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Optimize a BCDR strategy for 2021 and beyond

COVID-19 has changed the way many organizations view BCDR. Along with an increased interest in resilience, a pandemic-proof BCDR plan is likely top of mind for 2021.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, business continuity and disaster recovery planning and technology have evolved -- a trend that will continue through 2021.

With nearly a year of adapting to business process changes from COVID-19, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) have become more valuable in organizations of all types and sizes. In addition, resilience has become a way to embrace numerous disciplines to protect, recover and restore business operations.

A BCDR strategy and program management, as well as resilience, will be increasingly important to how businesses operate this year.

What has -- and hasn't -- changed?

Changes to industry standards, regulations and products reflect how BCDR and related disciplines, such as incident response and emergency management, have evolved with the coronavirus pandemic.

No major changes related to COVID-19 have occurred to primary BC and DR standards, such as ISO 22301:2019, and no specific pandemic standard has emerged yet. ISO updates its standards every three to five years, so changes related to the effects of COVID-19 might occur in the next year or so.

Because they were developed or updated fairly recently, standards related to business continuity plan components, such as business impact analyses, supply chain protection and cloud technology, also remain mostly unchanged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, many BCDR vendors have added services to their portfolios, such as pandemic plan development. Some have added software modules to address pandemics, developed training and awareness programs based on pandemic lessons learned, and offer guidance documents on preparing for future pandemics.

Pandemic recovery planning -- traditionally considered a separate discipline -- is now likely part of current BCDR strategy and related disciplines.

Changes to a BCDR strategy and related plans will be different for every company, but may affect the following:

  • remote working models;
  • how employees perform their work;
  • how employees interact with each other;
  • office space organization;
  • how the business maintains employee health and safety;
  • customer needs;
  • how the business interacts with customers; and
  • supply chains.

Long-term effects of the pandemic

Availability of COVID-19 vaccines will have a positive effect related to the current pandemic. However, the fact that viruses can mutate gives pause for concern around new strains. Considering the time needed to develop, manufacture and distribute vaccines, BCDR and associated disciplines will remain just as important in the coming years as they have been during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic recovery planning -- traditionally, considered a separate discipline -- is now likely part of current BCDR strategies. Experience from COVID-19 has demonstrated that pandemic preparation in IT involves several activities, including the potential changes listed above.

The experience gained from remote work models is likely to change corporate policies and procedures. Improved methods to protect employee health and productivity, manage supply chains, improve customer experiences and operate are a must. The end goals for the business will be to increase revenues and minimize losses, protect reputations and competitive positions, and attract and retain customers.

Resilience vs. BCDR

A discipline that emerged about 20 years ago, resilience is the ability of an organization to respond to a disruptive event and adapt its business processes accordingly. Resilience requires the necessary resources and employee commitment to quickly recover and resume business operations.

Some think of resilience as an umbrella term for all disciplines related to business recovery.

Some look at resilience as an end game or the result of the proper execution of BCDR and other practices. Without a BCDR strategy, resilience will not result.

But questions remain. Will resilience be the new BCDR? Will BCDR be subdisciplines within resilience? Will emerging forms of resilience replace BCDR and related disciplines? The coming years will show how these views play out and whether resilience emerges as a true corporate mandate.

The big picture

To prepare a BCDR strategy for 2021 and beyond, take into account the above procedures and considerations. Maintain traditional BCDR activities, such as exercising, training and awareness programs; periodic reviewing and auditing; and regular briefings with senior management. As the current pandemic continues -- and, hopefully, declines -- in 2021, practitioners should increase the frequency of the above activities and update their plans to incorporate lessons they learned from 2020.

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