Planning for the worst may not be the most thrilling way to spend your time, but it has to be done. Adverse events, like we’re seeing with COVID-19, can cause endless disruption to a college campus. A business continuity plan helps institutions minimize the impact of a disruption and get faculty and staff back to business-as-usual as soon as possible.
Let’s back up and define business continuity. In the context of this post, it means maintaining or restoring mission-critical functions when an adverse event occurs. An adverse event includes natural disasters, man-made emergencies, global pandemics, and even a local event like a carnival that causes disruption on your campus. Business continuity planning also includes identifying vulnerabilities, priorities, dependencies, and measures for developing plans to facilitate continuity and recovery before, during, and after such an event.
Business continuity is different than emergency management. An emergency manager might ask “How do we respond to the forecasted tornado warning?” while a business continuity manager asks, “How will the forecasted tornado affect payroll and invoicing? How can we minimize or eliminate downtime for those functions?”
And in higher ed, there is more to consider. Not only must a college or university continue the critical business functions like payroll and invoicing, but it must also continue teaching and research.
With a robust business continuity plan in place, an institution can avoid significant setbacks. A few years ago, the University of Hawaii System began to implement online processes to decrease the number of paper processes on campus. Because of this, their transition to remote work was less painful than others’. A business continuity planner at East Carolina University shared that the faculty and staff on her campus knew what to do when Hurricane Matthew hit because they had been part of the planning process.
With the rise of COVID-19, business continuity for higher ed has been called into question like never before. This is the first time in decades that every single higher education institution across the globe is affected by an adverse event at the same time. IT has responded rapidly to facilitate online education. Faculty have done the same, completely revamping their curriculum over a weekend. Research facilities, complying with social distancing, have made difficult decisions to euthanize research animals with no onsite staff to feed them.
Along with IT, faculty, and researchers, the pandemic is causing problems for higher ed administrators as well. Because of COVID-19, most faculty and staff are working from home. Spoiler alert: the traditional higher education institution was not built to accommodate remote work. Administrative processes require staff to be face-to-face, at least most of the time. With administrators now working from their kitchens, those traditionally paper-based processes are completely disrupted.
How do you plan for business continuity around that?
We can help. You don’t need to wait until your VP comes to you and asks what your needs are. Take initiative and start working on a department-level continuity plan today. Via the form found here, you can get started free of charge or stipulations. You can begin collecting the most important COVID-19 information right away.
If you’re looking for something more robust, check out Kuali Ready, a continuity planning software built specifically for higher education.