Business Continuity Planning
Checklist & Best Practices

Business Continuity Planning<br />Checklist & Best Practices

Introduction

The show must go on and so do the business!

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has caused almost all organizations to deploy remote work strategies for their employees. Most of the organizations have released contingency plans for their employees that include mandatory working from home. The key area to address from a technology perspective is the ability for all the employees to collaborate with their teams and customers while being able to access all the tools and business applications that they would need to get their work done. 

For some of the companies that haven’t managed remote employees in any great number, the transition to this new working style could prove to be complex. To make things easier for you, here’s a checklist of actions that you should be considering. This checklist has been put together based on our experience in successfully implementing a business continuity plan. We understand that the list might not appear to be very detailed, considering the fact that every business is different. However, this list will help you put the right foot forward while rolling out a business continuity plan.

The Right First Step

  • Determine business functions and roles that can completely work remotely, those that can work remotely with some possible changes and those that can’t work remotely.
  • Meet with your business leaders to determine what functions are critical for your business to function and decide who all will be involved in pulling together your business continuity plan. Include co-workers from all levels in your organization ( Leadership team, Engagement Management, HR, Marketing, Sales, Infrastructure & Finance) as active members of the business continuity team
  • If you don’t have any collaboration/communication platform ( Google Hangout, WebEx, Zoom etc.), then select one and procure the required number of licenses.
Business Continuity Planning<br />Checklist & Best Practices

Employee First Approach

  • Your employees are your most valuable asset. Adopt a policy of transparency with your staff and communicate frequently. This could be in the form of All-hands video conference, e-mail communication from the CEO’s desk or regular corporate communication on Do’s and Don’ts.
  • Conduct an employee survey for evaluating Work From Home readiness of employees.

We conducted this survey two weeks prior to rolling out Work From Home across the organization. This survey helped us to determine the availability of systems that can be used for work as well as the availability of high-speed internet access with our employees. Based on the data points gathered from this survey, right steps were taken by the Business Continuity team to ensure all our employees are well-equipped with all the resources required. 

Sample Employee Survey for Work For Home Readiness

  • Create company guidelines for remote employees, including proper use of company assets and security guidelines.
  • Provide SPOCs from your business continuity team for each of your office locations and create an official business email ID where employees could reach out to in case of any queries/issues.
  • Develop and conduct work-at-home training to teach how to use remote access, proper use of tools and share best practices for employee interaction.
Business Continuity Planning<br />Checklist & Best Practices

Clients, Partners and Vendors

  • Compile a list of your key customers and update them about your business preparedness.
  • Create an official business email ID to which they could reach out in case of any queries regarding business continuity.
  • Identify key suppliers, vendors, contractors, banks and any other businesses you must interact with on a daily basis. If there are any that serve a critical role, consider developing a professional relationship with more than one company, in case they are impacted and cannot service your needs.
Business Continuity Planning<br />Checklist & Best Practices

IT Infrastructure

While Project managers are ensuring they adhere to delivery deadlines even during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the onus falls on the System Administrators or IT Admins to provide the technologies necessary for employees to work remotely and enable the project managers to maintain business continuity. Here we discuss the top things that IT admins need to start thinking about to implement a remote working plan.

Data Security

  • Develop and implement a security policy that applies to all remote employees, including actions such as locking computers when they’re not being used.
  • Maintain server, upgrades, system backups and disaster recovery preparations.
  • Security measures must cover company-owned and employee-owned computers, laptops and mobile devices.
  • Instruct your staff on emerging threats tied to the COVID-19, including new phishing attacks and attempts to steal VPN credentials.
  • Check phishing email filters. Double check email policies that keep non-palatable email out of your network.
  • Implement two-factor authentication using smart cards or security keys.

VPN Connections

  • Provide specific instructions to employees about how to connect to the company network through the VPN.
  • Configure VPNs so that employees can only access specific parts of the IT system.
  • Make sure that only the right people within a company access the right information.
  • Monitor VPN server traffic regularly.

Devices and Systems

  • Ensure employees have the right tools to work remotely. This includes Laptop, mouse, charger and business grade VPN access.
  • Ensure that all devices that will be used remotely have the latest version of their operating software, security software and applications.
  • Ensure that  you have sufficient licenses for all the employees working remotely.
  • Carefully list all the steps employees must follow to access your system remotely. This includes email, files, etc.
  • Create and distribute the instructions for each employee to follow when connecting to resources remotely.
  • Make sure to document steps remote employees should take if they do encounter difficulties.

