COVID-19 pandemic: Business continuity framework

In last week’s column, the author introduced a framework for business continuity planning amidst growing uncertainties in the business environment – largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. The article concluded by outlining a number of steps that can be employed by organizations to build operational resilience. Continuing from last week, the fourth step in building operational resilience entails building a “human + machine workforce”. This aspect deals with the importance of making transactional processes more digital and focus on value-led, proactive operations driven by data analytics to reduce stress on operations. By creating a human + machine workforce, tens of thousands of people can be reskilled and redeployed to ensure continuous operations while using analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and real time monitoring. Machines capable of continuous learning could provide an ideal basis for further scaling operations (Accenture, 2020).
The fifth element speaks to the need to adopt a distributed global services model. This can be achieved by using a mixture of service models to de-risk the organization in a volatile world. Distributed global services mean that high performance can be delivered anytime, anywhere. Monitor and distribute work across the network in real time using a command centre for a virtual workforce. Partner with the best service providers to ensure brilliant execution and to fuel the company’s growth and market share. Introduce the best talent and capabilities, and allocate the best skills to the most complex jobs, without the restrictions of region, time zone, while maintaining high levels of compliance and assurance (Accenture, 2020).
Source: The Society of Management Accountants in Canada and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Maintaining capital and cash flow
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to impact business operations, companies are experiencing financial difficulties. As such, it will be important to do the following:
(i) Increase the frequency of working capital checks: abrupt changes in demand can have a significant impact on working capital; and
(ii) Explore concessionary loans or grants from Government to support cash flow: the world over, cities, states and national Governments are rolling out business support programmes, including wage subsidies, loan guarantees, temporary relief from insolvent trading laws and tax deferrals. Explore all options and regularly monitor the situation as further programs are established.
Identify supply chain risks
COVID-19 has disrupted global supply chains on a grand scale. Whether or not business has been affected, it pays to proactively mitigate any present or future risks in supply chains. The following steps can assist:
1. Proactively engage with partners in supply chain – Questions to ask: –
– Do your suppliers have business continuity plans in place throughout COVID-19?
– What level of service do your customers expect during the pandemic?

2. Identify supply chain disruption risks. Questions to ask:
– Are there specific regions or sectors within your supply chain that are adversely affected?
– Can you implement an “early warning system” using supply chain risk assessment tools?

3. Assess opportunities to diversify sourcing or production.

Plan to close some locations
Depending on the level of impact on the business, some locations may need to be closed. In so doing, the following questions can be asked:
– Are there equipment maintenance issues to manage during a closure?
– Do you have adequate security in place when sites are closed?
-Are all relevant stakeholders informed of the closure (including employees, customers, contractors and suppliers)?
– Are deliveries forwarded to an alternate site?
– How can the business provide effective support for displaced workers?
Lastly for now, engage in continuous monitoring and assessment of the business continuity plan and be willing and prepared to adapt as necessary as the situation changes.