SA strike season posses threat to business continuity

As South Africa enters strike season local businesses are faced with an increased risk of significant damage being caused to the business premises.

May 21, 2013

As South Africa enters strike season local businesses are faced with an increased risk of significant damage being caused to the business premises. While appropriate insurance should cover any physical damage, businesses that fail to back-up their irreplaceable and critical company information could face possible closure if no effective back-up solutions are implemented.

Ray Stride, Managing Director of Global Continuity South Africa – a group company of JSE-listed Metrofile Holdings Limited – says planning for the impact of industrial action must form part of every company’s Business Continuity Management (BCM) programme, as the chance of business disruption increases during periods of unrest. “Effective BC planning should be a top priority for local business leaders in the current environment.”

Stride says the main function of a sound BCM plan is to enable a business to avoid disasters or survive and continue functioning at a sustainable level following a major disruption to critical daily operations. “This is done through the identification of certain business processes that must be recovered within a certain time frame in order to continue supplying critical products and services during adverse operating conditions, or alternatively to ensure that business processes are not interrupted by disastrous events.”

A key component of BCM is scenario planning which involves the development of a range of planned responses to various threats, says Stride. “One can never determine what or when a disruption to business operations will occur, so it is essential to create potential scenarios and develop appropriate responses to ensure the company is fully prepared. It is always best to plan for the worst possible situation occurring at the worst time to ensure the business is resilient.”

Stride says there are three factors businesses need to consider when planning ahead of strike season, including:

  • Alternative routes to the business premises if the disruption does not allow normal access to the business premises;
  • Ensuring the working environment is resilient to physical threats e.g. sound security; and
  • Creating and communicating a planned response to all employees should the situation arise i.e. delegating certain tasks to certain employees or making arrangements with other companies to use their facilities, should the need arise.

Stride says that while it is important to plan for disasters, the BC plan should also be flexible enough to adapt to different situations. “It should rather read as a check list than a step-by-step plan that is blindly followed.”

Most importantly, the BCP must be tested as a recovery plan is only effective if it is certain to work, says Stride. “Testing is the key activity which determines, firstly whether the implementation of the BCP has been worth the effort and expenditure, and, secondly how to address those issues which inhibit effective recovery.”

“The repercussions for businesses with no effective BCM solution can range from loss of revenue, assets, clients and staff to litigation, penalties and perhaps even worst of all, reputational damage. There are also personal consequences for the business leaders as they could face Director or Officer liability cases on the basis of negligence or criminal liability, which could even affect their reputation to act as a Director in future.”

Stride says some examples of essential services and activities, which are critical to the sustainability of a business, include, but are not limited to: revenue collection; communication with staff, suppliers and clients; service delivery; logistics and procurement.

“In a time when disruptions to business operations can occur at any moment, all businesses have a responsibility to clients, employees and stakeholders to ensure a tested plan is in place which allows the organisation to continue functioning at an operational level even in the event of a disaster. Certainly, without the ability to recover data and services reliably and efficiently, impacts will be much greater,” concludes Stride.