Home Networks

  • Encourage users using their home router and network to access corporate information to keep their routers up to date where possible.
  • Educate users to lock their machines during inactivity in households having 2+ people working from home.
Business Continuity Planning<br />Checklist & Best Practices

Project Teams

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has thrust project managers with perhaps their greatest career challenge. While countries are going into lockdowns and people are staying indoors, it is upto the project managers to take care of their team members while also ensuring business operations run as usual. Here are a few tips for project managers to help them build an agile, collaborative work environment for remote team members that facilitates good project performance.

Standup Meetings

  • Set clear communication protocols with your team.
  • Have a set of guidelines to follow when communicating remotely.
  • Use a project management system to coordinate the tasks.
  • Utilize video conferencing by using corporate communication tools such as Google Hangouts/ WebEx etc. to replace your previous in-person meetings.
  • Keep connected and available via text messaging systems like Google Hangouts/Whatsapp etc.
  • Allocate sufficient time in your schedule for one-on-one touchpoints with each remote team member.
  • Set how regularly you will expect to meet your team virtually one-on-one.
  • Clearly define the sequence of activities, estimate the time needed for each one, and build in sufficient contingency time to allow anything unexpected.

Tracking Team Performance

  • Create a to-do list using a task or project management system.
  • Keep a closer look at your productivity.
  • Follow tasks prioritization framework.
  • Invest in tools for remote sprint planning.
  • Invest in Group collaboration platforms like Github etc.
  • Invest in online scrum tools like Jira etc.
  • Find the optimum combination of time and effort that your team can manage according to their individual skills.
  • Explain the need for employee time tracking.
  • To make the time tracking process appealing, create some kind of rewarding system for those who adhere to it consistently and accurately.
  • Reward those who finish their tasks faster, without compromising quality.
Business Continuity Planning<br />Checklist & Best Practices

Hiring, Onboarding and Training

Hiring and Onboarding recruits during a situation like COVID-19 could prove to be a herculean task if one is not organized and well prepared for the situation.

Hiring

  • Indulge in the effective usage of electronic resources to assist in the hiring process. Digitize the process of resume checking.
  • Use social media to aid in job posting and branding.
  • Connect with potential applicants using phone calls, the internet, and video conferencing tools. Conduct interviews via phone or video calls using technology with exception given to final rounds.
    • Ensure that the technology that you are using is in working condition and all set for the interview. Understand all its functionalities before the interview.
    • Furnish proper details to the candidate and also let them know beforehand of any programs that they would need to download for the interview.
    • Be prepared for latency, network issues, and unpredictable connectivity. 
    • Try to establish the employer branding creatively to help the candidate understand more about the organization without having to visit the office.
    • Do not forget to conduct a follow-up with the necessary information after the interview.
  • During a situation wherein a face to face meeting is unavoidable, keep the following guidelines in mind.
    • Refer to COVID-19 guidelines and keep a mask and a sanitizer handy. Urge the candidate to take the necessary precautions as well.
    • If possible, try to monitor the temperature of the visitors and maintain a register to record their names.
    • Conduct an effective interview that is brief and to the point. 

Pre-Joining and Onboarding

  • Ensure that the processes are organized, and the documentation is up-to-date.
  • Enable new joiners with the facility to only come in for a few hours on the first day to collect essential items like employee passes and laptops etc.
  • A better option is to shift to complete remote on-boarding.
    • IT hardware and manuals such as the employee handbook, corporate presentation, and the like could be mailed to the new hires.
    • The software and e-mail accounts could be delivered, and the IT department can assist them with the system setup.
    • Since a face to face introduction is not possible, make arrangements for a virtual introduction with other colleagues and key people in the organization. 
    • A virtual ‘All-Hands Meeting’ could be set up to introduce all the new hires.
    • Help them feel welcome by sending a package of goodies, which could include branded merchandise and other essentials.
    • Enable better communication and collaboration leveraging technology. E-signature tools like DocuSign enable recruits to add their signatures digitally and also share their documents safely.
    • Keep in touch with the new hires by scheduling calls regularly to help understand if they are facing any struggles and to help them in sorting it out.
    • Use online interactive training courses to set up role-specific training.

