Acorio’s ServiceNow Conversations: Today’s Outlook for Business Continuity

Today we’re covering one of the biggest questions that firms, including Acorio, currently face: how can organizations achieve business continuity in today’economic climate? It’s difficult to go through business as usual during these challenging and unprecedented times, yet teams must strive to maintain momentum and hit their goals. For today’s blog, Juliet Acuff, our VP of Strategic Initiatives, and John Huckle, our VP of Advisory Services, provide clear guidance and insights for maintaining business continuity amid the COVID19 pandemic.

Due to the unforeseen Coronavirus, many of the plans that firms had locked in for 2020 have been rerouted or re-prioritized, as organizations struggle to forge a business plan in response to the virus and its economic effects. Even at Acorio, many of our 2020 plans established back in November and December have shifted as we pivot to address more immediate and urgent issues.

While the concepts of business continuity and disaster recovery are certainly not new, it is especially important in this current situation to keep these concepts in mind. This brings us to today’s blog, where we’ll be sharing how we’re seeing our clients respond, coupled with our own thoughts, strategies, and best practices for achieving business continuity for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

Prioritizing and Assessing

First of all, you must understand and accept that you can’t achieve business continuity for everything in your organization. Organizations are expensive, functions go wide and deep. Unfortunately, situations like this force us to prioritize select areas upon which to focus.

The biggest priority on the right-hand side is assessing the cost of losing the ability to do a particular function in your business (e.g. loss of revenue, inventory, or any physical/intellectual asset). The next step is to weigh all of that against how long you can actually sustain your business during an outage. Think about your business, its functions, and processing; consider the actual work that each of those functions does first and how important they are to keep your business afloat.

Effects on Firms and Industries

Whether or not you had a business continuity plan or disaster recovery already defined, it’s likely you were unprepared for this exact scenario of COVID19. Typically for these plans, we anticipate earthquakes, fires, and floods – really defined and finite events. As we’ve all seen, one of the challenges of this pandemic is that its complete timeline and widespread effects on our social and economic systems are still unknown. Rather than recovering from a specific event, like a natural disaster, this situation is going to have a rolling effect on businesses for the foreseeable future.

The Coronavirus has hit different industries with varying degrees of intensity. The effect of this pandemic on your organization also varies depending on how spread out your organization is across the world, or even the United States. As different areas reach their case count peak at different rates, we must prepare for the fact that some portion of our workforce on any given day may not be able to work.

Especially in regards to people, this situation has forced us to think differently about business continuity planning than we have done so in the past. Before, business continuity planning relied on data centers to have backups in the case of outages, but now with cloud technology, business continuity is more people-based. When it comes to our people, we must consider the possibility of folks getting sick or caretaking for a family that is sick. Even for those who are healthy, work during this time looks different: employees working from home may not be able to complete as much work, work in the same windows of hours that they used to, or complete their traditional type of assignments due to limited access to technology and office resources. Keep your people in mind and consider these points when forming your business continuity plan.

Another point to note is that the critical elements of your original continuity plan may have changed. For example, today many businesses are worried about finding and sourcing materials. This may not have been a key focus of earlier business continuity plans, but it certainly is now and must be addressed quickly. For our clients that are in healthcare, the triage of finding and tracking ventilators wasn’t necessarily something they thought would become the biggest, most critical strategy in their business planning, yet nevertheless, that is their new reality.

This is all to say that revisiting your plan and addressing shifting priorities and circumstances is paramount.

Keeping the Lights On

Whether or not your organization has business continuity and disaster recovery teams helping you plan, your focus for business continuity should be on making progress rather than trying to immediately achieve perfection.

For critical processes like IP provisioning, do your best to take notes of the basics. For example: what applications you’re using, a list of all the different inventory abusers and types that you need to think about.

And then start to address the new process: How long can it be down? What is the data that’s involved? And how sensitive is that data?

While it sounds basic, even just getting these few notes on paper will be a tremendous help for some of these critical functions.

Shifting Connotation of Business Continuity

People use the term business continuity in various ways, but it’s generally used in reference to identifying the critical items you need to keep your business going. More often, though, we’re starting to hear firms use the term to describe their planning for pivoting or shifting their business in the long term.

