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2020 has changed the way CIOs will think about Disaster Recovery Planning—we’re all learning pandemic planning in real time. With the Coronavirus disrupting business as usual and challenging organizations everywhere to transform, business continuity is more important than ever.

Around the time COVID-19 cases started climbing in the United States, Gartner surveyed more than 1,500 IT leaders on how prepared they were for the fast-emerging healthcare crisis on a Business Continuity Webinar.

Only about 12% of organizations identified as being “highly prepared” for a pandemic. More than half of respondents were “somewhat confident” they were prepared for COVID-19 disruption.

“This lack of confidence shows many organizations approach risk management in an outdated and ineffective manner,” noted Matt Shinkman, vice president in the Gartner Risk and Audit practice. “The best-prepared organizations will manage the disruption caused by the coronavirus far better than their less-prepared peers.”

You can prepare your organization for a pandemic by implementing a Business Continuity Plan to navigate potential disruption via supply chain delays, natural disasters, staffing challenges, and healthcare crises.

A pandemic plan must include continuity details, around technology (hardware, software, systems), staffing limitations, power options, data backups, and relocation sites with detailed communications plans. Breaking down your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) will keep your organization moving with future disruption.

Here are three ways to cover your bases and start pandemic planning:

1. Define your goals.

Pandemic planning COVID-19

The first step to pandemic planning is defining exactly what you want the outcome to be and how to evaluate the readiness of your plan. Identify which issues you want to address, and think detailed. Your goals should be built around anticipated shipping and supply chain delays, power and fuel challenges, slow community restoration, and organization-wide communication strategies.

And Disaster Recovery Planning needs to incorporate every aspect of your business. Defining goals for your plan and what pandemic preparedness looks like in the future is a company-wide initiative. Bring together leaders from operations, IT, marketing and communications, finance, and customer experience.

Because in the event of a disaster, your organization needs to be ready to respond across the board. How will you communicate anticipated delays to clients and how can you support them with their unique challenges? How can your IT team prepare your organization for a secure, connected workplace, with all the necessary caveats for file archival and backup? Finance, human resources, and operations will define how your organization can remain productive and competitive in a changing marketplace.

2. Establish your guidelines.

DRP guidelines

Build out guidelines and ground rules around how departments will respond. Part of building out these guidelines is keeping your organization aligned with your goals while avoiding any finger-pointing among team members or departments. Having a strict set of guidelines makes implementing your DRP clear, seamless, and objective.

Remember, there’s a human element to all of this. You can plan for disaster recovery, but you can’t always plan for how employees will feel and react, what stressors they’ll be under. Having a clear set of guidelines will make it easier to keep everyone involved, anchored, and moving forward.

3. Test your plan.

DRP testing

How can you know you’re prepared without a test run? Exactly, you can’t. That’s why it’s so critical to build out your disaster scenario—in pain-staking detail. Make it real with real-world situations and specifics from a crisis that your organization has already encountered. Get down to the nitty-gritty so you can act out your response in a real-world way without ay gaps.

Document, document, document. When you run your exercise, detail every gray area for followup later so you can make sure your plan is iron tight. Outline weaknesses and caveats for improvement—be honest about where your vulnerabilities are.

Outlining these important areas will prepare you to build a more robust and already-proven plan.

Build a pandemic-proof  Business Continuity plan.

The role of CIO has changed, being ready for unpredictable challenges is a business requirement. Having a Business Continuity Plan to navigate potential disruption will keep your organization and team members prepared for whatever comes next.

Get ready for what's next.

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Navigating Disaster Recovery is more challenging every year with changing technologies, evolving customer expectations, and unpredictable disruption. Our services experts are ready to help you define, build, and implement your Disaster Recovery Plan so you can stay focused on current challenges.

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