As I shelter-in-place with my family in Dallas, first and foremost I hope all of you are well and taking the steps you need to take to remain so.
Every day, the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic seems to create a new set of issues for enterprises and service providers alike. A recent example from one of our large technology clients is particularly interesting. The challenge arose as they worked closely with their service provider ecosystem to ensure business continuity for operations in hot zones across the globe.
This client has operations in multiple locations subject to COVID-19 shelter-in-place requirements. Among its service provider landscape is a large firm delivering services that involve highly confidential materials. These activities are subject to very strict provisions regarding secure delivery facilities and equipment. In fact, the enterprise’s policies require all delivery activities essentially to be performed in facilities meeting quite specific standards.
When Washington state and California started escalating steps toward a shelter-in-place mandate, the enterprise’s leadership recognized that it needed to modify its policies if its service provider’s team was going to be able to deliver any services in a work-at-home model. Thus, they proceeded to make appropriate modifications that eased the facility-specific policy restrictions to enable the service provider to execute its business continuity plans for a work-at-home solution.
Our client expected that this prompt management action to remove a policy constraint would set the stage for business to proceed with minimal disruption. Unfortunately, this quick action uncovered multiple layers of additional complexity, each of which required similar problem-solving and decisions in real-time.
For example, the service provider quickly came back to our client to confirm that the usual security requirements and associated liability limits in their current agreements would not apply. While there were some concerns on securing the technical environment required to deliver the service, the service provider’s primary concern was more organizational in nature – for example, supervision and provisions to ensure proper behavior of individual workers emerged as a critical gap that the service provider could not address in the highly distributed, uncontrolled work-at-home delivery model. Our client and the service provider came to a reasonable solution so the bulk of work could proceed, but this situation highlights the critical nature of examining all aspects of service delivery in light of business continuity.
In between your kids photo-bombing the meeting with that important customer and your pet making the best contribution in your weekly staff meeting, take a step back to prepare to step forward:
- Ensure your own policies enable full implementation of the business continuity plan. You certainly don’t want bottlenecks when you need to implement BCP.
- Be crystal clear in your service provider agreements about your expectations for both normal operations. Relief on SLAs may not extend to removal of obligations for security and other imperatives in extraordinary times.
- Alert your legal team – they should review force majeure provisions to be ready to answer questions as conditions change.
- Begin to chart the post-lockdown adjustments in your global delivery strategy to take advantage of the recovery and position your enterprise for global services safety and success over the long run.
Be safe at home.
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