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Andrew Tan, Managing Director, HKBN JOS Singapore
Andrew Tan Managing Director, HKBN JOS Singapore

As the Managing Director of HKBN JOS Singapore, Andrew Tan spearheads business and operations in Singapore, leading the company’s transformation and growth. He took up this position in 2016, bringing with him more than two decades of business experience in the technology field, blending his technology expertise with his strong business acumen.

Key Takeaways
As the business landscape gets increasingly uncertain and ambiguous, it is imperative for businesses to remain operationally resilient.
Developing a comprehensive business continuity plan (BCP) is an ongoing effort.
Business stakeholders, processes and technology need to be included in an effective BCP.
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January 31, 2020
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Coronavirus Outbreak – business-as-usual or disrupted?

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Staying resilient

Very often, companies fret over how abrupt incidents like cyberattack, power shortage or hardware failure can cripple their business operations. However, many times, we fail to consider the dire consequences a physical threat targeting humans like an epidemic can affect businesses.

The recent outbreak of Novel Coronavirus, also known as the Wuhan Coronavirus, has reinforced how the business landscape is susceptible to environmental changes and disruptive forces. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a global health emergency on the coronavirus outbreak as it poses threats beyond its origins in China. To step up precautionary measures against the spread, Singapore government has imposed travel restrictions on holders of Chinese passport issued in Hubei and new visitors who have travelled to the affected area in the last 14 days. Quarantine orders for students, staff and employees in Singapore are also issued if they have been to Hubei the last fortnight. In fact, high-profile businesses like Apple, Google and Microsoft have banned non-essential travel for their employees.

To attain operational resiliency in such times, it pays for businesses to be prepared with a sound risk management framework and business continuity plan (BCP). In this world of ambiguity and uncertainty, it is crucial for your business to respond swiftly in unforeseen events. But what exactly are the responsibilities of business stakeholders as well as the technology and processes in the business contingency strategy?

Stakeholders – A role to play

As a company grows, the ecosystem of partners, vendors and customers becomes more extensive and interdependent. Besides the essential protocols and infrastructure included in BCP, stakeholders must be ready to act and respond effectively. 

With the recent outbreak of coronavirus, were you able to notify your customers and vendors about business changes and announcements timely with minimal disruptions to their operations? Effective communication channels must be in place so that the message get relayed to the relevant parties. In fact, solicit feedback should be gathered from stakeholders when developing BCP to ensure viability of the action plans. 

Internally, businesses should conduct awareness training such as workplace hygiene and protection to educate employees and ensure a safe, conducive work environment. Businesses can also implement flexible working arrangements and business travel restrictions to reduce social contact and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, for these strategies to be embedded in organisational ethos, it is imperative for the management to make business continuity a strategic priority and foster a culture that embraces it positively.
 

Process – A necessity for business-as-usual

Besides stakeholders, business processes make up the fundamental block to the daily operations within an organisation. Businesses need to map out essential processes and implement safeguards across all functions like Sales, Finance, Operations, Human Resources to ensure business-as-usual. It is recommended that these processes are digitalised and orchestrated so that approvals can be done in a timely fashion without the need of physical copies.

As mentioned above, the increasingly complex and interlaced ecosystem calls for businesses to look beyond their internal stakeholders and extend the BCP to customers and vendors. Whether it is the fulfilment of a sales order or a service delivery, businesses need to review critical processes to ensure operational functionality.

Technology – A crucial enabler for your policies

One of the main differences between the SARS outbreak in 2002 and the current Novel Coronavirus in business landscape is the advancement of technology. Today, technology has become a crucial enabler for businesses to roll out risk mitigation plans and precautionary measures.

For instance, employees today can work remotely and productively if they are equipped with the right tools – a laptop or have adopted the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. Instead of traditional and physical workspaces, employees can leverage tools like cloud platforms or VPN to access real-time information, enabling them to work anywhere, anytime. 

Businesses should assess their critical infrastructure to facilitate seamless collaboration between colleagues, customers and vendors, to minimise the need for business travels. Unified communications tools can be utilised to host virtual meetings and conference, reducing the need for face-to-face meetings. Most importantly, all these need to be secure to reduce the potential of cyberattacks. After all, no one wants to handle a cyberattack while fighting a pandemic. 

Staying safe while being operationally resilient

In this volatile and ambiguous landscape, businesses need to realise a BCP requires ongoing reviewing and monitoring. Though we can never be fully prepared for every situation, we should continuously monitor and adjust the BCP for contingencies. 

As you would have realised, technology is only but a piece of the entire puzzle. Underlying a comprehensive BCP is also the importance of effective internal communication and clear process workflows. At HKBN JOS, we want to be your technology partner to tackle such unforeseen circumstance to ensure business continuity. 

Are you ready for the unknown?

Andrew Tan