bank, for example, this may mean increasing remote customer support services as branches in certain cities are forced to temporarily close.
While we were supporting multiple cities in their pandemic response, we could see the different stages that they were in, and plan the best response for individual cities based on best practices and their current needs.
At 4C, we implemented business continuity plans at an early stage of the pandemic to ensure our operations would continue to run smoothly despite the increased demand on IT systems and security.
3. Plan ahead and secure operations
Although change is constant, and plans need to move according to the direction a crisis takes, many situations are foreseeable and should be planned for. For instance, you know – or you need to identify them if you have not done so already – who is responsible for key functions within the organisation, and what your key vulnerabilities are. Planning for the potential long-term absence of key personnel is a minimum requirement in a pandemic. You need to be able to answer questions such as: are there other members of staff who can take on these roles, or do you need to look for external expertise if the need arises?
At 4C, we implemented business continuity plans at an early stage of the pandemic to ensure our operations would continue to run smoothly despite the increased demand on IT systems and security. You can read about our work and get some recommendations for safeguarding cyber security and IT continuity.
4. Utilise digital tools
With large numbers of staff working from home during the pandemic, many organisations have had to adopt new digital practices. As staff become more comfortable with this new digital landscape, the introduction of digital tools for safeguarding business continuity becomes both easier to implement and more important to utilise. Software such as Exonaut provides crisis management teams and senior management with a secure environment to create, monitor, analyse and share compliance, business continuity, incident and risk management plans, actions and reports. In the financial sector, Exonaut enabled 4C to deliver a sector-wide simulation exercise in a fully digital environment to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions on travel and in-person meetings.
4C Strategies Senior Consultant, Ben White, recently completed an assignment with Openreach, which manages the wires and fibre cables that connect homes and businesses to phone and broadband across the UK. Here he discusses the implications of analysing, mapping and improving the company’s business continuity and incident management capabilities mid pandemic, which was done using the Exonaut software.
5. Support staff throughout the crisis
A major crisis can be long-term. COVID-19 will still be a major concern in 2021 and the repercussions will be felt for many years to come. A typical crisis management team is set up to work around the clock for a couple of weeks so that the organisation can come out of the other end with minimum collateral damage. This doesn’t work for months on end. In a pandemic, the organisation has to move into some sort of norm within the crisis, which means giving the crisis management team the tools to keep going with the full support of management.
While working at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, we helped implement processes and methodologies to facilitate better collaboration, decision-making, action-taking and review, while offering a slightly different perspective. We also took some of the pressure off staff so they could continue with their day-to-day responsibilities, instead of focusing all their efforts on the pandemic response. Ultimately staff had more stamina to respond long-term to the pandemic.
“transparency is key for organisations, even if it means publicly admitting not knowing what the outcome of a crisis will be.”
6. Stick to your values
An organisation’s values are at the core of its culture and should be adhered to in a crisis. When the coronavirus pandemic is over there will be a lot of scrutinising afterward, no matter if it’s a public or a private organisation. One key question will be, ‘did the organisation stick to its values?’ Those organisations that do, will be rewarded through loyalty from staff and customers. Those that haven’t, may see an exodus as people look for employers and customers look for suppliers that deliver on their values.
4C Strategies Crisis Communication Consultant, Helena Söderblom, refers to the importance of ‘remaining true to values’ when communicating internally and externally during a crisis. “Transparency is key for organisations, even if it means publicly admitting not knowing what the outcome of a crisis will be”, she explains.
With a crisis as long as the coronavirus pandemic, it’s never too late to reassess your response in order to secure business continuity now and over the long-term. To find out how we can help you with this or what a fully integrated risk management program could mean for your organisation, contact us today.