Business Continuity Through a Pandemic

January 06, 2021 by Loren Lachapelle

Business Continuity Through a Pandemic

This year brought about unprecedented changes no one was prepared for. It served as an important reminder that in the rapidly changing environment, organizations need to be prepared to respond to threats and recover from disruptions so they can continue to thrive.

Tyler Cybersecurity hosted a virtual symposium to offer guidance to attendees to ensure continuity in the coming months and years. The program, titled Cybersecurity Insights for the Road Ahead, featured four cybersecurity experts from across the country to share their knowledge and help attendees stay resilient in these uncertain times.

Following are some tips from two of our speakers, Don Anderson, SVP and transformation executive at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Regina Phelps, president and CEO of EMS Solutions Inc. Each gave us some unique insight on transforming and adapting during the pandemic. Both speakers strived to answer the question that’s been on our minds lately: how can we keep moving forward during times of uncertainty and unrest?

1. Learn to adapt to the situation at hand and keep the momentum.

Don Anderson’s talk focused on a project he had been spearheading for a few years – the Federal Reserve Bank’s digital transformation. The goal of the project was to do a complete overhaul of the technology they use and integrate digital technology into all areas of their business, fundamentally changing how they operate. And that is no small undertaking for any organization.

When 2020 came around and the pandemic was thrown into the mix, it was still important to continue to move the project forward. Because Don and his team had put in place project initiatives from the start of the project, they kept it going even during the hardest months of the pandemic. Although it was challenging at times, the team was able to continue meeting deadlines while adapting to our uncertain environment. Because they took early action, they are still on track to go live in early 2021.

Let’s take a look at a few of the fundamental shifts they made in the beginning stages of the project that helped them withstand the pandemic and keep the timeline in check.

  • Tackle the cultural landscape before making changes, especially during the pandemic. Don and his team had to take a hard look at the existing culture and address how projects were being delivered before they could start seriously planning. Together, the 12 different business units that make up the organization came up with a strong value proposition for the project, which helped align the organization so everyone was on the same page. During this stage, the Fed became more aligned across all 12 offices, enabling the ability to analyze data deeper and make decisions together.
  • Be fluid with vendors. Along with creating a better decision-making process, Don’s team had to be extremely fluid with their vendors and be sure they met the needs of all stakeholders or other members of the organization. They understood things could come up with any one vendor and planned for it accordingly.
  • Make shifts to support employees. When COVID-19 hit, the project team continued to shift their organization in any way needed to support employees and the evolving landscape. Don shared that since last March, it has been hard at times to keep the momentum up – but for the sake of the project, momentum must remain constant. Today, they have moved into the excitement phase and are looking forward to rolling out these new features and functionality that will adapt to everyone’s roles throughout the organization.

While each project may look different for organizations, the message remains similar: in order to manage a project through uncertain times, organizational leadership must be on the same page, effectively communicate with and listen to the needs of employees and other stakeholders, and always keep the big-picture impact of the project in mind. Don left us with an encouraging sentiment, saying, “We want to demonstrate to others that you can be successful in taking a different approach.” So don’t be afraid to try it as you navigate through the pandemic and beyond.

2. Prioritize supporting yourself, your families, and employees.

Regina Phelps, an internationally recognized thought leader in the field of emergency management and contingency planning, spoke about business continuity and pandemic planning – an area she has been studying and helping clients with for the past 25 years. Her overall message was clear. Now, more than ever, there is extreme uncertainty around strategies we thought we knew. Organizations are completely transforming during this time, and changes we see today will likely carve the path forward. With that, Regina gave us five helpful tips to make the remaining months of the pandemic a little better.

  1. Think about your mental health. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness have risen about 30% since this time last year. The pandemic is having a huge impact on people’s mental health, so as we look to winter especially, it’s important to pay attention to your mental health. Utilize your company’s Employee Assistance Program to the fullest, and do not be ashamed of it! Another way to minimize physical impacts is to ensure your home office space is ergonomically friendly.
  2. Think about how you communicate. When you communicate virtually with colleagues, friends, and family – whether it be Zoom or Teams meetings, FaceTime calls, or any other virtual meeting platforms – it’s important to communicate with intention. Before having another virtual meeting, ask yourself if it’s truly necessary. Look at how you schedule meetings and try to cut the time down as much as possible, so you don’t bombard employees.
  3. Focus on the deliverables, not the hours worked. Think about the tasks at hand, and if your employees are doing them, does it matter if it’s done at 2 a.m. or 8 a.m.? Focus on deliverables so people can work in a way that suits their at-home environment.
  4. Think about how you support employees. If employees need a flexible schedule during this time, do your best to accommodate their needs. On the flip side, think about how you meet with your employees and set expectations. Be cognizant of how you’re actually working with people so you’re not sending emails at 10 p.m. and expecting a response right away from your employee. Lastly, take digital breaks whenever possible.
  5. Take care of yourself. The winter will be taxing for many, so it’s crucial to find ways to help yourself manage. Have a decent diet, get good sleep, exercise, go outside, and do things that will help you cope during the pandemic.

As we can see, there is a theme amongst these presentations that can be applied to cybersecurity practices, HR functions, and personal health. We need to be ready to adapt to any situation at any time to ensure we stay resilient, hopeful, and positive as organizations, colleagues, employees, friends, and family members.

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