Resilience – The Business Mastery For The New Normal

The last time we saw employees at the IT departments collecting laptops/PCs to equip themselves for WFH, we surely did not realize that this was going to be our new normal. COVID-19 has created significant upheavals in our personal and professional lives. With remote working becoming the norm, CIOs and the Heads of IT are on their toes testing waters to provide employees with an office-like work environment, facilitate smooth business operation, and increase enterprise-wide security protocols. The pandemic saw companies shift their work methods from traditional to digital, establishing seamless communication across stakeholders and ensuring continuity. Do organizations always have to take crisis-led digital transformation initiatives? Is it viable in the long run? Or, do organizations have to build resilience into business systems to weather future storms effortlessly? Let’s get to the bottom of the topic in this blog.

Business preparedness
In the interest of the situation, companies dusted off their disaster recovery (DR)  and business continuity (BC) plans to keep the operation running. Although the two plans might appear synonymous, they follow different strategies in safeguarding business operations from a crisis. Moreover, Disaster recovery plans are a subset of Business Continuity Plans and deployed by companies to quickly snap back from a disaster. It is more of a short-term, quick-fix strategy. Whereas, a business continuity plan is a long term strategy and makes the difference between the company that survives a rough patch and one that folds.

Let’s see how three organizations went about deploying their business continuity plans and braced themselves for the new normal.

University of Aberdeen, Scotland
A Work From Home test run

The University of Aberdeen, celebrating its 525th year in 2020, is an ancient Scottish university with more than 18,000 students and staff. Iain Cameron, the User Services Manager, responsible for the IT Service Desk, points out that preparation was the key in times of crisis.

The University’s IT Service Desk staff did a test run of how, and indeed if, they could handle support calls if all were working from home before the Covid-19 situation closed the campus buildings. They utilized this time to gauge systems’ performance, identify essential work systems, tweak configurations, and check back-end system accessibility. The ten-member desk team received laptops. Since they all had reliable Wi-Fi connectivity at home and access to the cloud-based Freshservice ITSM, the Desk was technically, if not yet culturally, ready to work remotely. The wider University staff community was also given guidance, via MS Teams events and email, on accessing files and systems remotely. Given the opportunity to submit requests for equipment, such as laptops or additional monitors, that would enable their teaching, learning, and research to continue in the new normal.

One of the activities Iain was excited to talk about was the regular (now virtual) morning meetings, and 3 o’clock tea breaks that the Service Desk team share. These activities keep the operational teams in contact and maintain a strong team culture thriving.

“Business continuity plan in the service management vertical has been incredibly smooth with Freshservice’s cloud computing modules. The team was advised to reset their expectations. Some things will be harder at home, and it is okay if life is a bit difficult. The IT team must not only look at technology but also at people and must make sure they are well-catered” – Iain Cameron, Service Desk Manager, University of Aberdeen.   

Concern Worldwide, Dublin 
A training program on remote working

Concern Worldwide is an international humanitarian organization that strives to free the world from poverty. The team recently conducted a survey of 300 staff in the UK and Ireland to evaluate the effectiveness of the Work From Home situation. A majority of the respondents had a positive experience working remotely, a few other respondents hinted at low productivity due to kids’ distractions and other chores. Concern Worldwide conducted training on remote working for all its employees before adhering to the mandatory lockdown regulations. The training was well-received by the employees and helped them navigate into the new normal at ease. Furthermore, the team documented necessary information about remote working on the SharePoint and Freshservice knowledge base repository.

“An important tip would be on infrastructure  – being properly prepared for the number of people working remotely instead of working in the office and making sure there is proper load balancing within the infrastructure. One of the biggest topics on our agenda to discuss when we are back to normal will be the future of IT service management. We would look into developing the self-help culture” – Anthony Cullen, IT Project Manager.

