Most firms have a documented business continuity plan (BCP) for their business.
In many cases, these plans were based on the premise that at least some staff would be able to relocate to an alternative office site – either to a dedicated BCP site, or to the firm’s other office(s) in a different location.
Of course, that does not work in a situation in which everyone except government-defined ‘key workers’ should be working from home.
With that in mind, I am sure many firms have already asked themselves questions like:
- How useful has our documented BCP process proved to be since the onset of the current coronavirus situation?
- How closely do the steps we are taking now to keep our business going, and service our clients, reflect what was envisaged in our BCP arrangements?
- Did our BCP anticipate, and cater for, the particular challenges posed by a pandemic?
- Did we test whether the BCP arrangements would work in practice and, if so, how effective and realistic was that test?
I expect the answers to these questions will vary considerably between one firm and the next. But, regardless of what was in their BCP, many advice firms Bovill work with are telling us that they are currently dealing with similar challenges.
Here are a few we have been hearing about.
Dealing with postal correspondence
Most advice businesses are still reliant to some extent on client correspondence arriving and leaving by post, and on ‘wet signatures’ for certain documents for example, application forms.
When your office(s) are shut, there is an obvious challenge in collecting the incoming post and distributing it to the individuals in your firm who need to see it
Many firms have a process for scanning all their post so it can be stored and distributed electronically, but that process can fall down when the relevant location is closed, or the relevant staff are not available to do the work.
There is not much point redirecting the post if there is no open site to send it to.
Even if you can identify somewhere suitable, we are hearing that some firms are being quoted a significant lead time by the Post Office.
On a more positive note, perhaps the current situation offers an opportunity to persuade some recalcitrant clients to abandon their insistence on certain documents being delivered by hard copy through the post?
IT constraints affecting mass home working
There are various IT-related challenges we are hearing about at Bovill, including:
Network overload: Particularly for larger firms, full network capacity may be reached as lots of people try to access remotely (e.g. via VPN).
Dodgy wifi: The home wi-fi of some staff is not up to the task of efficiently accessing some web-based applications, for example video conferencing software, particularly when more than one person in the household needs to use it.
I can certainly empathise with creaking wi-fi issues: apart from myself, my wife is also working from home, my daughter has returned from university and my son’s school has closed.