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How 2020 redefined the concept of Business Continuity

Steven Karachinsky
If you happen to be like the 99% of the rest of the world’s population, I suspect that at least now and then you think back to the simplicity of the world just a few short months ago.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that luck most definitely favors the prepared, and that embracing the unexpected is the only way to successfully manage business of any kind—no matter how long the list of unexpected scenarios.

On that list, and what I’m sure continues to be at the top of everyone’s list, is business continuity. More so, the question has become what does business continuity mean now as opposed to what it did just a few months ago.

Up to February 2020, the term and meaning of business continuity was simple, or at least simpler than it is today. It meant being ready for the unexpected if the unexpected were something tangible such as fire, flood, hurricanes, and any other typical force majeure incident—in short, a preconceived list that was understood, perhaps even familiar.

But then in March 2020, the world was hit with the totally unexpected. It now became far more than a “recovery” of moving or redirecting an office. It was more the idea that organizations had to redefine their business models in real time to accommodate a fundamental shift in how the world was about to do business for the foreseeable future.

So here we are, July 2020, more than a full quarter into a global pandemic paired with multiple phases that cities, countries, and continents have all experienced or will be experiencing in the near future. The question is, what does business continuity mean now? For everyone, it should mean that business must be able to thrive from anywhere, and for anyone.

First, it means that the office location—at least for knowledge-based economy companies—has become largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Now, I don’t mean the office is now a thing of the past, and I’m certainly not suggesting that people won’t be going back to the office. However, what I do mean is that the physicality of the business environment must be removed from the continuity equation, if only to allow for a more proactive “work from anywhere” approach.

Second, the fact that ubiquitous connectivity and communication is now paramount. The idea that unified communications and all that it entails was once nothing more than a cool thing to have if/when people wanted it has now been thrust into the limelight as the saving grace of business. The need to be able to move not just individuals in a conceptual way, but also the entire infrastructure such as call centers, which is now broken up and in an individual’s home has redefined the meaning of continuity.

Then, of course, there is the introduction and addition of new processes, especially those that are customer facing. The instantaneous need and subsequent adoption of new technologies worldwide to enable work-from-home, has also led to the byproduct of new customer experiences. As organizations fully embraced unified communications, the ability to accommodate customer needs through everything from video, to chat, email, and phone has led to much higher future expectations. Companies now have to continue with their choice of communication type, or lose customers to companies that embrace it.

Finally, there is the place where fear and readiness collide. Living through a global pandemic is stressful for the best of the prepared. For the rest, the stress from the upheaval and the changes businesses have faced, and how the future will play out in a new and truly connected world is something that will haunt many. The challenge will be to embrace the change in the meaning of business continuity, what business expectations are as they relate to customers, how to manage remote workers, and so much more.

Businesses will continue. It’s simply how they choose to define business continuity that will pave the way forward.

July 23, 2020

Steven Karachinsky