The Business Continuity Manager’s role in the recovery phase of coronavirus

Posted on 22 June

This week I discuss the role of the Business Continuity Manager in dealing with the recovery phrase of coronavirus.

Many of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted and are moving on apace, even in Scotland we are able to do more today and even more on Monday, although I haven’t quite worked out what that is. So I thought this week I would share some thoughts on the Business Continuity Manager’s role in the recovery phase and point out a number of threats we should be preparing for, including part time schooling.

The Business Continuity Manager’s Role on an Ongoing Basis

Before we start looking at new roles, we should remind ourselves of what the roles of the business continuity manager are when we are not in the middle of an incident like coronavirus. Their main role is to make sure that their organisation is ready for any incident which occurs.

Typical tasks include:

1. Making sure that all business continuity documents are up-to-date including BIAs, risk assessments, plans and policy documents.

2. Making sure that those named as part of incident management teams are training and exercising, so that they are competent in their role.

3. Ensuring that awareness training is carried out for all staff within the organisation.

4. Ensuring an induction on business continuity is carried out for new members of staff.

5. Ensuring a programme of exercise is carried out.

6. Making sure lessons identified from exercises, nears misses and incidents are identified, recommendations are made, actions assigned and then they are followed up and implemented.

7. Carrying out meetings with internal stakeholders on business continuity.

8. Conducting reviews to check that recovery strategies/solutions are still valid and new ones do not need to be developed.

9. Conducting audits and reviews as requested by top management.

10. Keeping themselves and the organisation up-to-date with the latest thinking on business continuity.

11. Ensuring that the business continuity provision meets the needs of the organisation and is reviewed and amended in-line with events, new acquisitions and changes in risk.

12. Horizon scanning and identifying new threats and issues which could turn in to a major incident or crisis.

When an incident occurs I think a key role of the Business Continuity Manager is then to ensure that the plan is invoked and to advise the team on how existing plans should be used. They should also give the team leader of the incident team they are on expert advice on managing incidents. I know certain organisations use the Business Continuity Manager to manage the incident but on the whole, they are usually an advisor.

The Business Continuity Manager’s Role in the Coronavirus Recovery Phase

Throughout the coronavirus outbreak your incident management team should have been deployed, and they should be getting pretty good at managing the incident and planning for the easing of lockdown. As we move towards either opening our organisations or bringing staff back to work, I think the role of the Business Continuity Manager may be different in each organisation.

Two roles you should consider:

1. Should they have a pivotal role in planning the recovery, the opening of the organisation or the return to work? There is a lot of planning required regarding how to accommodate customers or visitors, how to implement the 2m rule in offices and new ways of working. Depending on the skill set of the Business Continuity Manager, I don’t think this is a role for them, but for the operational and facilities management staff to implement instead.

2. I think that the Business Continuity Manager should continue to advise the incident management team they are on, but they should extradite themselves for the recovery planning and should start to horizon scan and identify new threats which we know are going to be issues in the future.

There are two threats which I think the Business Continuity Managers should consider and start to highlight. One is the cyber threat which has never gone away and should be re-emphasised, and the other is the issue of children going back to school part-time and the effect it will have on parents' ability to work. I know that there is a danger of incident fatigue and starting to raise possible new incidents, but I feel it is our role to do this.

Emerging Threat of Part-Time Schooling

I am by nature a supporter of the government, but I am struggling with both the UK and the Scottish Government’s planning and solutions for bringing children back to school. When I was training to be a staff officer in the army, you had two different groups managing operations. One group was managing the operations which were taking place at the moment and for the next few hours or days, and another group was planning for longer term operations. In both governments, it appears that the long-term planning is just not taking place. As soon as schools closed down there should have been a group planning for how to get schools back, and contingency planning for different scenarios, such as a 1m or 2m distancing rule, and thinking through how this could be carried out. The coordination with key stakeholders, which is another important task, also doesn’t appear to have taken place, so both governments are now in an ongoing argument with teaching unions, and the poor parents are stuck in the middle.

Many of the parents I have spoken to are in despair of how they are going to cope with their children being at home during term time. Some have already given up on trying to homeschool their children due the tension, arguments and atmosphere this causes within their household. All working parents have plans for the holidays, for looking after their children through family members, taking their own holidays or sending their children to daycare or on activity days. Most childcare is only sustainable for a short time and is planned long in advance. Paid activities and daycare may not be available due to there being limited availability because of social distancing, so some of the normal holiday solutions may not be available.

What will make the issue worse is that as the economy opens people are expecting the delivery of goods and services. In lockdown this was not expected. Those organisations which have thought through how their staff will be able to deal with this problem are going to be at a competitive advantage to those who have not thought about it and will be operating at reduced capacity.

What the Business Continuity Manager should be concentrating on

In conclusion, I think Business Continuity Managers should refocus themselves, not on assisting in planning for the operational level of recovery but looking at some of the issues and possible incidents, such as part-time schooling, and ensure that their organisation has plans in place for dealing with the consequences and impacts of these concerns. This thought reminds me of the old adage ‘failure to plan, is planning to fail’.