How to Ensure Business Continuity During the New Normal

During the “new normal” that is being brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic, business continuity has become a major concern for many organizations.

Many organizations have had to react quickly in order to adapt and survive during the initial wave of the outbreak, implementing remote working policies, closing down work locations, and making rapid strategic pivots.

From here on out, however, organizations must push through several more stages, according to McKinsey:

  • Build resilience in order to survive the financial shock caused by the outbreak
  • Return the organization to operational health
  • Reimagine their business models for new sets of expectations from customers, employees, and citizens
  • Reform the organization to fit regulatory, social, and other changes that will affect local and global business environments

A roadmap such as this can certainly help organizations make the transition to the next normal.

Below, we’ll look at a few concrete recommendations and strategies that businesses should consider implementing – particularly those that revolve around digital technology, which will become increasingly important in the years to come.

5 Ways to Ensure Business Continuity During the New Normal

The “new normal” continues to evolve day by day, and we cannot predict precisely how the current situation will play out.

However, as mentioned, digital technology will only become more critical to business success, which is why business continuity efforts should emphasize the need for strategic digital transformation.

Below are 5 areas to focus on when designing those transformation agendas.

1. Adopt the right technology

A modern IT infrastructure offers a number of benefits to organizations and their customers, ranging from increased business efficiency to greater information security to more reliable service delivery.

Obsolete IT systems, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect, detracting from the customer experience and reducing the reliability of IT-based services.

Today, a modern IT infrastructure means:

  • Cloud computing
  • Data and analytics
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Automation

Businesses within certain industries may also need to extend their focus beyond digital technology into hardware-based technology, such as robotics and IoT.

These types of technology solutions have always been disruptive, opening up innovative possibilities to early adopters.

However, in the post-viral economy, the adoption of such solutions may offer unfair competitive advantages – or they may even become a requirement. During such public health crises, for instance, robots may become a viable substitute for human customer service staff.

2. Create a digitally savvy workforce

Employees’ digital skills directly impact their productivity and performance, which is reason enough to provide a robust software training program.

Digital literacy and skills also impact an organization’s ability to operate effectively during certain types of crises. For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak, working from home became a necessity for many employees around the globe – those that had adequate digital skills were better able to adapt to those working conditions.

A digitally savvy workforce will ultimately improve organizational resilience, which is why it is so important to implement a digital adoption plan.

Digital adoption strategies are designed to fully integrate digital tools into the work environment and utilize them to their greatest extent.

With the right digital adoption plan – and the right digital adoption platform (DAP) – it is possible to:

  • Accelerate employees’ time-to-competency and time-to-productivity
  • Reduce software-related frustration and improve the software experience
  • Increase the ROI of software investments
  • Enhance the workforce’s adaptability and resiliency 

Ultimately, digital adoption is as much about people as it is about technology, if not more so. After all, humans operate technology, which makes their experience and their skills as important as the tools themselves.

3. Transform now, not later – and pivot if necessary

McKinsey suggests compressing transformation agendas from a few years down to a few months.

This recommendation certainly makes sense. After all, digital transformation efforts can span several years, and the outbreak will likely end before that, ushering in the “next normal” before those initiatives are slated to complete.

If organizations don’t transform now, then they risk transforming too late.

And if they don’t pivot to meet changing circumstances, then they risk implementing an irrelevant initiative. 

Speed has always been a major advantage in business, but today, speed and agility are more critical than ever. The ability to respond quickly and shift trajectories can even mean the difference between success and failure.

4. Plan for multiple scenarios

The new normal has not yet finished playing out, so we cannot be completely certain what it will look like.

For that reason, it pays to plan for a number of scenarios, as Deloitte has pointed out.

Scenario planning can help businesses stay flexible and move from a reactive mode to a proactive one, offering more control over their organization’s performance and their strategy.

In one report, the research firm suggests planning for:

  • Rising-peak scenarios, where health-related business restrictions are on the rise
  • Post-peak scenarios, where those restrictions are gradually lifting
  • Towards recovery, where the majority of restrictions have been lifted

Other research firms, such as Gartner, have also advocated for mapping out various scenarios, then implementing plans based on those projections. 

5. Develop a comprehensive organizational resilience strategy

Business continuity planning refers to the development of response plans that are designed to maintain business operations during disruptions that affect services.

These plans are aimed at protecting key business functions, then restoring lost operations as soon as possible, such as IT services and data. 

When implemented successfully, continuity plans can significantly reduce the negative effects of business disruptions.

However, these plans should only form one part of a risk mitigation strategy.

A comprehensive organizational resilience strategy includes business continuity plans, as well as other approaches that improve the organization’s overall ability to operate during such major changes.

These additional strategies and business practices can include:

  • Human resources, which can improve organizational culture, employee training, and other workforce-related areas
  • Risk management, which can proactively develop strategies to reduce or prevent threats from a number of directions, not just disasters
  • Cyber security, which can reduce or prevent threats that can impact IT services, data, and so forth
  • Change management, the discipline dedicated to streamlining and improving organizational changes

In today’s uncertain business environment, many businesses are implementing business continuity plans in an effort to improve their responses to emergencies or disasters.

However, as we have seen, there are quite a few other approaches that can improve an organization’s resilience, ranging from employee training to information security.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.