Forging a Disaster-Proof Association With a Business Continuity Plan

Your association may have weathered the initial disruption of COVID-19. That doesn’t mean you’re prepared for the next calamity. It's time to review your business continuity plan.

Your 2020 bingo card probably didn’t include spots for last-minute cancellations of annual events or jury-rigging “office furniture” out of what you have at home. But that’s the point behind a business continuity plan, or BCP: anticipating what could go wrong and ensuring that your organization is resilient enough to to get through the worst.

Now that your association has done its best to weather the initial disruption of COVID-19, this is the time to give your BCP a thorough review. That review needs to be forward-looking, beyond the problems currently at hand, to make sure that the plan will stand up to future unexpected crises.

COVID-19 brought a dramatic uptick in BCPs specific to technology and cybersecurity due to the shift to remote work. But those plans may not be adequate, because many mobility infrastructures and cybersecurity measures assume that there’s still some connection to a physical office, according to Praful Krishna, a computing and AI expert, writing for CMSWire.

“Under security policies for most enterprises, remote access is limited in its permissions and bandwidth,” Krishna says. “IT and other support functions are based out of physical locations. In many situations even drive backups occur only over the office Wi-Fi. In other words, the current setup expects everyone to show up to work at least periodically. That’s no longer sustainable.”

Other aspects of BCPs need careful consideration too: leadership, continuity of workforce, financial and other types of risk, communications, and other core functions. As Jim Lippie put it at the Channel Futures blog, “Although it might feel a little late in the game for business continuity planning, the initial shift to remote work is only skimming the surface when it comes to preparing businesses for a variety of disruptions. VPNs and laptops are only one aspect of what’s required for firms to survive and thrive when things get crazy.”

The Great Unknown

Taking an approach that considers all kinds of scenarios provides organizations with the broadest protection. The next threat might not be about a physical workplace; it might be a condition that severely limits remote work instead of supporting it. It could even be something that happens halfway across the world—a possibility that organizations that heavily rely on global supply chains need to factor into their BCP. As an example, Krishna covers Fitbit’s decision to source from four countries instead of just one, anticipating a trade war with China, the primary materials source before the diversification.

Whatever needs your organization has, regular reassessment, reviewing, and testing will help ensure a thorough response to changing conditions, as Seth Siegel points out at Information Week. This diligence will also help you prioritize when plans are translated into action.

People need to be at the top of the priority list, according to Siegel: “Keeping them working, safe, productive, and engaged should be a top priority.” That goes for your own employees, but your members and the broader community your association supports need to be considered as well.

At Special Events, Patrick Hardy shares the story of an RV tradeshow that took a now-familiar digital pivot because of COVID-19. On a technical level, everything went smoothly. “What they did not anticipate, however, was that many of the vendors no longer wished to participate, as their customers preferred a kinesthetic experience and one-on-one interpersonal interaction with sales representatives. The value, for them, then, diminished, even when a virtual platform was deployed seamlessly.”

Even the most robust plans will need adjustments once they become reality. But by keeping resilience through disaster top of mind, association leaders can use this moment as a springboard into the future, however uncertain it may be.

(bernie_photo/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

By Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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