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How technology can aid business continuity in a time of crisis?

by Richard Stephenson, CEO, YUDU Sentinel

Since the pandemic began, it’s become apparent our economy’s resilience hinges on our ability to continue delivering essential products and services during a time of crisis. None of this could have been achieved without technology, which has been the key enabler of commerce, health, entertainment, and perhaps above all, remote working.

With the range and capabilities of cloud platforms remote working has been the backbone of our collective resilience, and it’s harrowing to imagine where our economy could have been without it.

Look no further than revenues and earnings reports across the sector. Video conferencing platform Zoom recently announced it had made $27m in the first quarter (and expects sales to double, despite lingering security and privacy fears). Amazon has also performed exceptionally well, not only by rapidly kitting out home offices, but keeping those reliant on its cloud computing services (AWS) connected as they work remotely.

It’s not just revenues though; investors across the UK are continuing to plough money into the tech sector, despite a major recession looming. According to Tech Nation, technology companies based in London alone have raised an astonishing £3.2 billion since the start of January.

Technology has not only mitigated the worst of the economic disruption, but it will play an even greater role in how it recovers. Already the public sector is implementing solutions at a previously unseen speed, with local councils using sophisticated multi-language two way messaging platforms to communicate with residents, while telehealth will continue to alleviate strains on GPs. The private sector is also innovating, and those who returned to brick and mortar shops this month may have been met with technological solutions such as virtual queuing systems and heat detection cameras.

There is still a long way to go in terms of business preparedness, however. At the start of the pandemic, only two-thirds of organisations had implemented a work-from-home policy for some employees, according to the Business Continuity Institute. The report also found that organisations struggled to get laptops out to staff in time to adhere to government guidelines advising all non-essential workers to work remotely, with the call centre industry particularly struggling. Simply put, preparedness is shockingly low, and with a second wave of COVID-19 deemed likely by experts, businesses are going to need to build technological resilience as a first line of defence.

 

How can companies use technology to strengthen continuity plans?

Firstly, a thorough assessment of business processes and the most vulnerable areas is required to calculate potential financial losses in the event of a crisis? Given technology has the potential to avert losses in every area of the business, from sales to HR, all business functions should participate. In my role as the CEO of a crisis communications platform, I hear first-hand the relative stability provided by platforms enabling open lines of communication with employees, suppliers and stakeholders. More complex technological transformations, such as the automation of particular roles, are also proving to be beneficial in the face of staff shortages.

Secondly, test your business continuity plan two to four times a year. This will likely throw up any pitfalls in existing technology and plans that were not identified in the initial assessment. If and when offices return, it’s worth simulating days in which the entire business must work from home to ensure continuity plans are workable and efficient. It’s also critical to remember that technology is continually evolving – resilience will be heightened by reviewing and refreshing the plan every 3 to 6 months and ensuring that it’s fit for purpose.

In addition, having a plan locked in a safe or otherwise inaccessible place when a crisis hits is akin to having no plan at all. Technology itself can ensure continuity plans are immediately available on mobiles without being reliant on connecting to the cloud; just another example of the extra resilience technology can deliver.

Finally, never implement technology for technology’s sake. Ensure that your business plan only relies on technology that will have a demonstrable impact on your resilience in a crisis, rather than being a confusing distraction. Offering a myriad of different internal messaging platforms, for instance, will only result in critical information becoming lost and rendered obsolete.

COVID-19 has truly been a catalyst for long-needed technology overhauls. Those organisations which put technology at the centre of any business continuity plan will be those which survive and even thrive during the next phase of the crisis – whatever shape it may take.