On Coronavirus and ‘Business As Usual’ in Unusual Times

Mike Williams |

There may never have been a situation quite like the one businesses find themselves in right now, as the COVID-19 pandemic creates an unprecedented range of challenges. Those will demand unprecedented and proactive solutions from tech providers.

From the cancellation of industry events to the actual demise of at least one company, we’ve seen a rapid and wide-ranging series of impacts from this nasty newcomer. But it’s how we cope with these issues that matters most. In our case, we’re doing our level best to provide solutions, not hand-wringing, that our users can put to work immediately and proactively to maintain business continuity in the face of this crisis.

Even as healthcare professionals and public services strive to address the problems being caused by the arrival and spread of the virus, businesses have to rise to their own challenges: How do they protect the health of their employees here and abroad? How do they continue to deliver the products their customers want, and provide support?

A transformative moment for continuity planning

The situation confronting companies around the world as coronavirus spreads may very well be a transformative one. Regardless of the causes of the pandemic, the actions we take today and the tools we use to deal with the problem will need to provide precedents for the future, because in an interconnected, globalized, “smaller” world, the possibility of future disruptions like this will remain very real. How we cope with them today will provide a template for how we overcome them tomorrow.

Business and societal pressures have driven the evolution of legal and GRC operations, to date, as companies have sought to make these functions more effective, efficient, and agile. That owes to conditions like the increase in data privacy and financial regulation, and the need for global enterprises to be able to address a host of multi-market challenges.

What we’re witnessing right now may be a different sort of hinge point, on quite a different — and accelerated — scale. When headlines blare that the airline industry may take a $113 billion hit from the effects of coronavirus, we’re seeing a very sudden, very stark impetus for change. Companies will be looking for ways to become as flexible and proactive as possible in the face of issues like this, so they can maintain business continuity. The fact is, in many sectors they have no choice: business continuity planning is a mandate for banks in both the United Kingdom and the U.S., to cite just two examples.

Underwriting planning with performance

Whether it’s imposed by regulation, by market forces, or your own business vision, continuity planning is essential. But in order to support your continuity plan, it’s critical to have the right tools in place to execute it.

One timely example: Right now, many companies are no doubt scrambling to quickly issue new company policies regarding working from home and travel, and must also implement processes to handle exceptions.  A policy management solution that automates much of the process, allowing managers to quickly reach specific individuals with only the updates that are pertinent to them, and capture their attestations, means companies can deal with suddenly arising risk in very close to real-time.

Technologies like workflow automation can empower in-house legal and GRC departments, or other workers using the process tools those teams have pioneered at their companies, to have staffers work remotely if there’s the threat of infection, since it could effectively shut down in-office operations.

Providing the right tools – before they’re asked for

It’s up to technology providers to get out in front of COVID-19 by proactively providing users with solutions, even before they’re asked for them. Brian McGovern’s team at Mitratech has provided an admirable example by supplying the TAP Workflow Automation user community with two free workflows, each ready to go straight from the box or customizable as they see fit. One is for managing their Travel Request Policy, the other a Remote Work Tracker to help HR stay on top of how employees are working from home or otherwise away from the office. He and his team will have even more of these on hand in the near future, too.

When a situation is as fluid as we’re seeing with coronavirus, this sort of proactive approach and operational agility is vital to the success and sustainability of a business. The potential costs and disruptions we’re facing may be unprecedented, and it probably will not be the only time companies will have to reckon with such threats. Legal and GRC technologies may not be able to erase those future challenges, but can do a lot to mitigate the risks they pose to how you do business.