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Castellan Solutions says COVID-19 forced BCDR rethink

COVID-19 caught organizations flat-footed in terms of business continuity, and new challenges will arise as vaccines are distributed, according to Castellan Solutions' CEO and COO.

COVID-19 got companies thinking about their underlying resilience more closely, but a new set of challenges and considerations have arisen with the end of the pandemic possibly in sight.

Castellan Solutions CEO Jon Ezrine and COO Brian Zawada said with the COVID-19 vaccine becoming more available, businesses must figure out what the next "normal" is going to be, and then adjust their business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plans accordingly. This is after they've had to adapt their business operations to COVID-19 and quarantine measures for the past year. The answer to the question of whether workers should return to the office when it's safe to also isn't entirely clear.

Castellan Solutions launched in November 2020 as a rebranding of three business continuity software and services vendors: Assurance Software, Avalution Consulting and ClearView Continuity. In March 2021, it released a SaaS platform, its first product under the Castellan name. The Castellan SaaS platform is an integrated software suite that provides operational resilience, business continuity, crisis management and emergency notification capabilities.

In an interview with SearchDisasterRecovery, Ezrine and Zawada discussed the considerations organizations need to think about in a post-COVID-19 world, some mid-pandemic decisions that led them to this point and what Castellan Solutions plans to do with its three BC software products.

What are customers' biggest BCDR challenges right now?

Jon Ezrine: The reality is companies are not as ready for dealing with business disruption as they thought they were before the pandemic started. This had been a trend that had been going on for a while because of cyber attacks and the shift toward more reliance on cloud-based software. These events caused businesses to start thinking much more strategically about their readiness, and then the pandemic hit.

Headshot of Jon EzrineJon Ezrine

Many businesses thought they could rely on the plans they had put together or the approach they were taking, only to realize maybe they weren't quite as ready to deal with the disruptions as they should have been.

What we're seeing is a real swell in the number of business executives that want to understand more about what they need to do to be ready to deal with the kinds of uncertainties that will come. They need to operationalize the readiness they have and test it to make sure they don't get caught in the crosshairs of something like COVID again.

Can you give examples of customers' pandemic BCDR shortfalls?

Ezrine: There are examples of where technologies are falling short, but it's a bigger issue than that. It is more of an operational, organizational prioritization type of problem.

For example, a lot of companies have been over-rotated toward profitability and efficiency for their supply chains. We've seen a lot of disruption to companies that are single-threaded, with a single point of failure in their supply chain. All of a sudden, the big question for businesses became how to balance out efficiency and profitability against resilience. It's a philosophical and organizational challenge.

Headshot of Brian ZawadaBrian Zawada

Brian Zawada: COVID-19 taught us business continuity did not have the engagement with executive leadership that it should have had all along. The first step is having a conversation about building redundancy and building resilience, possibly at the expense of incurring some financial burden, in a way that resonates with leadership more.

When you do that, the CFO, the COO and the CEO pay attention, and you can have a much more meaningful discussion that ultimately leads to building resilience into all facets of the organization as appropriate.

How will the COVID-19 vaccine change that conversation?

Zawada: I don't think many organizations will fully return to the way they worked before. And even with some of the organizations that made the conscious decision of never going back to the office, you have to ask if that was a knee-jerk reaction, or was that a decision that was fully thought out after having spent 14 months in a mostly virtualized setting.

I don't think the vaccine or putting COVID-19 too far in the rearview mirror is going to necessarily impact the focus on resilience, but it's going to open up some interesting conversations about what the new normal looks like.

Ezrine: It's hard to know exactly what things will look like, but I think it's clear that it won't look like what it did before. One example is hiring and compensation. Compensation has largely been different depending on the markets you live in. Now that so many people have relocated or are willing to relocate to other areas, there's this ability to be remote a lot of the time. What does that mean for how compensation will work across organizations?

In our company, for example, we used to always think about hiring people in the key office locations where we've been. Today, we're not really thinking about it as much, because we realize maybe that doesn't matter. We can go find the best and most experienced talent, regardless of where they are. And I think this is happening all around the world. This is going to change how businesses work and operate in ways that right now are hard to comprehend.

COVID-19 taught us business continuity did not have the engagement with executive leadership that it should have had all along.
Brian ZawadaCOO, Castellan Solutions

How has a more remote and dispersed work environment impacted business continuity?

Zawada: We no longer have a concentration risk of people, but now we have people so spread out that it increases the challenge of accounting for them. Also, their home environments are far less hardened than their office environments. There are new challenges from a security perspective and from the fragility of power and connectivity.

Even now, the business continuity professional today is challenged with what happens during a regional event. With everybody working from home, their primary work location could be offline for potentially days or weeks. Do you have to have a recovery environment for people working from home?

It's basically reversing what we have been planning for years, where your recovery location was home. When home's your office, where's your recovery location? It's an interesting challenge, and we're even starting to see organizations putting together plans to bring people back to the office temporarily just to be able to work.

There's also now an expectation set where people -- and I'm not one of them, by the way -- love the idea of working from home, and they should be able to avoid commuting and avoid the office environment. It's a totally different spin on something that people haven't had to deal with before.

Ezrine: It's challenging organizations to start really thinking about it and not just taking what was in the binder from last year and copying it this year. Business continuity in the past had largely been seen as a compliance exercise. More and more, we're seeing that the events of the last year have caused people to realize it's not just about the appearance of compliance. It's about really being ready to deal with disruption.

With the recent launch of Castellan's SaaS platform, what's your plan with your three other BC software products?

Ezrine: The new Castellan product will be our flagship product, but we're continuing to support the large number of customers on those other products. If they make a decision to move over to the Castellan SaaS product, that'd be great, but there are many customers that won't do that anytime soon. Some organizations are in the middle of coordinating and standardizing things on one of the existing platforms. We're not forcing them, and we're committed to continuing to support them.

We are still onboarding customers with those other products, and we're letting our customers decide what's the right product for them. I think over time, many of them will make the decision to move to the Castellan product because there's such a rich roadmap of things that will be very attractive to many companies.

Zawada: We're going to disproportionately invest in the new product, for sure, but all three of the other BC products will have investment from an innovation perspective.

How many customers do you have now?

Ezrine: We have about 860 customers. It's a very diverse pool. Traditionally, financial services companies have been early leaders in business continuity, because of the regulatory requirements to do so. In the last few years, we've seen a pretty big increase in some of the industries that have not been leaders in business continuity.

I think that reflects the realities of doing business today, where almost any business that you deal with today is relying on another company to provide some critical information or processing. People start asking what they're dependent on, and how many layers of dependencies they have. That's causing businesses to think about their continuity plans, as well as that of their vendors and partners.

We're seeing a large increase in the number of businesses that come to us saying they need to have a better continuity plan in order to win a new customer, because the customer is demanding to see that they've got the ability to take a punch.

More and more businesses' sourcing and procurement teams are saying, 'We need you to comply with this. We need to see that you have maturity in your resilience plans if we're going to send work your way.'

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