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Pandemic teaches companies to prep for crisis

PUBLISHED BY: The Malaysian Insight

11 Mar 2021

THE Covid pandemic has shown that companies would do well to run regular drills, or risk rehearsals, on their work and business processes, to prepare for crisis, risk experts said.

Risk rehearsals help businesses anticipate future crises and ensure smooth transitions and continuity of operations and processes during a crisis, said BDO Governance and Risk Advisory Malaysia executive director Karthigayan Supramaniam.

Risk rehearsals can be for any aspect of a business, whether IT to enable work-from-home, its finances, or even online teaching, in the case of educational institutions.

Karthigayan said the one piece of common advice he gives his clients is to ensure all their work processes are ready for a crisis.

This includes investing in strong IT infrastructure.

“Are your processes crisis-ready? How do you improve your IT security when everyone is sharing documents out of the office?

“Most Malaysian companies have quite good processes which just need enhancements to face the Covid-19 crisis.

“For example, working from home; companies should rehearse once a year to prepare for business continuity and for levels of security, and other aspects,” Karthigayan told The Malaysian Insight.

Companies should also test run their crisis readiness from the finance perspective.

“Change is fluid and processes must respond to changes,” Karthigayan said, adding that businesses have adapted well to lockdown rules in the last year.

He said he received many requests, especially from large and listed companies, for Covid-19 readiness audit reports.

Forefront Group chairman Darien Mah said his firm worked better during the Covid-19 crisis compared to the 2008 Asian financial crisis.

In the previous crisis, Mah said his creative and marketing agency almost ceased to exist. This time around, they know better.

“We already had a mobile workforce before the pandemic. We operate in several overseas markets which required our team members to travel regionally.

“As such, extensive digitisation took place just two years ago, in which cloud computing was adopted company-wide.

“Being experienced in remote work arrangements with our satellite offices does have its benefits; we feel ready when the entire company is required to work from home.”

Mah said his agency already had strong data security protocols in place, both structurally and legally.

The main challenge the company faced in the pandemic was travel restrictions.

“There are things that you simply cannot replace with teleconferencing, for our business managers to nurture their client relationships.

“What’s lacking in warmth would have to be made up for in diligence – it simply means that we have to work extra hard to make our presence felt with our clients and business partners.”

They are grateful to have secured deals at such a time, in as far as the UK, via teleconferencing.

For educational institutions, the challenge is meeting the key performance indicators (KPIs) during the pandemic.

Dr Jason Ng Wei Jian, Econometrics and Business Statistics Department head at the Monash University in Malaysia, said teaching staff worked longer hours to create online materials and were still expected to deliver the same output.

“We worked longer hours at the expense of our research commitments. We had to manage this whilst still trying to meet our KPIs which had been set prior to the pandemic.

“We were still striving to hit all our KPIs in education, research and engagement, although the university recognised that it might be a challenge to do so,” the senior lecturer said.

Strengthening the IT infrastructure, especially to support virtual learning, was challenging.

“The servers were not able to handle the increased traffic flow from the various IT platforms that the university had started to use at the start of the pandemic.

“For example, a 15-minute video could take hours to upload. Zoom classes had a lot of disruptions with people frequently dropping out or not being able to log on.

“In hindsight, the IT resources had always been there, but the challenge was scaling them up in a very short time.”

He said the Covid-19 crisis had galvanised the university into setting up new preventive and reactive measures.

“New education policies have been put into effect to safeguard students’ concerns. The policies also include frameworks for delivering online pedagogies.

“All staff have had to up-skill their digital competencies with mandatory training courses for GSuite by Google.”

New strategies to diversify revenue streams are yet another result of the coronavirus  experience.

“We have been reliant on tuition fees from undergraduate programmes. There’s now a push for the university to expand its graduate programme offerings, develop micro-credential and executive programmes.” – March 11, 2021.

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