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IBM exec says companies need to assess response to pandemic to be ready for next one

The COVID-19 pandemic claimed thousands of lives. It has crippled the global economy pushing companies to the edge with reports of airlines filing of bankruptcy and business closure. Patrick Corcoran, Global Strategy Executive, Business Resiliency Services with over 40 years of experience, said organizations need to look back and analyze how they responded to this unprecedented crisis.

In a livestream interview, Corcoran, an industry expert with over 43 years at IBM, said that while companies have prepared for all types of disasters including natural, man-made, and cyberattacks, the COVID-19 crisis has thrown everyone off-guard affecting business continuity considerably.

“We’ve never seen anything like this, having such a significant impact on the world’s economy in such a short period,” he said. “In the business world, you have to ensure that your products and services are continuously available.”


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Opting to look at the situation with a more optimistic perspective, he said companies can take this downtime to analyze how they fared in the crisis so they can plan for the next one.

Infrastructure

Corcoran stressed the domino effect of any crisis.

“It creates another crisis and another,” he explained. “COVID-19 is a health crisis, but it’s hit the financial market, travel, supply chain. It’s impacting things as diverse as manufacturing, aviation, tourism, and travel, through retail to healthcare and the workforce supply chain. It’s important to understand and address the chain reaction from a crisis in your business continuity planning.”

He also explained how companies should look at their infrastructures — buildings, facilities — as these have an impact on their continuity plan. They “need to be locked into your local government’s crisis plans.”

The need to ensure the supply chain has become one of the major concerns during the pandemic and these must remain secure and reliable, according to Corcoran. He also reminded organizations of their — and understanding — insurance coverage. They need to share with the insurance companies (information) to get what they’re looking for and to get what they deserve.

He also recognized that not a lot of business or world leaders were prepared for another global health crisis since the spread of H5N1 in 2006.

Cybersecurity

To stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, governments ordered quarantine or lockdowns that forced employees to work from home. The less secure setup is a nightmare for many organizations posing a lot of risks for corporate data.

“During every crisis event, cyber attackers are very active,” he said. “They know we’re upset and worried, and that increases the odds for mistakes, making us more vulnerable. So they’re ready to come after us. We’re warning everyone about an increase in malware and phishing attacks.”

He advised everyone to put more focus on security than before by putting effective measures to mitigate attacks on networks through employees’ devices.

Value the employees

“Remember, the cybercriminal only has to be right once; we have to be right 100% of the time,” Corcoran said.

More importantly, Corcoran said companies should look after its people.

“Everyone is going through a lot of emotions,” he said. “We started out feeling fearful, and that leads to doing things we don’t normally do, like getting angry or complaining frequently.”

He said that people make a company run and their role in keeping the business running amid the crisis.

“They’ve got to be the most important aspect of your business continuity strategy,” Corcoran said.