A survey of SMEs conducted by the leading IT solutions consultancy ramsac shows that whilst 60% of businesses had at least half their staff absent during the snow in January, only 33% actually had an effective business continuity plan in place. As a result 94% of the organisations polled admitted that whilst staff worked hard to try and maintain service levels, they were often unable to do so whilst working from home.
The widespread adverse weather conditions that hit the UK earlier this year highlighted, for many businesses, that they do not have the appropriate contingency plan in place to keep business as usual when hit by crisis. Robert May, Managing Director of ramsac explains, “The estimates of the cost to the UK economy caused by lost working days over the first two weeks of 2010 vary wildly (our survey suggested an average of around £13,800 for each business that responded), but it’s very clear that a huge proportion of businesses in the UK had large numbers of staff unable to get in to their normal place of work. Unfortunately it wasn’t an isolated case. Severe weather in December and also back in February of 2009, demonstrated that it’s not just a one off occurrence.”
Despite the recent snow-bound reminders, bad weather isn’t the only thing that can render whole offices (or vital members of staff) out of action. As May comments, “Pandemic illness, child care problems, power failures, floods, fires – the list of possible interruptions to the modus operandi are countless – so it is essential to plan for these potential problems.”
The ramsac survey shows that only 22% of respondents have a documented business continuity plan that they feel meets their current needs should a crisis hit. This is juxtaposed by the fact that all the respondents said that they had staff working from home during the recent bad weather and demonstrates a clear need for companies to take a good look at their needs and build a contingency plan to protect their business activities.
“Another issue that our survey highlighted was the type of IT access that businesses provide remote working employees when away from the office,” says May. “While all the respondents said they provide remote access to email and 67% could offer home workers access to CRM/customer databases and other key business applications, none of the businesses offered remote access to the office telephone system. In an emergency the telephone is still the main channel of communication for customers, suppliers and employees, so it needs to be up and running.
ramsac uses a technology known as Unified Communications, which combines the telephone system with the rest of the IT communications system. “It was invaluable to us during the recent bad weather as we were able to maintain a fully functional business telephone system, which extended to all the team members at their home/remote locations and facilitated a seamless service to our clients,” explains May.
ramsac advises businesses plan as well as examine the key business opportunities to be won from being prepared for disruption ahead of your competition, rather than simply dwelling on the potential problems. May concludes, “New technologies are making it easier and simpler to provide employees with all the business tools they need, wherever they are, so building these into a continuity plan can help to ensure that business operations will continue whatever challenges you face.”