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Building resilience for the new normal

By Andy Ng - Veritas Technologies

The current global pandemic serves as a sobering reminder for organisations to assume unexpected disruptions can occur anytime and plan accordingly. When the World Health Organisation first declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic, merely 12% of organisations believed their businesses were highly prepared for the impact of the virus. As the outbreak unfolds, organisations that neglected the emerging risks were caught unprepared and hit with a hard lesson, as they find themselves playing catch up and losing ground to companies that were better prepared.

The advent of the pandemic has forced many organisations to accelerate their digital transformation, albeit at varying speed. As organisations navigate their course in a changing landscape, it is timely for them to mull over the steps they can take to reshape their business and plan for recovery, beyond being reactive to severe business shocks.

The crucial role of data management

The rise of the hybrid working model has resulted in business data sprawling across different locations, as employees use collaboration and video-conferencing tools to keep businesses running.

Notwithstanding the convenience and connectivity, organisations are exposed to potential data breaches and compliance risks, more so than ever, when employees are sharing sensitive and business-critical data using these collaboration and video-conferencing tools.

To mitigate this, it is imperative for organisations to adopt sound data management practices such as ensuring all data sets are both protected and compliant, using a standardised set of collaboration and messaging tools to meet business needs and limit data sprawl, creating policies for information sharing to control the sharing of sensitive information, and training all employees on the tools and policies to reduce accidental data breaches.

Business continuity is critical for building resilience

As businesses reflect on their actions in response to the various challenges and find ways to reimagine an environment that minimise disruptions, business continuity should never be an afterthought. With ever-evolving threats spanning from disasters, cyber attacks and political unrest, it is critical to have a business continuity plan in place to avoid any downtime.

When it comes to business continuity planning, we can think of it as a clearly defined and documented operation plan that guides companies to respond, restore and recover from potential threats. Typically, it covers key people, resources, services and actions required to ensure critical business functions can continue within planned levels of disruption.  

In today’s digital world, businesses that embrace a digital-first strategy would have a competitive edge as they optimise their operations to gain agility and leverage big data to predict behaviours and build new products and services that would generate greater customer satisfaction and convenience.

From a strategic perspective, for an organisation that relies heavily on its digital capabilities, its disaster recovery (DR) plan – mainly data focused and specifying the planned strategy to recover IT and telecommunications capabilities when a disaster occurred – is integral to its business continuity plan.

Best practices for business continuity and disaster recovery planning

The emergence of the Omicron variant has clearly illustrated the importance of business continuity, as the landscape can easily change in a matter of months or weeks. To bolster business continuity and build resilience, organisations can consider the following best practices:

  • Planning with different disaster scenarios in mind in accordance with different service level objectives such as Recovery Time Objectives and Recovery Point Objectives. This way, critical functions and infrastructures are not disrupted as organisations can prioritise which elements must be recovered first.
  • People are crucial to the success of business continuity management in any organisation. The buy-in from senior leaders is essential to stipulate policies and communicate key information to all employees. The skill sets of representatives from various business units will help to ensure business continuity activities are properly implemented.
  • Tests and exercises to help reveal vulnerabilities that otherwise would never have been discovered. For instance, testing could be something as simple as checking whether a backup site will go live should the main application fail. By conducting regular and repeated testing, organisations can examine if resources are available and adequate for efficient and effective recovery and check if employees are familiar with recovery procedures.
  • Programme management to maintain the currency of the plan through regular and systematic review of organisation’s risks and business impact. Business continuity should become an integral part of the organisation’s operations and culture with key stakeholders re-aligning strategies and re-validating its plan on a continuous basis.

Business resilience is no longer a game of chance

Business continuity planning can seem to be overwhelming, especially when resources are finite, but the drawbacks of not having a business continuity plan can have devastating impact, such as financial losses, increased costs, and repeated exposure to risks.

To maintain business continuity and build resilience, businesses should adopt a proactive approach to ensure availability of their data, applications and operating systems, and allocate resources to support critical business functions, so that they can focus on their customers and key strategic initiatives.

It would only be prudent to assume that black swan events can occur at any time – and that business continuity and disaster recovery planning should be a top priority for all organisations. Whatever the post-pandemic future holds, organisations must be ready for the new normal, as the ability to strengthen business resilience and agility will separate the leaders from the laggards.

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