Minimize business impact of coronavirus

The coronavirus is spreading rapidly. The media is full of related articles. More and more of your employees and customers are becoming anxious about personal impacts and disruption. Panic buying is emptying store shelves of various products. Fewer people are attending events or leaving their homes for discretionary reasons.

How can you minimize the impact of the coronavirus on your business? Here are some relatively quick and easy actions that will reduce risk.

Communicate with your employees frequently

Because the coronavirus situation is unfolding rapidly, communicate with your employees frequently about what you are doing as a business to reduce risk and what you expect your employees to do to reduce risk. Be factual. Avoid exaggerated or inflammatory statements.

Review this Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers for a list of actions to take for your business and employees.
Read this Checklist for Community and Faith Leaders for ideas to reduce risk and avoid heightening anxieties.
Read this COVID-19 coronavirus info for Albertans for actions to minimize the spread of infections among your customers and employees. Every province will have a similar web page.

Practice working from home

You can practice working from home by sending one team or department home right now for a few days.
Through this practice, you are likely to discover the following issues:

  1. Flaky home hardware and network in use by some of your employees.
  2. Various laptop software and configuration issues.
  3. Inadequate Internet bandwidth at the homes of some of your employees and at your business to support significant work-from-home traffic.
  4. Inability to remotely access some business applications and network drives due to permission and network topology issues.
  5. HR policy gaps related to core hours of work, assumptions that suitable spaces to work exist at home, allowable employee expenses, accommodation of various employee limitations and disabilities.

Test your business continuity plan

You can ask your IT department to partially test your business continuity plan. This action is supposed to be available on extremely short notice.
Through this business continuity test, you are likely to discover the following issues:

  1. Gaps and ambiguities in your business continuity plan.
  2. Difficulties launching business applications and related data at your failover site due to a lack of expertise among your IT staff.
  3. Inadequate Internet bandwidth at your failover site.
  4. Hardware capacity issues at your failover site.

Test your disaster recovery plan

You can ask your IT department to partially test your disaster recovery plan.
Through this disaster recovery test, you are likely to discover the following issues:

  1. Gaps and ambiguities in your disaster recovery plan.
  2. Difficulties restoring business applications and related data from backup media at your failover site.
  3. Insufficient office space at disaster locations.
  4. Network configuration issues at your various locations.

Widen use of virtual collaboration tools

As more employees work remotely from home or from other locations, the need for access to virtual collaboration tools will increase.
As you use virtual collaboration tools more, you are likely to discover the following issues:

  1. Employees unfamiliar with the collaboration tools will delay and disrupt meetings and will require some support.
  2. Annoying configuration issues with cameras and microphones will arise.
  3. More brands of virtual collaboration tools may be in use than you realize. Try to standardize on the brand most employees are using. Hopefully, that’s the brand that you are licensing.

Move more data and applications to the cloud

Moving more data and applications to the cloud makes them easier to access from anywhere without taxing your business network infrastructure. The cloud often also simplifies business continuity and disaster recovery.
Example cloud providers that offer office software and store files include:

  1. Google G Suite consisting of Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Meet and other applications.
  2. Microsoft Office 365 consisting of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, Teams and other applications.
  3. Rackspace offers hosting of Microsoft Office 365.

Leading cloud providers that offer remote computing capacity for applications include:

  1. Amazon AWS.
  2. IBM Cloud.
  3. Microsoft Azure.

As you access office software and store files in the cloud, you are likely to discover the following issues:

  1. Employees unfamiliar with the cloud computing environment and the related office and collaboration tools will need support.
  2. The need to manage data access and employee roles with more discipline.
  3. The need to shift external business partners to your cloud environment.

Coordinate with business partners

Your business partners are encountering the same issues you are. To minimize disruption of your supply chain, strengthen coordination with those business partners.
As you coordinate more with your business partners, you are likely to discover the following issues:

  1. Lack of reasonable business continuity and disaster recovery planning.
  2. Inability to ramp up or revise the previously agreed production schedule.
  3. The dependence of your business partners on yet other suppliers.

What strategies would you recommend that reduce the risk of coronavirus impacts? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of Information Technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry to select and implement financial, production revenue accounting, land & contracts, and geotechnical systems. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy, and systems project management.

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