After the initial shock of the sudden lockdown in March 2020, followed by supply chain and other challenges and the subsequent need to figure out new ways of working, most business leaders had hoped things would return to normal gradually. Unfortunately, we’re facing yet another year of global and local challenges as recent events have shown, and the need to remain flexible continues to be a top priority for business operations.
In many organisations, that flexibility has been driven by embracing technology, whether it’s a system for accounting or supply chain management, for warehouse stock counting or financial analysis. Software such as Sage X3 has introduced better ways to manage the entire business, both remotely and on a global scale, too.
The move to remote access for essential business platforms has helped businesses to seize the opportunity of working from anywhere, at any time. Supply chain disruptions have happened enough that there are experiences to draw from. This “new normal” has become part of the furniture, just the way we do things now. It would seem we’ve adjusted…
But, there’s one thing that businesses can’t routinely plan for in this new day and age: the chance that an indispensable staff member is incapacitated, and so can’t work. While on a human level we can empathise and understand that these things happen, on an operational level that could leave the unprepared business with a giant hole in their team.
One way to help ensure staff absences don’t impact business operations is to both have strong business continuity planning in place, and to work within a privately-hosted ERP system that helps to ensure ongoing data flows and remote access rights.
How’s your business continuity planning in the post-Covid world?
Enterprise software such as ERP systems have played a vital role in maintaining business continuity in many organisations in the last few years, but it’s not a new phenomenon. Businesses large and small have been incorporating technological solutions into their operations for more than a decade, but not all have embraced the next generation of ERP, even with 53 per cent of businesses believing ERP is one of the priority sectors for investment – just half of organisations are acquiring, upgrading or planning to update ERP systems soon, according to G2.
Enterprise resource planning software does more than just organise your business; it builds in flexibility, enables better data flows, and can drive better strategic decision-making thanks to real-time robust data. That’s why many consider a move to privately-hosted ERP systems with remote access and shared data as essential to business continuity planning in the post-Covid world – it doesn’t just help to navigate the challenges, but the real-time data helps to spot potential issues before they escalate to major problems.
Consider business continuity as “an organisation’s ability to maintain essential functions during and after a disaster has occurred,” as Tech Target describes it: “Business continuity planning establishes risk management processes and procedures that aim to prevent interruptions to mission-critical services, and re-establish full function to the organisation as quickly and smoothly as possible.” It’s about maintaining resiliency and responding quickly – which means you need access to your systems and your data if you want to get back on track.
Cast your mind back to early 2020 when the world went into the pandemic spin, and business continuity plans came into force. Companies first needed to figure out how to keep the virtual doors open, keep the warehouse flowing, keep the supply chain going. They needed to do this, of course, while ensuring the safety of their staff remained top of mind – which, when possible, meant a move to remote working. ERP software with secure remote access helped to facilitate that move, providing the bones of flexible working and operational stability. It also highlighted the gaps for many businesses, with those still operating in the old ways struggling to keep the lights on in many places.
Privately-hosted ERP solutions accessed from home helped businesses to assess assets and resources throughout lockdown and the other challenges of the pandemic, which in turn helped to formulate a plan to deal with disaster recovery and keep the engine greased. Those who didn’t have that level of access were forced to operate at minimal levels, or even to shut down to comply with government mandates concerning the health and safety of staff.
The big lesson from the early days of the pandemic was the need to have your business house in order at all times as a way to meet these challenges as prepared as you can be. Those companies that muddled through the last few years would be wise to use this experience as a learning tool, and seek to update their business continuity plans to include how staff can access essential business information when they’re not in the office, and indeed how others can access their work in the event of a staff member becoming incapacitated in some way.
When working from home becomes the norm
A comprehensive business continuity plan will include details of how to ensure mission-critical operations proceed during a disruption, whether that disruption is short-term, such as an earthquake or blackout, or long-term as we’ve seen with the pandemic. These plans should include contact information for key personnel, and details of the chain of command and line of succession.
“Business continuity planning isn’t just about recovering IT functions,” writes Luke Irwin for IT Governance. “It’s primarily concerned with critical activities that, if disrupted, could immediately jeopardise your productivity or the availability of your services.” In CEO Today magazine, Jonathan Sharp writes of the “4 Ps of business continuity”: People, processes, premises and providers/partners.
When your ERP ecosystem is privately-hosted with secure remote access and shared data, you can access your business at any time, from anywhere, helping you to keep the lights on and the warehouse running – it’s central to an organisation’s ability to survive and prosper in this new business environment. With a robust ERP implementation programme, companies can have quick and direct access to data; this in turn helps to drive improvement in areas such as financial forecasting, order management, operation analysis, and so on.
But what of the people? Technology can be controlled, but humans are fallible.
Turn your attention, then, to this new world of remote working in an organisation that hasn’t factored access or people into the business continuity plan. What happens when you can’t just walk over to someone’s desk and ask them a question? What happens when the person you need to speak with to check the status of an order is not answering their messages? What happens if that mission-critical keeper of the supply chain spreadsheet gets Long Covid and disappears for months on end?
With ERP as an essential part of operational norms, remote working is no longer such a challenge. Admins can control user access rights and ensure the right people have the right access to the right information at the right time – something that can’t be done if the absent staff member in question is working directly on local spreadsheets.
Staff can go down, but business always continues
It’s not just Covid that continues to havoc with staffing and resourcing. If Bob in logistics manages the supply chain using a closely guarded Excel spreadsheet housed on his desktop, and then Bob succumbs to Covid, what’s your back-up plan? Is the plan sustainable, repeatable, efficient?
If you’re still using legacy systems, or you’re still relying on a single person to maintain operational data, the answer to those questions (and more) is likely to be a resounding “no” – and it’s not just Covid-related issues that can stall production.
By taking control of the entire business with ERP such as Sage X3, established organisations can gain greater efficiency, flexibility and insight – delivering faster, simpler and more flexible financial, supply chain and production management. Even if “the guy who takes care of that” falls ill or gets run over by the proverbial bus, the ERP ecosystem can help to ease the burden and keep the plates spinning.
If you’re looking for a safe pair of hands with your business processing software, discover the Inixion difference and get in touch.