The recent outbreak of COVID-19 virus has seen a major lockdown of cities across the globe – sending thousands of workplaces online. The virus is causing pressure to the global economy, with stock markets declining, business travel and meetings cancelled, and supply chains heavily affected.
For Australian small businesses, who have already suffered over the summer from bushfires, drought and floods, the impact of coronavirus could have both immediate and long-term impacts – especially if they are selling to China or relying on China for their supply chain.
Many are now calling on the government for assistance amid the growing coronavirus crisis asking it to consider a stimulus package or a payroll holiday for small businesses.
But the best advice I can offer small businesses is to plan – and plan early. It’s important that small businesses maintain business continuity if this becomes a reality for them.
Employees are beginning to set up home offices to schedule meetings, answer emails, and collaborate on projects. This means remote access and maintaining business continuity has become the number one priority for our clients.
Small businesses need to ensure applications are stable and functional with minimal latency when an entire workforce begins to log on from home, rather than on the network in the office. They also need to ensure they have the correct measures to verify and authenticate employee credentials and login in attempts whilst at home.
We’ve seen it time and time again because employees are in a different mindset when they are at home – they perhaps are more willing to go on unsecured websites on their own internet connection, but this opens a minefield of threats to laptops used for work. You need to make sure your employees are aware of the risks even when they are at home, as well as having the correct IT support network that can manage the transition.
It’s hard for businesses to predict what’s going to happen next. But if you have a plan in place and a strict reporting process that’s kept up to date, you can understand how your business is being affected, where mitigation is required, and how quickly operations are recovering. A crisis doesn’t imply immunity from performance management, and sooner or later markets will judge which companies managed the challenge most effectively.
Small businesses are often on the front line when it comes to a national or an international crisis. Bigger businesses have the benefit of more resources, but small businesses must be more agile and strategic in their approach to something like this.
Whilst we’re keeping our fingers crossed it doesn’t hit home for many local companies, having a solid contingency plan in place will help minimise the impact to businesses and IT infrastructure across the country. Small businesses should also understand that the way we work will be impacted even from what has happened so far. It’s going to change our businesses and society in important ways, but we have an opportunity now to plan ahead, and reflect and adapt accordingly.
Dr Kelvin Ross, Founder and Chairman, KJR