Training and Development

Technology has helped people connect irrespective of the distance, and thus it could be safely said that ‘Remote Work’ does not put an end to the process of learning.

  • Transform the already existing face to face knowledge transfer sessions into virtual learning sessions.
    • Choose a team of associates with ample experience who can conduct effective learning sessions.
    • Using any user-friendly official communication tool, the associates could lead sessions on various topics.
    • The sessions could be conducted once every week and could be followed by a Q&A session.
  • Associates should be encouraged to utilize their time in training and development using online learning platforms such as Udemy that offer courses on a wide range of topics. Encourage them to take up free certification courses to help them broaden their career.
  • It is very important to communicate with the team leaders to understand and address the concerns of the associates if any. Enquire about their family and the situation at home to understand if the environment is conducive for them to work effectively.
Business Continuity Planning<br />Checklist & Best Practices

Work From Home

Work From Home Checklist

Here are some items to consider when implementing a work from home policy so that companies are ready for working remotely:

  • Implement a work from home protocol.
  • Review technology needs and resources and assess your current resources.
  • Confirm that the IT infrastructure can support remote work.
  • Invest in tools and best practices that support your specific remote needs.
  • Prioritize output goals and assign metrics accordingly.
  • Draft a work plan. Review work schedules. 
  • Make a communication and accountability plan. Communicate clearly and consistently. 
  • Ensure data privacy and security.
  • Obtain employees’ agreement to conditions for remote work.
  • Create company guidelines for remote employees.
  • Set daily goals- track them and share your progress eventually. 
  • Be ready to accept and manage distractions – since its work from ‘home’.
  • Keep all channels of communication open with your colleagues.
  • Set up a space and set up boundaries in that space.
  • Make sure you have backups of your services 
  • Download all possible apps that you need for work and communication.

Work From Home – Best Practices

  • Communication First and Communicate Well : You need to stay in contact with your company via official communication channels for updates. Keep track of when the company communicates official messages regarding emergency plans, then monitor those accordingly. The key to success at working from home lies in prioritizing communication. Your team and manager need to know that you are available and taking work from home seriously.
  • Have a Proper Workspace: The best home office set-up usually includes walls and a door that you can close to help maintain a quiet and productive atmosphere. When you don’t or can’t have a traditional office space, think creatively about where you can work. Wherever it is, make sure it’s not in a high-traffic area that is bound to distract you. 
  • Treat It Like Any Other Day in the Office: One of the great things about remote work is that you are able to skip the commute which also proves to be tedious for many. However, skipping the commute doesn’t mean you would skip the rest of your workday routine. Make sure you treat a work-from-home day like any other day at your office.
  • Maintain a Healthy To Do List: Structure your day nicely. When you need to work from home, you have to be your own manager and therefore, you have to manage your productivity. At the end of each day, prepare your to-do-list and goals for the next day. With this, you have clarity, you are focused and do not have to waste time in the morning.
  • Start to Think Like An Entrepreneur: It is on each of us to look at how we can add value to our organizations, teams and clients. This current pandemic calls for more than ‘thinking outside the box’. Plan what you can do to define the problems and seek out the solutions to help your organization. We must rally together to make sure the business survives and retains the effectiveness. 
  • Stay in Contact and Keep in Touch: For instance, if you would typically have a weekly team meeting, you can still have the team meeting via various different technologies. You can keep the team spirit going by scheduling calls and meetings as normal. Check on your colleagues/teammates to see if they are coping well or need any help..
  • Learn to Accept and Manage Distractions: You are at home so there will be a myriad of distractions that you will face. The distractions are a reality and can be handled as long as they are not taking over the whole working day. Inform others at home that although the location of your job has changed, it is no different from a regular work day. A good work schedule with clearly defined breaks works well.
  • Planning Ahead : Bear in mind that the service you use may become overwhelmed and fail. What’s your backup plan? You’ll need to have a way to communicate in real time. Also, make sure that you test the technologies and methods before you use them. Doing as much long-term planning as you can will only benefit you. 

We will be constantly updating the checklist with respect to the latest developments so please stay tuned! By, Business Continuity Team RapidValue Solutions

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