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The 3 Risk Pillars of COVID-19 Business Continuity

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three pillars
March 31, 2020

We're a few weeks into this new normal of working from home, closing the books virtually, and running remote internal audits.

Right now, as a risk and compliance professional, you're likely focused on one thing: business continuity risk. You play a critical part in keeping the whole enterprise moving.

After some conversations with finance leaders at various organizations, I've found that in trying times like these, there are three pillars that solidify business continuity. Below, find more detail and tips on how to solidify each one.

Pillar One: Tone at the top

Now is a time for leaders to be made—or for leaders to falter. 

Organizations have a social responsibility to communicate with the public and local communities about what's going on with their companies. They usually have a fiduciary one to investors and suppliers to report information to their supply chains.

Leaders must do this to get in front of reputational risk damage. Be transparent in what the business is trying to do, and provide forecast guidance on earnings calls if you know the business is going to be impacted.

How to solidify this pillar:

Set a tone at the top for your team to assuage fears, and coach leadership through communications and policies designed to protect employee well-being, act as responsible members of your community, and minimize disruption.

Pillar Two: Productivity

If you're like me, your home office just became your only office. While we're grateful to get work done, the gap between work and life just became much, much smaller. Aside from the inconveniences, there's a risk aspect to consider in the context of business continuity.

The pandemic has made the benefits of working from home rather obvious. In 2018, nearly a quarter of the U.S. workforce worked from home on an average day—a number that has undoubtedly skyrocketed in the past few weeks. 

While working from home helps keep the ship afloat, watching after sick family members, closed schools, or lack of childcare—the real-life stuff people are going through right now—impacts productivity. It's only human to allow employees the time they need to address these issues, it should still be factored into the overall scope of work that can be done within a set period of time.

How to solidify this pillar:

Prioritize the well-being of your staff. Boosting morale, keeping in touch, giving people a sense of belonging to the group, and providing focus is vital. Set up frequent video chat meetings to keep the team momentum going. 

More than that, make sure they have the tools to be effective, whether that's extra monitors, peripheral gear like keyboards, adjustments to work hours, or technology that helps them manage internal audit remotely. 

Pillar Three: Supply and demand

Most businesses have a supply and demand cycle, seasonality, or buying trends that risk departments keep their finger on the pulse of—and most of those trends just flew out the door over the past few weeks. 

Not only is it critical to know your business continuity plan inside and out, you should familiarize yourself with your suppliers’ business continuity and disaster recovery plans. They're looking to update and address how they handle business with you, as you're dealing with the other way around.

Let's take manufacturing as an example: auto manufacturers, vacuum manufacturers, and others are retooling to make critical medical ventilators. Their suppliers, and the companies that are supplied by them, may need to recalibrate the things on their audit radar, such as order management, inventory rationing, and more.

How to solidify this pillar:

Watch out for deficiencies in scope, scale, risk prioritization, monitoring, testing, and communication processes, among others. Failing to react during this pandemic may leave your bottom line—and more importantly, your employees and customers—at risk.

How can you prevent that risk, exactly? Keep reading for four quick ways to do just that.

Bonus: Free COVID-19 templates from AuditNet

To help your organization avert risk, no matter what software you use, we collaborated with AuditNet to create four critical templates, covering risk management, business continuity, preparedness and planning review, and more.

Download them now, and keep your organization running smoothly despite the risks of COVID-19.

For more information on making sense of what’s happening in the world of risk and how to keep your team on track, visit our Handbook for the New Normal of Accounting, Finance, and Risk.

About the Author

Ernest Anunciacion, Director of Product Marketing, brings over 15 years of experience in internal audit, risk management, and business advisory consulting to Workiva. Ernest is a Certified Internal Auditor and Six Sigma Black Belt. He holds an undergraduate degree and an executive MBA from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota.

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