We all hope that the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections will not significantly escalate, and the impact on organisations will be contained. However, most organisations not already dealing with consequences – through their operations and business activity in affected areas, or dependencies on networks and supply chains - have been evaluating their readiness to respond, should their operations and people be affected by an escalation.
While knock on effects are being felt and the threat of a more significant and wide-spread impact remains, organisations should ensure they are confident in their ability to respond. That means understanding the risk, minimising it where this is in their control, and having the capability to react and respond to protect their workforce and their business.
So, how can organisations ensure they are responding in the right way?
If you’re not already affected, determining potential risks can feel a little bit like putting your finger in the air. Yet there are straightforward ways to scenario plan in a sensible way
Determine your trusted sources of information: make sure leaders have access to authoritative information about COVID-19. These might include the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Government, including the Foreign Office for travel advice. It might also include trusted entities in your supply chain or network with whom you can speak regularly, as well as selected news services or analytics outlets. Peer-to-peer groups may also be invaluable sources of information, not only on the virus and its impacts on other organisations, but also to learn how others are planning.*
Use a cross-functional leadership team to consider the potential impact on your people, finances, supply chain, dependency network, workplace, technology capability and your ability to maintain critical assets and commercial strategies. Their job is to understand the risks, to the extent that is possible, with a view to minimising that risk where possible, and creating risk-led, proportionate plans to respond if necessary. It’s also worth considering related vulnerabilities that could increase during a period when the organisation is under duress. For example, could a physical security issue or cyber attack be more likely during a period where an actor understands that the organisation is more vulnerable?
It's notable that we’ve found, during COVID-19 reviews, that organisations often have plans to respond to very short-lived impacts, but not for the medium to longer term durations that COVID-19 could potentially create. In these cases, reworking business continuity plans to deal with prolonged impacts has been prioritised.
Ongoing access to good information means you can keep your reasonable worst-case scenario under review. Careful planning, as well as respect for the unpredictability of such an event, will help to see businesses through the coming months.
(*) If you would like to join a peer-group that comes together to discuss COVID-19 issues, please get in touch as we may have a group available to you, or know of one that you might join.