More needs to be done to help New Zealand businesses better prepare for natural disasters according to an industry expert.
The call comes following the results of a recent survey which found Kiwi companies lag behind those in other markets in their level of preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frazer Scott, CEO of Plan B, a company with specialisation in business continuity and disaster recovery, says while the New Zealand civil defence model is designed to prepare the public to maintain their physical wellbeing in the event of a natural disaster, there is little preventative support offered to businesses.
He says greater awareness of the risks facing medium and small businesses is needed to help better prepare them ahead of these disasters and will save millions in lost productivity, prevent job losses, and expedite our economic recovery.
Retailers can be affected by disasters in many ways, whether natural or man-made. And the recent lockdowns show that retailers have been caught out, with many unable to access valuable data, operate remotely, or continue to run skeleton operations.
Speaking exclusively to The Register about how New Zealand retailers can prepare for disasters, Scott says “over recent years I think retail has benefited from a lot of modern cloud-based inventory and point-of-sale applications that will provide healthy levels of resiliency through disruption. I think an area then that I’d ensure retailers were thinking about would be ensuring the resiliency of other core technology, like payroll, shipping, and of course Email like Microsoft 365. Ensuring these are backed up and all systems regularly tested would be key”.
Regarding issues that all businesses face in a lockdown or when disaster strikes, one of the most common is “businesses being unable to access their physical infrastructure, meaning even carrying out mundane tasks at this level became impossible for those not deemed essential services.”
“Many companies also work on the assumption that because it’s ‘in the cloud’ it’s backed up or indeed secured, which unfortunately is not always the case,” he says.
Scott says international research carried out after the first lockdown suggests a large proportion of New Zealand businesses need support to ensure the continuity of their operations. The results of the survey show New Zealand businesses were significantly less prepared for the pandemic than their trans-Tasman counterparts. More than half (53%) of respondents indicated their business continuity plan and disaster recovery framework will need to be revamped for future pandemics/crisis – compared to less than a third (29%) of Australian businesses.
“What we want to see is more support for businesses allowing them to better prepare for disasters by helping them to understand their points of vulnerability and barriers to continuity. We know that while we can adapt to working from home, the ability to access our records and communicate are fundamental to maintaining business operations. Something as simple as teaching them how to test the robustness of their operations and systems can prevent a devastating level of disruption.”
Scott says technology plays a critical role in business continuity and that while SMEs often don’t suffer the legacy systems that larger customers have and can often be more agile in moving to outsourced models or cloud services, they can lack the internal resources to build the capability necessary to prepare for a disaster.
He says their advice to businesses is to plan for the known, and the unknown. Ensure you have a plan to operate your business securely, without access to your facilities. Testing this capability quarterly is critical.
“Many organisations ‘back-up’ their data, but few test it religiously – and it should be something that executive teams and boards test for as part of their Business Continuity plans.
“Also, you can’t outsource risk, but you can reduce it by outsourcing – rely on experts who have multiple redundancies in their systems to protect you and your critical data,” he says.
Scott says the research also found more than a third (34%) of Kiwi businesses plan to add working from home into their HR policy and found that NZ business expectations for the economy are more optimistic than other countries, but 40% still think GDP will drop by double digits in 2020.
Find out more about Plan B’s offerings here.