digital business continuity
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Digital Business Continuity – Finding New Strength

Summary: Stories about Business Continuity during the coronavirus pandemic are all about flexibility - and adapting for the long haul. Third in a series of articles about Digital Business Continuity – real-time lessons learned, improvements we can make now and in the future.

Another week goes by, and the human and economic impact of the COVID-19 continues to change our lives. The numbers that get our attention in the news are all about the effect on people – patients first, followed by healthcare workers and police/fire, as well as the folks working the supply chain to get all manner of supplies out to the world.

I find it interesting that business terms like distribution and supply chain are making it into our everyday lexicon. The amazing network of connections is more apparent than ever – and this is just as much physical (transportation of goods) as it is digital (coordination and collaboration).

And we are seeing digital business continuity issues popping up all over the place – big, important chunks of the supply chain working out the bugs. This, too, includes more people and process than systems – especially when the work to be done is more difficult when gowns, gloves, and masks are required!

Business Continuity Identifies New Requirements

As we all adapt and change in real-time, the lessons we are learning range from the practical and tactical to the strategic. There is a nice injection of humanity and corporate social responsibility in there as well – witness streaming firms giving away content, and cable firms loosening bandwidth caps. There are many ways that businesses are working to inject a lot more service into their customer service actions, taking advantage of digital thinking in new and different ways.

  • Echoworx, a provider of email security and encryption services, told me the story of a UK bank that needed to quickly change their communication methods for mortgage-related data and communications. The bank was ready to do something awesome, protecting its customers impacted by mass layoffs and poor market performance by freezing or adjusting payments. All great – but their typical snail-mail-based communication methods would not get the word out quickly. Echoworx stepped up, providing technical help to implement new features to their existing systems. The bank was able to make the change in record time, and their customers have enjoyed the relief.
  • Another software vendor told me about a new offering for their customers, an add-in to the base product (process automation software). This new add-in makes it easier to automate specific processes supporting remote workers and data center personnel. Free access to this add-in is a beneficial thing in the moment, and the customers are very appreciative. Also, it is a live, hands-on demo that will be very valuable, especially when things settle down. If the customer sees and appreciates ongoing value in the new capability, they will buy it. If not, they can simply uninstall. The customer goodwill generated in this case is amazingly valuable.

Lessons Learned: Be aware of the extensibility of your existing systems – and the features and functions that are there. If you are an end-user – make sure you know how to take advantage of these extensions. If you are a software or service provider – reach out to your customers and help them get more value out of their investments (it will pay dividends in the long term)

Finally, a story that reflects the transition many are going through. Virtual operations are fast becoming the new normal – when does the extended support stop, how much is enough?

  • From a small manufacturing company – flexible and helpful IT folks tell stories of helping their work-from-home (WFH) peers get set up with decent workspaces in their homes. The laptop screen is limiting, so monitors are brought home from the desktops in the office. Now, if one monitor is good, two can be great – and now the helpful IT folks are purchasing monitors and other equipment to kit everyone up and drive higher productivity. Points for being thoughtful and responsive …

Lessons Learned – … but how are you balancing cost controls and innovation/flexibility? I have a large screen on my desk, can I get one at home? I have two monitors in my office, can I get a second at home? Is WFH going to lead to dual workstations for everyone (home and work)? How are you going to balance overhead costs to support a widely dispersed workforce? Many operating areas of the company are scrubbing their budgets and conserving cash – businesses need to make sure that the investments in people continue, but do so in a way that makes sense for the long term.

What’s In Your Digital Business Continuity Plan?

Few, if any, organizations have planned for a disruptive event such as COVID-19. We are all being tested in many ways – personally and professionally, with an emphasis on the human side of things. This is something that is impacting the entire world – and our businesses, our neighborhoods, and our homes.

How can we share our lessons learned? How can we all prepare the people that we care about – our co-workers, our customers, our friends and family – leveraging the digital capabilities that surround us? What a tremendous opportunity to share what works – and what does not – and lift all boats in this rising tide of change.

This is one in a series of articles covering a wide range of real-time lessons we are still living through. I have more stories to tell – please feel free to add yours, or reach out and connect with me! I want to add your Lessons Learned to this list, and help many companies improve their business’ resilience in the face of future disasters.

Tell us your story!!

# 3 April, 2020

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James MacLennan

... is the Managing Partner at Maker Turtle LLC, a digital consultancy focused on creating value in ways that align with your strategy and drive engagement with employees, customers, and stakeholders. He is an active creator, providing thought leadership through on-line & print publications, and public speaking / keynotes.