As Benjamin Franklin said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
This is a repost from my recent article for the Forbes Technology Council
According to FEMA, up to 40% of small businesses can be forced to shut down in the wake of a disaster. Historically, fires, epidemics and even extreme weather
events have devastated businesses because of the physical nature of how business was done.
But the times are changing. With the right plan and the right tech, modern businesses can be agile and stay productive during crises. It's just a matter of implementing the right tools and knowing how to best put them to use when you need them most.
The Pros And Cons Of Technology
The march of technological development is not entirely for the good. Increased dependence on technology has created openings for new types of threats. Of course, that's always been a factor when adopting new technology, but the world today does face emerging
challenges that were once unimaginable.
Harnessing electricity enabled faster, machine-assisted production, but it also opened up critical business operations to the threat of power failures. Similarly, the proliferation of data has greatly expanded business potential, but with the great power
data provides comes great responsibility. Businesses must now also take steps to prevent data breaches, protect IP and safeguard stakeholder privacy.
At the same time, technology is helping businesses better prepare for, endure and recover from crises of all kinds. Improved connectivity enables flexible work arrangements, allowing for businesses to continue even when public safety measures keep us from
the office. It is more apparent than ever that the business landscape of tomorrow will depend ever more on the intelligent use of emerging technologies.
As with all advancements, the right solutions must be implemented, and the right decisions must be made if we are to succeed. Here are some considerations for how to prepare for what's ahead:
1. Keep your eyes open.
When making a disaster recovery plan, you may tend to think of threats as hypothetical. Unfortunately, they are very real. Even with a solid plan in place, you never want to be caught on your heels.
Cybersecurity is of increasing concern for all businesses, as threats to information systems are now among the most prevalent risks they face. Monitoring and tracking potential threats to your systems is critical to preventing major breaches.
Today's technology can even help track physical threats in real time. Automated weather forecasting and logistics planning technology can play a vital role in keeping your supply chains running, even in the worst of circumstances.
It's also important to track major social and political trends and consider how they may impact your business down the line. The COVID-19 outbreak is an excellent example — public health measures like social distancing have caused major disruptions to many
businesses, across industries.
2. Go digital, and the world is your office.
One of the biggest ways that technology can help you endure is by protecting your valuable information and data. Cloud storage allows you to decentralize these assets, a key step in business continuity planning that makes it easier to rebound from disasters.
A lot of vital communication still happens via physical paper documentation. In the event that your location has to shut down — during a global epidemic, for instance — crucial mail and other documents, like bills, tax refunds and legal notices, may start
piling up. A thorough disaster plan may consider digitizing mailroom workflows, allowing physical mail to be scanned and delivered digitally, even when the recipient is working remotely.
Between digitized workflows and cloud computing, necessary information is always accessible, and work can be done just about anywhere, keeping your business operational during a crisis and helping you bounce back faster in its wake.
3. Boost your process agility.
Businesses, like all living things, must adapt to survive — and the faster the better. Cloud computing limits your dependence on any specific location, helping you adapt to changing circumstances. Consider applying this idea to your physical business operations.
For example, certain information processing functions can be performed on a hub-and-spoke model, which enables adjustments to be made quickly if an adverse event occurs.
Technology can significantly lighten the load, and the more integrated communication channels become, the better. If the data that used to flow to location A can be easily redirected to location B, rapid change management becomes possible. If your domestic
call center traffic can be quickly transitioned to an offshore partner, or to an online self-service portal, those critical business functions are far better protected. And today, with the help of software bots and automated systems, connecting information
channels in this way is easier and more affordable than ever.
4. Set aside some rainy-day funds.
Even with an effective, detailed plan, there are still many factors that will be out of your control if (when?) disaster strikes. But that doesn't mean they are unpredictable. One feature even the most unprecedented crises share is a slowdown in cash flows
— especially in cases where much of the world is affected. Payments may come in late, demand may slow and, yet, invoices need to be processed and employees need to be paid.
When profits are high, it's a good idea to set some cash aside to help you through tough times. Good disaster insurance may help your business stay afloat, but it takes time to organize and process a claim — and as we all know, time is money. Setting aside
liquid assets in case of an emergency will help you keep debt low while you keep the lights on.
Preparation is an ongoing process. Our memories tend to be short, but the next major event can always be right around the corner. Companies that want to survive for the long term can't get complacent. Prioritize stress testing your response plans and reevaluating
threat monitoring protocols on a regular basis to ensure that whatever happens, you'll be ready. And remember a definition of "FEAR" that I like to share: false evidence acting real. Practice preparation. Practice leadership.