Three keys for effective business continuity planning

By BC Group Chief Operating Officer Phillip Pon

Across Asia, the spread of the coronavirus has diminished the ability of many businesses to meet with clients, business partners, and colleagues that are important for a business to run smoothly.

During this unprecedented time, it is important to have robust Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to mitigate risk and ensure the safety and well-being of employees while maintaining productive business operations.

As a listed company with over 100 employees based in Hong Kong, we have faced more than one BCP situation over the years, from events with a relatively short impact – such as typhoons, and power outages – to more prolonged situations such as the coronavirus. From these, we have learned valuable lessons which have enabled us to continue operating successfully in less than ideal circumstances. 

In our experience, there are three key areas that are critical for efficient and effective BCP:

1. Comprehensive scenario planning
2. Clear, concise, and regular communications
3. Real-time risk assessment and decision-making

Effective execution of these principles has enabled our business to continue to meet clients needs while still providing staff with safe, flexible working conditions and peace of mind.

1. Comprehensive scenario planning

At BC Group, we conduct regular BCP for a variety of scenarios. At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, our Crisis Management Team (CMT) implemented a version of an existing BCP, with adjustments based on evolving realities on the ground. Both of these elements informed our decisions around working from home, employee travel policies and staff communications quickly and in real-time. We also considered public recommendations from governmental organizations and other important stakeholders in our planning and decision-making. 

Because the CMT went through initial planning and assessment processes before the situation occurred, we were able to quickly enact our protocols and keep our core business operations running with minimal disruption.

2. Clear, concise and regular communications

For organizations to be successful in BCP circumstances, it’s important to provide clear end-to-end communications with concise and regular guidance to employees and stakeholders throughout a given situation.

At BC Group and OSL, our human resources team leads this effort and has been a key communicator before and during the outbreak, with emails, notifications and guidance regularly being shared with staff as far back as January 3rd. 

Close cooperation between the CMT, business unit heads and other teams (such as marketing, communications and human resources) is also essential so that all stakeholders are clearly informed of the current situation as well as any ad hoc changes that may occur along the way.

3. On-going risk assessment and real-time decision-making

In addition to putting together and initiating our BCP, it is the job of the CMT to source information from multiple and often conflicting sources by talking to peers across industries and markets.  Given the speed of information, we made daily and even hourly threat assessments as to the impact of a particular crisis.

In the lead up to and spread of the crisis, our CMT conducted daily real-time planning and operational assessments, while also pragmatically responding to risks in a dynamic environment. 

Some of our basic BCP actions included, identifying critical functions, asking staff to work from home, and instituting onsite temperature checks. At the end of each week, and using information from our daily risk assessments, we amend these policies as necessary. 

One example of this is our policy of making work from home voluntary instead of mandatory while also ensuring critical functions were prioritised as we learned more about the nature of the coronavirus. This enabled staff to engage with their teams and clients to complete critical work functions and while avoiding unnecessary risks. 

How are digital assets different than traditional finance?

There are overlaps, for example, staff communications and working from home procedures can be fairly uniform across industries. Large financial institutions, such as banks and insurance companies, often have backup sites where staff can work in lower concentrations to mitigate risk. For a digital asset business such as ours, certain client service functions are particularly important to keep the business running. 

Whatever the company type or size, the main elements of effective BCP remain the same: staff safety and well-being, and continued success of the business, even in difficult times.  

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