Workday Partner Tips: Business Continuity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We're sharing guidance from two of our strategic partners, Deloitte and KPMG, on important steps business and technology leaders should take during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Workday, we understand this is an especially challenging time for business leaders. We know you must consider not only the health and wellbeing of your employees, but also how to maintain business continuity as you guide your organizations into an uncertain future.

Our goal is to share content that’s immediately helpful, and we’re fortunate to have great partners who’ve been hard at work to develop and publish actionable guidance. In this article, we highlight free content that two of our strategic partners, Deloitte and KPMG, have created on the topic of resilient leadership—which is key to business continuity—during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Put the Mission First

“The heart of resilient leadership: Responding to COVID-19” by Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen, with insights from other Deloitte global leaders, covers five fundamentals of resilient leadership during this crisis. 

At the top of the authors’ list is the importance of leading from both the heart and the head. “Resilient leaders are genuinely, sincerely empathetic, walking compassionately in the shoes of employees, customers, and their broader ecosystems. Yet resilient leaders must simultaneously take a hard, rational line to protect financial performance from the invariable softness that accompanies such disruptions.”

Another fundamental from Deloitte is perhaps the most applicable to business continuity: Put the mission first. “Organizations in the middle of a crisis are faced with a flurry of urgent issues across what seems like innumerable fronts. Resilient leaders zero in on the most pressing of these, establishing priority areas that can quickly cascade.” The report discusses seven priority areas based on Deloitte’s analysis of the leading practices of multinational companies in business continuity planning, including companies with experience in emergency management related to infectious diseases. 

The authors also emphasize the importance of keeping a clear head. “Clarity of thinking, communications, and decision-making will be at a premium. Those CEOs who can best exhibit this clarity—and lead from the heart and the head—will inspire their organizations to persevere through this crisis, positioning their brand to emerge in a better place, prepared for whatever may come.”

Keep the Board on Board

“Not since the financial crisis of 2008-2009 have crisis response plans, business continuity and resilience, cash flow, scenario planning, and corporate leadership come under such intense pressure,” points out the authors of KPMG’s paper,  “Navigating the pandemic: A board lens.” “With information changing daily (even hourly), companies should expect to recalibrate their responses—and potentially reframe their thinking about how the COVID-19 situation is impacting the business—as conditions change.”

To help boards in their oversight of a company’s business continuity response, KPMG highlights five key areas of board focus. The safety and wellbeing of employees ranks as the first priority, followed by focusing on financial risks and scenario planning; understanding key operational risks; ensuring the board is staying apprised of the company’s crisis response; and assessing financial reporting and disclosure impacts.

Scenario planning is particularly important for business continuity, given the level of uncertainty around the full impact of the virus. That includes scenario planning for a potential global recession and “second-order effects” on different parts of the business, as just two examples. More specifically, management may want to develop probability scenarios for how the future might unfold and consider the risks that those scenarios present.

“CEOs need to act—to manage the immediate crisis, but also address the vulnerabilities that COVID-19 has exposed.”


CIOs: Assume Crisis Leader Role

Business continuity during the COVID-19 crisis requires strong technology leadership, according to the authors of Deloitte’s report,  “People, Technology, and the Path to Organizational Resilience.” “CIOs and other technology leaders have an opportunity and an obligation to help lead their organizations through this crisis with their knowledge and the power of technology, and they must prioritize their efforts,” according to the report’s authors. “The organization’s business resiliency depends on its technologies and systems, and tech leaders should assume the role of a crisis leader.”

Deloitte also provides a seven-point response strategy for CIOs, including the recommendation to focus on business continuity (BC)/disaster recovery (DR) plans. “BC plans help ensure that people and places are secure and operational, while DR plans focus on data and applications,” the authors explain. “Assessing risks and their potential impact, developing recovery strategies, and having clear escalation procedures are all part of a BC plan. DR plans, on the other hand, focus on how to get the technology environment back to normalcy.”

The authors provide eight tips for preserving continuity of business operations, including rationalizing technology projects and portfolios, ensuring your technology infrastructure supports new use patterns now that more (if not all) employees are working from home, and having a contingency plan for ensuring critical applications and data are available. They add, “with the shift to the cloud many organizations are already on their way to ensuring that a major event at their data centres will not disrupt their critical business operations.”

Prepare for Future Low-Probability/High-Impact Events

In KPMG’s paper, "How CEOs Can Respond to the Crisis and Build a Resilient Future," the author makes this salient point: “CEOs need to act—to manage the immediate crisis, but also address the vulnerabilities that COVID-19 has exposed.” Furthermore, “the COVID-19 crisis exposes the systemic risks inherent in how global businesses operate.”

That’s why to ensure business continuity during this crisis or any other, business leaders need to make risk management part of strategic planning. Companies “can routinely simulate how such events—as well as other variables—could disrupt their businesses and use those insights to design footprints and supply chains that will stand up to the realities of global business today.”

The author adds that when it comes to COVID-19, “CEOs should understand this is not a one-off. Nobody could predict that this particular outbreak would have caused so much disruption. But it is completely predictable that low-probability/high impact events will continue to happen.” 

Interested in learning more? You’ll find additional content and resources for managing business disruption during COVID-19 at KPMG’s resource page here and Deloitte’s resource page here. Read the next article in our Workday Partner Tips series on supporting the remote workforce.

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