Improve Resilience During a Pandemic with an IT Service Continuity Plan

IT service continuity management (ITSCM) is a core component of ITIL, and chances are that your IT organization has some level of maturity in your ITSCM capabilities and business continuity planning.

The business continuity plan has never been more important than now – around the globe, the current pandemic is putting these plans to the test.

In a brand new study titled 10 Pillars of Pandemic Preparation, Gartner reveals that the pandemic has left many organizations unsure whether their risk mitigation is sufficient. The authors summarize the severity of the situation:

“Just 12% of more than 1,500 people polled in a Gartner business continuity webinar on March 6 believe their businesses are highly prepared for the impact of coronavirus, while 26% believe that the virus will have little or no impact on their business. Most respondents (56%) rate themselves somewhat prepared, and 11% said they were either relatively or very unprepared. Just 2% of respondents believe their business can continue as normal, highlighting the huge range of businesses that could be affected by the outbreak.”

From the IT organization’s perspective, it all comes down to ensuring the continuity of operations, maintaining critical infrastructure and minimizing the overall impact to the business.

Maintain IT Service Continuity During the Pandemic

We are well in the midst of the pandemic and the challenges are escalating on a daily basis. Employees are working remotely – or are unavailable – yet the IT organization still needs to figure out how to sustain IT infrastructure-based services, productivity and business outcomes.

There are challenges around managing outsourced services and maintaining SLAs for customers. And, there are the risks associated with services and products dependent upon third-party vendors and partners. But even as we mitigate these in the immediate term, it’s worth taking a moment to look at the larger picture for some perspective.

The pandemic has the potential to last for months. It will continue to disrupt operations and it is fair to expect that the return to normal will take some time. This means that, even as we respond to challenges, we can expect that the recovery and restoration phases will drag out over time.

Short- and Long-Term Elements of the IT Service Continuity Plan

So, what are some of the IT operations best practices that IT teams can employ in a crisis?

Steps for a Short Term IT Service Continuity Plan

In the short-term, your IT service continuity plan should focus the response on managing operational disruptions and the continuity of business services:

  • Ensure that remote working capabilities continue to be enhanced.
  • Communicate with remote employees to understand how to better to serve their needs so they can be more productive.
  • For customers calling in, leverage technology to streamline digital touchpoints.
  • Ensure you keep an eye on your capacity planning and inventory needs, especially when there are dependencies on outside vendors or partners.

Steps for a Long Term IT Service Continuity Plan

Longer-term actions need to be focused on increasing the resiliency of infrastructure and revising strategic goals to reflect the new reality:

  • Reexamine your track record with challenges faced in the response to the crisis. This will be invaluable when it comes around to recovery and restoration of services and to further strengthen your ITSCM plan for the future.
  • Reevaluate your portfolio of services to understand the priority of each – which ones are business or infrastructure critical, which ones are important, and which ones are deferrable.
  • Revisit strategic initiatives that were probably sidelined when dealing with the crisis. In conjunction with revised revenue, budget and expense forecasts, this will provide an opportunity to set realigned roadmaps and goals as you move ahead.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

How your IT organization reacts to the crisis has long-lasting effects well outside of the practical aspects of ensuring operational continuity. Human touch skills such as communication, empathy and understanding go a long way to build confidence, loyalty and a positive mindset amongst both customers and employees.

The residual memory of employees and customers in the aftermath of the crisis is something that must be managed up front. When properly executed, it can result in positive outcomes for the business.

Lincoln once said, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion.”

No IT service continuity management plan could possibly cover every aspect of the disruption caused by this evolving crisis. But it’s important to do as much as you can and look to a brighter future. Gartner advises that you supplement your existing service continuity plan with specific pandemic preparedness tools.

Properly managed, the lessons learned from the experience will result in a more robust IT infrastructure, enhanced remote working capabilities, and a stronger ITSCM plan that can cope with the uncertainties of future disruptions.

To learn more about how to mitigate the effect of pandemics on your operations, download the infographic “Advice for I&O Leaders During a Global Pandemic.”

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