Five years ago, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates warned that the greatest risk to humanity is a global virus outbreak. This was in the wake of the Ebola crisis, which killed around 10,000 people. According to Gates, organisations barely invested to contain the outbreak, and without proper preparations, a future pandemic could be even more devastating.
Fast forward to 2020, and it appears the Microsoft founder’s warning has come true. The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spread around the globe and claimed the lives of over 300,000 people as of this writing.
The response to the pandemic was slow and inefficient. In its early stages, governments were dismissing the dangers of the COVID-19 virus as nothing more than the common flu. However, when infection rates rapidly increased, policymakers and healthcare organisations were wholly unprepared for the crisis. Many businesses were also significantly hit by COVID-19. Some companies were forced to furlough non-essential staffers or temporarily shut down, while others encouraged staff to work from home.
Though COVID-19 is not yet behind us, humanity will endure this crisis. What’s crucial for Australian businesses now is to understand the key lessons the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us.
Preparation is a top priority
Much like prior outbreaks, COVID-19 seems to have come out of nowhere and caught businesses unprepared. The pandemic also came just when Australia was recovering from a bushfire crisis, and businesses weren’t ready for that either.
Failure to prepare for these catastrophes exposes companies to major problems. Without a contingency plan for natural disasters and pandemics, health and safety became a major concern. A slow and inadequate response to a crisis can even tarnish your reputation with clients and stakeholders.
Another ramification of being unable to stay operational is the massive financial losses. When COVID-19 hit, it had an adverse impact on cash flow that cost hundreds of thousands of Australians their jobs. Plus, the $2 billion economic impact of Australia’s bushfires has taken its toll on businesses across the country. Many companies that aren’t effectively prepared for these emergency situations often have a difficult time bouncing back, and in most cases, they don’t.
These issues highlight the importance of having a business continuity plan, whether it be for pandemics, disasters, security incidents, or other disruptions. A business continuity plan is a set of protocols designed to keep a business running during and after a crisis. It outlines the processes and technologies required to continue operations, cybersecurity measures, contact information, and data backup and recovery procedures. Every aspect of your company is involved in a business continuity plan, including finance, marketing, management, and IT.
Clear procedures must be established
If a pandemic or disaster occurs, everyone must know exactly what they’re supposed to do to ensure a swift recovery. Business continuity plans must, therefore, provide detailed steps to get your operations back on track as quickly as possible.
Keep in mind that your procedures will vary depending on the crisis you’re dealing with. If it’s a pandemic, you should have work from home and safe work guidelines, masks, and communication apps for remote work. Meanwhile, preparing for natural disasters generally requires evacuation procedures, contact details for staff, and off-site backups in case of data loss.
What’s more, you need crisis communication strategies. These guide employees on who to report to when a crisis emerges, how to inform the public, and what your organisation has done to respond. This is particularly helpful for managing customer expectations early.
Businesses need technology for the ‘new normal’
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many employees to work from home to comply with social distancing guidelines. This has altered the way people work, but the lesson many businesses learned is that significant investments in technology are required.
Remote workers need cloud platforms like Microsoft 365 to access files and collaborate with their colleagues. Sales, marketing, logistics, and finance staff can perform their daily responsibilities through cloud enterprise software Dynamics 365. Advanced communication tools with video conferencing features are also vital to facilitate team meetings, virtual hangouts, and one-on-one reviews.
The point is that there are many disaster-proof technologies that will help you adapt to the post-COVID-19 era. Consult with your managed IT services provider (MSP) to find the right solutions for your business.
Don’t forget about cyber security
When dealing with a crisis, cyber security should not be overlooked. Phishing and malware attacks during a crisis are common patterns for cybercriminals. In fact, fraudulent COVID-19-related emails impersonating Australian government agencies are currently making the rounds. Beyond these problems, transitioning to a fully remote environment to ensure business continuity poses cybersecurity risks. Using unverified personal devices to access corporate resources, for instance, may leave your business open to attacks.
Strengthening your cyber security framework should, therefore, be at the forefront of your business continuity plan. To be specific, you need regular security assessments, stringent access restrictions, advanced endpoint protection, and cloud backups. Equally important is security awareness training so that employees know how to avoid phishing scams, set strong passwords, and manage data securely. Finally, every business must have an incident response plan for containing, eradicating, and recovering from a security breach.
Learning from past crises and preparing for unexpected events is a challenging process, but it’s necessary for your company’s survival. Empower IT is a leading Australian MSP that can get you ready to face any catastrophe. We provide business continuity, cyber security, incident response, remote work, and proactive IT services to ensure your business is always running at its best. Call us now to make your business more resilient.