Business Continuity isn’t normally top of people’s lists with IT systems. That’s because the general sentiment has been “things might get bad, but not global blackout type bad”… and perhaps that’s because everyone will be in the same boat, so who cares.

Certainly the COVD-19 event has put Business Continuity at the forefront of people’s agendas. Without a Business Continuity Plan many businesses found themselves caught off-guard. If you didn’t design a system to cater for the entire workforce to work from home there’s a fair chance it simply won’t cope.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

business continuity planning is often forgotten

Work itself might be reinvented with so many people forced to work from home.

Consider this:

  1. Travel expenses: will tumble. In some cases there will be no travel at all. Once businesses realise that more can be done with less future travel expenses will be questioned. Video conferencing was initially touted as the panacea to rising travel savings… that might finally be delivered on.
  2. Automation: The workforce may shrink in some sectors and never fully recover to current levels. Smart businesses will implement automation to augment their workforce.
  3. Commercial real estate costs: This is a huge one. Once everyone understands and embraces a remote workforce, the need for large and impressive offices will fall.

The pillars of a successful remote workforce to ensure business continuity

Create a safe and effective foundation for remote digital access.

This is a key area that you must not skimp on if you want your workforce to be effective from home or a remote location.

Remote access that isn’t secure will just create larger headaches for you. Assuming that it’s secure is even worse as you’re using poor judgement to guide your risk management strategies.

Internet access

  • Not everyone lives in an area with adequate internet. Even with the impending NBN rollout and 5G that’s close (but not close enough for most), you need to cater for the slowest horse in the group.Prior to COVID-19 most businesses assumed that only a fraction of their workforce would actually need remote access. That’s not business continuity, that’s just remote access.Business continuity is exactly that: what do you need for your business to continue with minimum disruption? It’s probably more than 20% of your workforce.

Remote Devices

  • What is everyone going to use to connect into your corporate systems?Should they use their own (cheaper and potentially faster to deploy, however at a huge security risk) or should the company provide them with one?Can you rent computers at short notice from your IT provider?

Communication devices

  • Make sure that your remote workforce has access to as many of their office-based tools as possible. This includes webcams, headset and mic.

Secure remote access systems

  • Depending on where your company resources are will determine the types of security measures you have in place.If you have a central server system you need to have capacity at your central office (or datacentre) to cope with the increased bandwidth.If your applications are mixed across different cloud providers your job might be a bit simpler. Simpler because you just need an internet connection however having something hosted in the cloud doesn’t make something inherently safer.

Remote working culture

  • Is your business ready for remote workers? Make sure you cultivate a remote working culture and mindset that helps individuals and the organisation as a whole be highly effective no matter where they are working.

Security considerations for business continuity

Usernames and passwords alone are not enough to keep you and your critical data safe.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is key to all environments. MFA creates an additional barrier to access your systems by using a one-time code generated by your mobile phone.

You can make your employees lives a little more convenient by implementing Single Sign On (SSO) which federates all of your online applications to users only have to sign on once.

Summary: How to ensure business continuity with a well thought out remote workforce plan

The current COVID-19 situation might tempt businesses into going remote for ALL of their workforce. It certainly looks compelling from a cost perspective, it’s not possible to just replicate the office environment in the home.

Users are likely to push back heavily against being isolated so the remote working environment you implement needs to be far more engaging and full of human connection than we’ve ever had before.

Work out what your Business Continuity Plan is going to be before disaster strikes! And if you’re too late, start discussions with your team today. This is unlikely to be the last major disaster and you might just find that an effective remote workforce is the best pathway to your organisation moving to better places.