Brooke, The United Kingdom
Early preparations

Brooke is an international charity organization whose mission is to better the welfare of working donkeys and horses in Asia, Africa, Central America among a dozen other countries. For Brooke, the transition into remote working was so smooth that the customers’ hardly noticed the difference between requesting services from home and office. Brian, Head of Information service at Brooke, says well-preparedness and prior planning are essentials of a successful business continuity plan. The Brooke team members were immune to the challenges thrown by the pandemic as they invested years of thought into service delivery/customer interaction methods, and performance measurement during difficult times. One of the moments highlighted by Brooke’s IT team was a capable service desk management module that resolved volumes of minor queries from employees within a day.

“We always had a vision of remote working, of detaching ourselves from the office. So we spent several years planning for service management in the most real sense, that it didn’t matter where you were. But, that meant you had to have well-defined services and processes for implementing them.” – Brian Lake, Head of Information Services

Key insights from Business Continuity Plans

What kept working in the time of crisis?
Preparedness of the IT team

A business continuity plan is unique to an organization. More often than not, organizations leverage existing resources and assets to come out of tough times. For example, the IT team at Freshworks took an immense effort to help employees make a smooth transition into remote working. Right from timely procurement to allotment of essential assets and collaboration tools such as Slack, the IT team helped the 2500+ workforce migrate to remote working seamlessly.

“If a company’s operation was least-affected from a disaster, then there’s something the IT did right” – Alan Berkson, Global Director of Community Outreach, Freshworks.

The key takeaway for the new normal

  • Make the most of the existing resources and assets
  • Prioritize friction-free collaboration and tighten security measures

What required a failover plan?
Considering DR akin to BCP

Although organizations pan out different business continuity plans, not all are effective in putting the business back on track. The ineffectiveness of a BCP stems from inadequate risk assessment, lack of customization and updates, and performance measurement.

Firstly, the cost that goes into a BCP must be appropriate. It is risky for an organization to either underspend or overspend in this area. A good business continuity plan is for everything else other than generating profits. Organizations and the disaster management teams usually accord BCP to a mandatory element for external audits or a framework one must follow in the event of a disaster. These approaches are strong reasons for a continuity plan failure.

Secondly, companies must monitor the effectiveness of a BCP.  Given that business continuity planning airlifts a company from losing customers or failing to deliver products or services, the essential factors to measure are:

  • Employee productivity
  • Resilience
  • Competitive advantage
  • Decrease in downtime

The key takeaway for the new normal 

  • Move BCP from the disaster deployment list to the core of business strategies
  • Shift BCP’s KPI from ROI (Return On Investment) to VOI (Value On Investment)

What companies had to scramble to get working?
Modern cloud-based solutions became the need of the hour

COVID-19 has opened new opportunities in the IT sector. Recently, IT spending forecasts have shown continued demand for cloud infrastructure, telecom services, and specialized communication equipment. Estimation shows the cloud market to grow to USD 295 million from USD 233 million by 2021. This market growth is attributed to the enterprises’ increased usage of SaaS solutions to support remote working. The figures also indicate how companies are ditching the current legacy systems and adopting newer ways to enable productivity.

In light of the impact of ancient systems in the modern era, organizations must anticipate the disasters, and adopt modules that will keep the business moving in unfavorable situations. Chak Srinivasan, senior director of customer support at Freshworks, says the company’s greatest advantage was that all the tools and products employees and customers use are cloud-based. This gave Freshworks the flexibility to switch to remote-working without a hitch.

The key takeaway for the new normal

  • Get rid of archaic systems, invest in cloud computing modules, and make working from anywhere possible.

Moving forward, fuel your Business Continuity Planning with resilience

Companies are prone to various crises, from cyber attacks to natural disasters. Yes, business continuity and disaster recovery plans are efficient ways to resume operation, but they do not make an organization resilient. In the world of uncertainties, the C-suite executives must work towards building resilience into the work systems. Bringing resilience is not a strenuous task, but a culture one must adapt and follow.

Blog cover design by Saravana Kannan