The impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the world economy, underscores the importance of the need for businesses to have a business continuity plan (BCP), says technology experts.
“A business continuity plan is a process that outlines the potential impact of disaster situations and creates policies and procedures an organisation must follow in the face of such disaster. Disasters may include a flood, fire, cyberattack, riot, hurricane or other natural disasters. We have now come to include disasters that impacts employees’ ability to attend the office,” explained Horace Sinclair, senior consultant, services at MC Systems.
Dr. Sean Thorpe, head of the department of computing at the University of Technology (UTech), and immediate past president of the Computer Society of Jamaica, says the transmission of the coronavirus requires the need to minimise human contact and mass meetings, as a part of the World Health Organization (WHO) thrusts to support social distancing and, therefore, the use of online collaborative communication tools become extremely critical.
Following the confirmation of the disease in Jamaica, the government closed all schools and declared that only essential persons should report to work and non-essential persons should work remotely from home, if possible. This is an attempt to contain community spread of the virus, SARS-COV2, which causes the disease
Mr. Sinclair pointed out that in the current situation, companies will be forced to adapt. He said these business continuity measures include ensuring that customers can reach the business. He said telephones should be answered and online facilities should be tended to.
He recommended that switchboards should be forwarded to mobile telephones that were previously assigned to the switchboard operators. Also, companies may install a Softphone app that allows the switchboard to be forwarded to a laptop, which is then answered by an operator at home. Some of these apps can transfer calls, similar to the switchboard, he added.
“An important aspect of the BCP should be communicating with your customers. Now more than ever, your customers should be aware that you are open for business. Send them an email, call them, let them know that you are available to continue to meet their needs,” he added.
Working from home
In addition, he suggested that companies should ensure that remote work can be facilitated. Thus, employees should have access to the following tools: laptop or other devices; internet access and telephone access.
“Without these basic tools, employees will be on holidays at home,” he noted. Working from home for some employees is a new experience, he noted, and as such leaders must therefore ensure that they help define this new culture.
“Work should be assigned with expected delivery dates and regular check-up should be encouraged. The employee should be able to access their team lead should they require clarification on an assignment. Communication should thus be two-way,” he said.
Citing some of the technologies that can be used to facilitate work from home, Dr. Thorpe said to support business continuity, the use of online collaborative communication technologies, such as Zoom, Skype , Goto meeting, Webex, Google hangouts, Microsoft teams and so on are quite common and more than appropriate as many are now free to use, especially for personal use.
“For businesses that support large customer bases or even educational institutions that drive large student numbers the need to setup subscription or premium-based accounts will become a new normal,” he said.
“The basic assumption is that one has access to a physical computer and the computer has a persistent internet connection to drive the use of the online communication supported by these mentioned technology products and more. These online software communication tools can be easily downloaded and installed on these computing devices,” he added. These computers should have basic software security, such as anti-virus utilities, to safeguard against any computer misuse.
Mr. Sinclair pointed out that security is important since the employee’s access to the company’s system may expose the company to a security breach. Thus, the laptop should preferably be a company issued laptop, with the required security software in place. It is also preferred that access to the company’s system is facilitated via secure VPN. Remote access should ensure the required authentication to the system.
He, however, noted that employees should also have the correct data access, and productivity technologies to ensure a seamless remote work experience.
“Thus if at work, John has ‘read only’ access to a database, at home he should not have ‘read and write’ access. Also, if John has access to Microsoft Visio at the office, he should similarly have access when working remotely. Thus employees should be able to access all their resources as usual, while working remotely,” he explained.
Dr. Thorpe said sectors, such as education, consultancy, marketing, accounting, legal, retail, business and knowledge process outsourcing, all of which inherently use Information Technology and software automation through artificial intelligence to drive them today, would benefit from these technologies to continue with their businesses.
MC Systems is here for you during this difficult period. Please get in touch to start the conversation.