If you weren’t prepared for a global pandemic, you weren’t alone.
Earlier this year consultancy firm Mercer surveyed organizations to learn how many were prepared for downtime from events like pandemics. They found 51 percent had no plans for how to address this type of scenario. Furthermore, 92 percent said that working from home is their primary option when working at the office isn't possible.
In other words they did not have a business continuity plan. Apart from how they may function if their network went down, they have little to no policy in place for unexpected events, like the coronavirus.
What is business continuity?
Business continuity is an organization's ability to ensure operations and core business functions are not severely impacted by a disaster or unplanned incident that take critical systems offline.
If you work in IT, you are probably familiar with the concept of business continuity as this is often a key part of IT risk mitigation in organizations. IT professionals often engage in things like tabletop exercises, which simulate emergency situations. During these exercises, the team reviews and discusses the actions they would take in a particular emergency, testing their emergency plan in an informal, low-stress environment. This approach is useful to help clarify roles and responsibilities and to identify any preparedness needs. By the end of the exercises a strong action plan should be the result.
A business continuity plan ultimately helps businesses eliminate the need to scramble if and when a disaster strikes, so that panic doesn’t lead to poor decision making. If you are looking for some information on creating an emergency disaster plan, the BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada) has some good resources and templates.
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Using our intranet for business continuity
Last Thursday, when our president informed us that we are to work from home indefinitely, we didn’t panic. We collectively turned to the one platform that united our entire organization: our intranet.
Having designed and managed intranet software for 12 plus years, it was fairly seamless for us to use our intranet to ensure business continued just as it did before.
Here is how we are using our intranet for business continuity:
From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, our president used our intranet to educate employees on any important information they needed to know. From detailed updates on the spread of the coronavirus, to assistance on how to navigate remote work, he has leveraged our intranet to continually inform employees.
We also have a Required Reading intranet add-on, which helps ensure important documents and policies are read by employees. This is particularly useful for important information that changes frequently.
Locating subject matter experts
Our employee directory remains one of our most visited pages. It’s one of our customers' most visited pages as well.
Within the directory is detailed information on every employee. How best to contact them, what their knowledge areas are, and where they fit in the organizational chart.In a crisis type scenario, it can be helpful for identifying roles and responsibilities.
Now that we have shifted to a remote working environment, we rely on document collaboration more than ever before. Most of us are pretty good at organizing these documents, but there is always the search feature that surfaces any documents we are looking for. We also have an integration with instant messaging platform Slack. The integration allows us to search our intranet content, or link to it, within Slack.
When one of us is editing the document, the file automatically locks, so we don’t have to worry about conflicting changes. Also, as files get updated, previous versions of the document are saved for easy reference, so If changes are made throughout the editing process and need to be corrected, files can easily be reverted to a previous edition.
As a flexible workplace we’ve offered remote working options for years, so switching 100% to that type of environment wasn’t that challenging for us to navigate. However, there was still a lot of information employees needed to ensure they were 100% set up for success. For example, we needed to ensure all employees had access to the internal network via the VPN. A separate page was set up with detailed instructions on how to access the VPN. This specific page also had a bunch of comments at the bottom which provided further information and discussion on any recent experiences or challenges employees may have encountered.
Just because we aren’t in the office doesn’t mean meetings stop. All our meetings are now run virtually via video conferencing technology. This allows us to still have eye contact while discussing various topics.
General chats and updates are usually pretty informal, and don’t require us to record anything. However for larger project oriented meetings, we leverage our intranet to track meeting outcomes and record deliverables. We’ve posted our meeting minutes to our intranet for years, so again this wasn’t as big an adjustment for us.
Our intranet also ensures we stay productive during this distracting time. From surfacing important information to locating subject matter experts, employees can find what they are looking for, helping them remain productive. We also encourage employees to share ideas, and opinions on our intranet. As many successful organizations have already discovered, some of the best ideas stem from sharing employee innovation.
Culture and connection
Perhaps the greatest benefit of our intranet is the opportunity to connect us all to each other during this isolating time. Our culture is stronger than ever before, and we still take the time to engage with each other on intranet pages like our pet gallery page, or our office memes page. Having this connection goes a long way in helping us feel closely connected.
It’s an uncertain time right now, but we are confident that with the right planning and leadership that we are going to come out of this an even stronger culture than we were before.
How are you using your intranet for business continuity?
Have questions? Get in touch! We're always happy to hear from you.