Business continuity planning: Better late than never


Johannesburg, 13 May 2020
Read time 4min 30sec
Philip Lavers, General Manager & founder, Open Architecture Systems.
Philip Lavers, General Manager & founder, Open Architecture Systems.

In times of crisis, it is of utmost importance for companies and organisations to have business continuity planning (BCP) in place in order to circumvent threats and calamities. Investopedia defines BCP "as the process involved in creating a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company".[1]

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the absolute importance of the last statement, forcing companies to adopt a new way of working, says Philip Lavers, General Manager and Founder of Open Architecture Systems.

Unfortunately, only 24% of companies have a BCP in place, while 27% of all organisations have no plan at all.[2]

Lavers continues: “Most BCPs are considered as crisis management strategies and are based on resolving short-term calamities such as cyber crime, power outages or political events and do not accommodate long-term scenarios such as the current crisis that the world is witnessing.”

He says the following insights should be given due consideration when developing a BCP.

Develop a BCP now – business as usual is no longer a strategy. The COVID-19 crisis has caused countries to completely shut down by forced lockdowns and mandatory social distancing. Therefore the office-bound culture will need to be re-strategised. In fact, the entire working culture will have to adapt.

Digital transformation strategies will need to be fast-forwarded and must have the highest priority for the survival of any organisation.

A re-thinking of the organisation’s current network. In order for an organisation to adapt to the changing working culture (even before the COVID-19 pandemic) companies will need to restructure their current networks to maximise the performance and availability of all applications and data, while also providing secure remote access to any application from any device type. Digital transformation has evolved from traditional networks to software-driven WANs and cloud-based data accessibility.

Visualisation and mobility. It’s necessary for organisations to discover, automate, model and manage applications for faster migration, easier application virtualisation, and streamlined application management. In addition, technologies can accelerate application deployment so that IT managers can make better implementation decisions, reducing costs and project risks, by gaining clear insight into application compatibility in a new or migrated environment.

Security. Digital transformation requires organisations to tighten their security protocols in order to safeguard against cyber attacks, virus infiltration and network abuse, particularly if users can access company data using multiple devices.

Zero trust. All workstations accessing data and applications within the data centre(s) need to be treated with a ‘zero trust’ approach. Far too many resources are poured into protecting domain connected devices. This is easily implemented by a single centralised delivery method via a single protocol.

Organisational culture shift. Next-generation work ethics will require buy-in from all stakeholders within a company. Unfortunately, South Africa is severely lagging behind in the use of technology in organisational transformation.

“The traditional ‘productivity suite' has changed. Users are demanding access to a variety of different tools to record activities, plan events, manage time and quantify performance. Are these tools the new productivity suite of the future? Existing word processing, number-crunching, presentation tools are no less important – but user demands will push management into opex budgets faster than ever before.

“Coupled with the fact that company-owned traditional desktops managed by IT support should be a thing of the past, the company is now relying on the user’s personal device.

“In addition, company-sponsored applications installed on these devices are at the mercy of many other non-sponsored applications.”

This creates new dilemmas or challenges:

  • Is IT support staff expected to support that user and by association the device and all applications?
  • Does management invest in tools that can remotely access the end-user’s personal device to provide support?
  • Does management finance the device, data and bandwidth for that user who then uses it for personal use?

The logical solution is to provide a workspace app that provides access to corporate applications and files hosted within the data centre. Management should agree on an ‘allowance’ for the use of the personal device, data and bandwidth, thereby removing the above dilemmas and associated costs, advises Lavers.

Only time will tell what the long-term effects of the pandemic will have on the traditional office culture. It’s time to make some hard choices, namely centralise applications and data, focus on user access, user productivity, increase security and reduce IT support on non-essentials.

Lastly, innovation is a good thing and a well-thought, comprehensive BCP is a crucial lifeline in times of unparalleled calamity. A BCP will bring resilience, enabling businesses to endure exceptional environmental changes and adapt to new ways of working to survive and thrive.

References:

[1] Kenton, 2019.

[2] “A quarter of companies are developing their first business continuity plan in response to COVID-19: Study” available at https://www.continuitycentral.com/index.php/news/business-continuity-news/4938-a-quarter-of-companies-are-developing-their-first-business-continuity-plan-in-response-to-covid-19-study).