COVID-19 exposes local firms’ Business Continuity Plans

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  • Companies prefer to satisfy regulators, not save themselves
  • No stress-testing of plans to see their effectiveness

 

Companies in the country that have Business Continuity Plans in place have those plans to satisfy regulatory directives, not to actually save themselves in times of crisis such as COVID-19, a survey conducted by the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI) has revealed.

With two out of three businesses in the country having business continuity plans, the survey points out that four out of five businesses which have those plans have never simulated or stress-tested them; and according to the GNCCI, this raises the question of whether the development of a business continuity plan is an end in itself or a means to an end.

Speaking to the B&FT on the survey, Chief Executive Officer for the GNCCIMark BaduAboagye, said many of the businesses are more particular on meeting regulatory requirements than saving their firms in times of crisis, and therefore are quick to draft business continuity plans but slow to test their efficacy.

Because some regulatory body is asking for it, let’s fix it in our documents,” he said. Mr. Badu-Aboagye therefore urged companies to ask themselves critical questions when adding business continuity plans to their strategies, moving forward.

“We should ask ourselves, ‘if a disaster should happen at this level what will be the effect on revenue; what will the effect be on employees?’ This helps your planning. You know that if anything should happen, for my employees I am keeping 50 percent and this is how much I would be paying them; so you invest toward that. But when you don’t plan and it comes, it will hit you very bad,” he said.

The survey, which focused on the concerns and expectations of businesses in Ghana in regard to COVID-19, also exposed the non-practice of risk simulation as another big challenge the Chamber wants to address among its members.

“People are having business continuity plans, but they have not practiced any risk simulation before. We believe COVID-19 has exposed this very clearly, and measures have to be put in place to ensure that any future disaster will not have businesses struggling like they are currently,” he said.

The Chamber, he noted, has proposed to businesses that they conduct risk simulations at least once annually to prepare themselves for unexpected happenings.

“You don’t know what will come next, it may be bigger than this. If you do a proper simulation, you will put in mitigation measures. Even simple electricity, like the Dumsor that we had, people did not anticipate it. And even after that, they have not factored it into their business continuity plans. So, if Dumsor should come again businesses will still suffer,” Mr. BaduAboagye added.

But the Chamber says it recognises the challenges businesses go through just to break-even, survive and keep jobs. Mr. BaduAboagye said inasmuch as some businesses know and want to do the right thing, they do not make enough returns to invest into activating solid business continuity plans.

Many businesses are making losses, just a few are making reasonable gains; so putting contingency funds aside to resolve some of these issues is not possible. The maximum they can do is two weeks or one month; subsequently, there is no money and you can’t keep people working while you don’t pay them. But if businesses with the little they have try and plan, they can manage for a while.”

As for the worker or employee, Mr. Badu-Aboagye believes they also need to plan. “If you are a worker and you are sent home and your savings can not take care of you for three months, that’s a huge problem.” However, according to the survey, businesses have given strong indication of re-evaluating their business strategies which will be critical in a post COVID-19 era.

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