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What businesses should consider when developing resilience & sustainability plans

By Samuel Gitta


It has been a rollercoaster of events during the pandemic. Just as the dust seems to be
settling, comes a new variant, armed with the power to wreak havoc. Lockdown after
lockdown. But the business environment, unpredictable as the weather, needs to be
governed. That is why the gospel of businesses invoking business resilience and
sustainability plans has been one of the most pronounced in a span of a year.
Businesses ought to create business resilience and sustainability plans to sail through the
effects of the pandemic. If you have a business, or are thinking of starting one, here are
some of the key considerations they should have in mind.
It is important to understand that resilience is being able to deal with shocks. Life is
unpredictable and any business, small or big should prepare to deal with any shocks thrown
at it. That is the essence of a resilience plan. Simply put, a plan B for businesses.
The right time to create a resilience plan
One challenge we have seen during the pandemic is that businesses wait for the shocks to
plan for them. A resilience plan should be created the minute a business is set up. In the
telecom industry, a resilience plan can be based on a product or project. If a business has
partners in a project, the business ought to understand the continuity risks with that partner
lest you risk failure. That is why the resilience plan needs to be done at the initiation of a
project or product and needs to be refreshed periodically.
You can set a minimum as to when you must review a plan. It is recommended annually, but
should also be revised as and when the shocks are emerging or there has been a material
change in the process.
How to create the plan
A resilience plan has two fronts; Internal and external.
The Internal aspect of a plan deals with features inside a company for example staff and
technology. In regard to technology, a business needs to have a resilience plan for loss of
data or information through for example a natural disaster ie earthquakes. This can be
mitigated by disaster recovery through possession of a backup.
The other aspect is staff for example critical staff deemed important to the resilience of the
business.
It is paramount that a business is designed to have redundancy if person A isn’t available, B
can take on the role. The same applies for service providers; always have a buffer such that
if one has challenges, the other can take up the service.
The external aspects are even harder to predict as you may not have control over them.
These may not be predictable, but there are those that are. For instance, forex. It is common for many businesses to spend quite a bit in investment and operational expenditure using
forex. Whereas you can make short term plans, you have to keep watch of changes in the
exchange rates because they can affect your business plans.
A resilience plan, often created on an annual basis, should bear points at which it can be
invoked for example; when a covid-19 wave evolves, you invoke certain aspects of the plan.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, MTN had already developed a robust business continuity or
resilience plan to ensure uninterrupted service delivery to its customers in times of adversity.
We tried out the WFH (Work-From-Home) model by positioning some of our call center staff
in a different location outside their work premises just as a preparation plan way before
Covid-19. Therefore, when the pandemic emerged, we seamlessly adopted the WFH model
primarily to protect the staff from infection exposure, as well as in compliance with the
government of Uganda guidance and directives. On average 70% of staff are currently
working from home.
The plan is to be used as and when those shocks happen or for certain shocks you can see
in the horizon, for example forex depreciation. It often comes gradually meaning you can set
in points at which you invoke your plan for example if it gets to this rate, this is what we do.
Monitoring is critical
You need to have a means of monitoring the micro and macro environment to determine
when to invoke the plan. One of the tenets can be the positivity rate for staff. It can help you
plan for worst case scenarios for example when someone resigns, there has to be a period
of transitioning. There are exits of critical employees, you need to invoke the plan.
There are international standards on both resilience and sustainability however, the big three
big are people, process and technology. As you design any business resilience plan, look at
it on the people side, processes side, then from a technology side.
These can be distilled further eg liquidity/cash flow plans. A business ought to have a solid
cash flow plan for sustainability. While it is important to have a resilience plan, monitoring
and refreshing cannot be neglected. Most of these shocks trend over time before they create
impact.
Resilience feeds into sustainability. Sustainability can be affected by ability to innovate. Eg
Kodak, Yahoo. You might be doing well now, but oblivious to changes from emerging
competition or way of life of your customers. So if you don’t have a good innovation
framework to introduce new products or agility in delivery, you might not have a sustainable
business. If you had sit in arrangements for your restaurant and the pandemic hit, yet you
were without an online delivery solution, then the business might not be sustainable. If you
don’t innovate and the competition does, then you might not be sustainable.
As a business, sustainability and resilience plans are provisions for longevity, but it is key to
remember that without the technical capacity and frequent reviews, the plan remains yet
another document in your stock pile.

Merry Christmas and a prosperous business next year!

The author is the general manager Risk and Compliance, MTN Uganda

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