For example, many restaurants are currently restricted to takeout and delivery orders. While this most likely won’t be the case forever, many groups in the restaurant industry are shifting their business plans to address the absence of physical customers entering their stores.

Different Priorities and Business Impact across Industries

Right now, business continuity looks different for every firm. For those in the healthcare space, you may feel as though you are in an emergency triage mode.

For those in the cruise and hospitality industry, you face more of an immediate, negative financial impact. Meanwhile, other industries are viewing COVID19 as an opportunity to improve their business models by increasing their digital resources/tools (I.e. updating knowledge articles and adding catalog items).

While most business owners are eager to get back to “business as usual,” it’s important to realize that optimizing your CMDB or launching a new six-month strategy isn’t the priority for many firms. There is simply not currently an appetite for those conversations, thereby changing how teams come up with effective strategies for optimizing their business right now. Fortunately, these teams, especially those in technology, are able to make a significant impact on what resources they already own, to ultimately help your business survive.

Detouring from your Roadmap

We all start with our business roadmaps and plans. Today we are talking about the times in which we are forced to take a slight detour from our roadmap to address unforeseen events or circumstances.

As mentioned previously, we aren’t currently sure how long this detour will be. This situation affects individual firms differently, so this so-called detour time will also vary from organization to organization. But regardless of your industry, ServiceNow’s platform has the tools and capabilities to assist your firm in response to COVID19.

ServiceNow Tools

Once you have worked towards making sure the core functions of your business are running as efficiently as possible, ask yourself, what is a list of tangible things that I can do to make today better for the people in my organization, based on the detour that were facing?

Catalog items or knowledge articles are a great way to provide answers and information to your team. If processes are changing within the business as a response to COVID19, make sure to put that information out to your team.

It’s critical that your folks know where to go, how they must adjust the way that they work, and learn any new process now that they’re not in the office – communicate this information to them directly on your company portal’s home page or through a widely-circulated knowledge article. Our top piece of advice? Don’t forget to make sure the knowledge articles are easily visible on your portal, right on the front page.

Temporary catalog items are another way that we’re seeing customers make impacts with their platform, avoiding the hassle of entirely changing a workflow.

One of our favorite examples of a client making an impact with their platform is a big healthcare player that created an employee portal, then as a result of COVID-19, they quickly had to send about 17,000 people home who had never worked remotely before. Their employee experience team was worried about how to offer support to all these people that were suddenly either caring for dependents or children at home and quickly because they had already set up their portal, they added an item that allowed a $500 stipend to apply to any employee that had children or dependents to care for at home. The highlight of the project was its timeline – because they already had the portal implemented, they rolled out the stipend plan in a week!

By the second day that the stipend item was live, the company had given away almost a million dollars of support to those employees to help them in their new remote work. This sort of support is critical to ensure their team can still do their jobs, remaining effective and efficient team members.

Request Items

Request items are another valuable ServiceNow tool. These don’t have to be fancy, with eight different approvals and a whole bunch of routing logic. Instead, keep it simple with short term request items for high priority processes and work that typically is done in person.

Use this to automate some of those workarounds so that there’s also a record of those transactions. This is a huge benefit because if people are out, it’s helpful to be able to go back, track, and make sure that the appropriate records are kept even from an audit perspective.

Recently a client was distributing assets and computers but was inundated with requests. Their normal process for sending out materials involved coding and tagging and logging and so they created a different, shorter request process. The first question of which was, do you want to get the assets back or not? Because if we want to get them back, we need a record of them somewhere. This is an example of how the criticality of things can change the way that we respond to them.

As for your fulfillers, we’d say that these particular types of requests are the most important things that you should start working on first. It’s simple to go in and take a look at how you’re prioritizing requests and incidents by criticality; change that definition and update it in ServiceNow so that your fulfillers are equipped to handle their workload more efficiently and visibly. While this is a small tweak, it remains a helpful aid for teams that are fulfilling services for your employees.

Finally, when you do update request items, don’t forget about tweaking distribution lists and users to include new and different stakeholders.  Make sure the proper people are in those distribution lists so that you can fulfill all requests.