Want to know how relevant business continuity is in these days of the pandemic virus? The head of Safety & Business of a New York based firm quipped - 'what looked like extravaganza (read BCP) on 8/11 became an imperative element of strategy on 10/11'.
The Covid-19 crisis and its associated impact on businesses worldwide has only brought back the limelight on the importance of business continuity. Covid-19 has changed many aspects of organizational mindset and working styles with a lasting effect. Specifically, IT function, which has been at the forefront of ensuring business continuity in lockdown, will have to play a major role in the lockdown era.
Technology has always been the backbone of an organization to achieve productivity at the workplace and to innovate. With rapid digitalization in the last decade and its impact on business models, we have witnessed a massive disruption in industries across the world - a shift from the traditional to the gig economy. The sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the organization to a huge risk by disrupting business continuity. As organizations grapple to sustain the business by adopting the work-from-home policy, it is the technology that is playing a key role by enabling the organization to work seamlessly and safely from remote locations.
Organizations that had a robust BCP (Business Continuity Planning) policy in place were quick to implement and align themselves with the ever-evolving pandemic situation. There are many heroic stories of procuring and allocating many laptops, handling a multi-fold increase in VPN connections, training people on how to use video conferencing and supporting all users remotely. Admiringly most of the Indian organizations have managed this remarkably well, and remote users have settled down in a new way of working smoothly.
Some of the major IT trends before the outbreak of COVID-19, such as Cloud Computing, Storage, Mobility, Collaboration, Cybersecurity, IoT, AI/ML/Image processing, Blockchain, RPA/BOT, etc., have one common underlying theme: to enable automation and /or facilitate remote working effectively. Organizations embraced these technologies at varying degrees of investments and adoption, which were determined by perceived importance and ability to manage organizational changes. Organizations that had invested in technologies have reaped a rich dividend during the COVID-19 crisis. This is almost identical to the golden era of the stock market, wherein each investor was rewarded with substantial gains. Those who invested more gained a lot more.
Amid the crisis, cybercriminals have become very active across the world. There has been a spurt in cyber-attacks targeting users working from home, and that has been one of the important tasks of IT teams to monitor cyber threats, train, and help users to detect and defend in case of unusual emails or transactions.
During the lockdown period, IT capabilities became the lifeline of business continuity, and it also became the de facto standard for employees and partners. Thus, it has effectively managed to eliminate two major roadblocks - namely perceived importance and change management. As many countries, including India, are preparing to gradually lift lockdown, IT function should leverage the opportunity to:
• Drive digitalization of business processes to gain competitive business advantages;
• Fast track adoption and change management timelines;
• Maximise the investments already made in technology. There will be a high pressure on IT budgets due to the impact of COVID-19 on revenue;
• Lay down clear and detailed process for approving any new IT expenditure to avoid wasteful investments;
• The focus on important initiatives must continue, however, depending upon the fund availability, the pace can be adjusted; and
• Reassess IT security posture of organization as most employees are working from home with diverse internet connections, own devices, and anti-virus capabilities.
These are unusual times with an unprecedented impact on businesses worldwide. While the organization struggles to sustain the business, there is a unique set of opportunities and challenges to IT teams. This time will separate winners and losers based on the ability to adapt, innovate, and accelerate.
Manoj Deorukhkar, the author is the Chief Information Officer at Sterling and Wilson Pvt Ltd. Views expressed are personal.