The phrase ‘BCP’ (Business continuity planning) borders on a misnomer as companies around the world continue to navigate and plan around the impact of Covid-19. BCP is the process of creating a framework to prevent and recover from potential threats. In addition to prevention, BCP planning enables ongoing operations before and during disaster recovery; threats like a local flood, for example, or building works at the office.
Nothing has shaken the concept of ‘business continuity’ quite like the global pandemic that we’re still living through. Companies are adapting on the hoof, sometimes changing business models entirely.
When a disruption like this hits all regions simultaneously rigid thinking has no place. When work-from-home directives were introduced, CWT had to rapidly deploy new solutions to enable our highly-skilled staff to work from home in a secure manner, and to ensure that appropriate levels of service were delivered without interruption. It hasn’t been business-as-usual for business travel and meetings & events in recent months.
Harshal Mehta, VP and Chief Information Security Officer, oversees CWT’s BCP framework. He shares three ways that companies can tear up the BCP rulebook and adapt for a new world.
- Set up a crisis-response team
The global pandemic created unprecedented operational, economic, and social challenges for the entire world, specifically for the travel sector. Our company felt disruptions across all regions, necessitating an effective and decisive response from our management. To that end, we activated a cross-functional Crisis Response Team comprised of key leaders from each line of business to provide strategic leadership with three key objectives:
- Ensuring the safety of our employees
- Ensuring the availability of critical business services in a remote environment
- Delivering services for our clients
The Crisis Response Team met on daily basis to track the safety of our employees, analyze risks and emerging issues, and look at the need for additional resources along with ever-changing dynamics in the pandemic situation. We prepared daily reports for our Executive leadership team covering multiple domains such as finance, legal, technology, communications, and operations. The reports facilitated faster decision-making.
From a risk perspective, we enabled additional parameters such as identifying any new risk (either financial, cyber or technology) and flow back to the crisis response framework to assess whether additional controls or measures need to be taken. A strong framework should be an enterprise initiative and not reside with any particular business unit or department. Owners need to identify risks and make sure they get collated and viewed by the leadership through a single lens.
- Change, adopt, rinse and repeat
Any crisis brings new opportunities and areas that can be improved for better planning. Global companies should consider the expanded use of ‘work from home’ as a business continuity solution and look at anticipating outages that impact the entire globe rather than looking at individual country or region specific. With this crisis, CWT is better prepared for moving away from a regional crisis model with fall-back mechanisms in place for global disruptions.
- Stay agile
BCPs are often produced and remain static for two to three years, becoming progressively less relevant as organizational changes take place. A strong approach develops capabilities in people and is supported by practical content and control mechanisms that keep the system current and working. Our BCP framework is updated twice per year and tested annually with real life scenarios to keep it current and reliable when needed.
There are always opportunities to learn and improve. We’re putting the experience of the global pandemic to use to understand how our solutions and strategies can be modified to mitigate the impact, not just of pandemics, but of any unplanned business disruption we may face in the future.
One of the operational changes Covid brings to the fore is the mindset of people working more remotely. This can spur more innovation in technology, ensuring that the environment for home workers is as seamless and reliable as working from physical offices.
Enabling remote working for the majority of our staff without compromising on service and security was a big win. Global companies can only execute such fast and effective changes by working together, adapting and staying agile.
Blog author: Harshal Mehta, VP and Chief Information Security Officer, CWT