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5 Ways Tech Companies Can Prepare for Disruptions


Recent events with the outbreak of Covid-19 have shown everyone the importance of having a business continuity plan. When a large-scale disaster or regional disruption occurs, a business continuity plan can help a company protect its assets and human capital while continuing to operate with limited impact from the disaster; everyone from the data engineers to the software sales team can continue to do their job.


Cyber-attacks, terrorism, natural disasters, and pandemic diseases are just a few of the potential large-scale wrenches that can be thrown into a company’s best-laid plans. Companies—especially in finance—began to develop business in the 1970s, but increasing globalization in the 1990s made business continuity planning a necessity in every industry.


Within the past few decades, events like September 11th, the Recession of 2008, and the recent outbreak of Covid-19 have shown just how interconnected our global economy has become, while at the same time indicating an increased level of potential fragility brought about by its interconnectedness.


Tech companies, by virtue of their very business focus, are often well-positioned to quickly reorganize and keep running in the face of an emergency. Here are a few ways that these tech companies large and small have continued to keep business going amid the recent crisis, and how they are prepared to face most any crisis that could interrupt the normal scope and routine of their operations:


  • Prepared companies have decentralized their operations.

  • Prepared companies have developed a remote workforce.

  • Prepared companies have created a business continuity plan.

  • Prepared companies have backed up their data.

  • Prepared companies foster a prepared workforce.


Of course, Black Swan events are (by definition) impossible to plan for. There are certainly going to be challenges along the way as a company repositions itself to continue business during a large-scale disruption, but companies that focus on these 5 principles will find themselves well positioned to keep their digital doors open during a crisis.


How Tech Companies Can Prepare for Disaster


Prepared companies have decentralized their operations.


A company operating from one central location is particularly susceptible to disasters. A fire, earthquake, regional pandemic, or terrorist attack can shut down the office—and the business. This is why tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon do not locate all their operations in one place. Though they do have a central campus associated with their brand (such as the Googleplex in Mountain View, California), these tech companies have also developed a framework for decentralizing their operations. The end result of this decentralization is that the company can keep functioning if one location is impacted by a disaster.


Prepared companies have developed a remote workforce.


Tech and software companies today have successfully developed a framework for shifting into a remote workforce. This allows companies like Salesforce to continue their operations even as the Bay Area is placed under a restrictive quarantine (to cite a recent example). In fact, many software companies already had a sizable component of their human capital working remotely on a consistent basis. There are many parts to developing a remote workforce, such as navigating issues of security clearance and developing a functional work culture, but companies that invest the effort in remote workforce development often find their operating expenses are lightened—and they are better prepared to continue business should a disaster strike.


Prepared companies have created a business continuity plan.


A thorough business continuity plan is key for helping a company maintain its operations, but it can’t be developed without business impact analysis. This analysis takes into account potential disasters, company assets, and other factors to determine how business might be interrupted—so that a business continuity plan can focus on appropriate strategies and recovery priorities. In times past, business impact analysis couldn’t be anything more than a roundtable discussion about potential weaknesses. But today, powerful analytic tools offered by companies like IBM can help a business pinpoint the potential weak links in the chain and develop a continuity plan accordingly. In addition to preparing a plan, a company will occasionally test it out, at least annually, to see if there are any areas for improvement.


Prepared companies have backed up their data.


Even companies that still rely on more traditional methods of data storage should back their data up cloud servers. While many companies, especially those that manage sensitive data, have backed away from the use of public cloud storage in recent years, there are a variety of cloud architectures that can provide the perfect meeting point between security, cost, and disaster preparedness. There are plenty of vendors such as VMWare, Microsoft, SAP, and IBM that can offer remote, secure, data storage solutions. These companies have their own decentralized data storage strategies that keep client data secure and available, no matter what is happening to the client; in the event of a disaster, a business will still be able to access its data without interruption.


Prepared companies foster a prepared workforce.


As mentioned, having a contingency plan on paper is not enough. The plan has to be put into practice, so that employees know what to do and how to transition into the continuity plan. Moreover, if the plan is practiced, and the company has an open culture of collaboration, employees won’t be afraid to point out any drawbacks to or kinks in the plan. In recent years, tech giants like Google and Microsoft have created a corporate culture that celebrates creativity and independent thinking. Employees who are encouraged to share ideas and develop their own projects will often be better suited to pivoting if an emergency creates the demand. Such a workforce is self-starting, motivated, goal-driven, and feels a sense of ownership and responsibility in their work and their role with the company.


A final word about business continuity strategies


One of the biggest reasons that a company should invest effort in a business continuity plan is not just to keep its own work going—as important as that is. A company that’s prepared to pivot against the backdrop of unplanned, catastrophic events is often more appealing to potential employees, and has a better chance of attracting top talent.


Employees want to know that their livelihood can continue through adverse regional or global events; they want to feel that their company will take care of them, that there is an organized plan to keep business going through a disaster, and that disaster recovery will see the company successfully facilitating a return to normalcy.


If you’d like to discuss how your company’s contingency plan might come across to a potential hire, or if you’re seeking a job in software or software sales and searching for a prepared company send me an email at mike@michaelblair.com.

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