by Amanda Wilkie, Consultant
Not since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have so many firms so far from a disaster’s epicenter had an opportunity to put their business continuity plans to the test. In a disaster, the number one concern is to recover the community and the company with the road to recovery somewhat clear. Currently, most communities are fine but a veil of uncertainty hangs over the future of entire industries, such as airlines and hospitality.
As a former CIO, I’m very familiar with disaster recovery and business continuity plans. Many firms have had to put those plans to the test dealing with weather events and natural disasters. The coronavirus pandemic is testing many firms right now, in ways most probably never imagined. When you have business continuity challenges, you do what you can to prepare for them. Still, you never know if they will be sufficient.
The process of business continuity
Processes must be a part of your business continuity plan. The firms have not embraced new technologies and new processes are feeling the pain right now. If you don’t have a digital workflow tool, a method for getting documents electronically from clients, and electronic signatures, how are you getting the information you need to continue working? How are you moving work between team members?
If client documents are sitting in a mailbox, your business continuity plan isn’t working right now. If people need to come into the office every day for files or don’t have laptops and remote connectivity, your recovery plan isn’t successful.
Now is certainly not the time to cast blame or point fingers. It’s time to take charge and do the best we can to make sure we can continue to service our clients, communicate, keep our teams together and support each other as coworkers, colleagues and family members.
While you’re doing that, remember to take stock of what is and isn’t working. You will have the opportunity to share the plan’s strengths and weaknesses with your shareholders once the dust settles. They are feeling the pain right now, so they will be willing to invest. When we come out on the other side, we need to update our tools, technology, processes and response plans to be better prepared for the future. If we face another disruption to our work in the future – from a natural disaster, political, economic, or public health event – we don’t want to face the same challenges.
Control what you can control
Even firms that were already set up for remote work are facing challenges right now. After all, it’s impossible to plan for having everyone in an internet service area working from home while kids are at home streaming YouTube and Fortnight at the same time! Remember, you can plan as much as possible, but many things will be outside of your control. All we can do is prepare as much as we can now, and try to get ahead of unforeseen issues as they come up.
Business continuity plans are never truly finished. Your firm’s processes improve continuously, so your plans need to change and adapt along with them. Being able to continue serving clients is crucial for the success and survival of your firm. The risk of losing operational capacity at times like these can’t be ignored. Learn from this experience, so you’re better able to plan for the future.
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Amanda Wilkie, Consultant at Boomer Consulting, Inc., has a computer science background, but she’s not your average geek. With two decades of technology experience, Amanda has spent 13 years driving change and process improvement through innovative technology solutions working across firms of varying sizes in the public accounting profession. She has held strategic leadership positions in firms ranging from Top 50 to Top 10 including her most recent role as CIO of a Top 30 firm. Amanda is a recognized expert in the profession who regularly speaks and writes on blockchain and cryptocurrency and their impact on the profession.