Adapting to COVID-19

Adapting your business continuity plan in the time of COVID-19


  • Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 5.14.33 PM.png
    Aaron Nasi, Manager, Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery at Twilio
  • Mar 17, 2020
TLDR

Key components of an effective business continuity plan include: leadership succession planning, contingency plans, work from home arrangements, ensure policies support best practices, deep cleaning, evaluating if your physical locations could potentially be commandeered, providing outlets of mental health support. 

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Like many businesses, Twilio has business continuity plans for challenging times—like the ones we find ourselves in today—to ensure we are able to maintain our key business functions, support our teams, and continue to serve our customers in the event of a disruptive event.

As we all know, we find ourselves today in a time of unprecedented crisis.

Especially now, in a time of crisis, supporting our customers to ensure communications are delivered effectively and reliably is more important than ever. We’re leaning on our pandemic and business continuity plans, which you can learn more about here, to ensure we are able to do just that, while also supporting the people who make up the Twilio team, mitigating additional and ongoing risk, and continuing to meet international business continuity management systems standards.

As we continue to move forward through uncertainty, unsure when this risk will subside or life could return to something even remotely resembling ‘normal,’ businesses across the globe are feeling the pain. This situation is forcing businesses of all sizes, in all industries, to revisit and re-evaluate their plans for pandemic response and business continuity.

Let’s look at the key components of an effective business continuity plan (BCP), how you might adapt it to respond to specific COVID-19 demands, and finally, how Twilio can hopefully help.

What is business continuity, anyway?

Business continuity is just what it sounds like: maintaining business activities at acceptable levels (or getting back to them quickly) in the case of a significant business disruption.

Read more about our planning process here.

These plans of action are pulled out in times of business disruptions, when the stakes are high and otherwise cool-headed individuals may find themselves struggling to move forward. Can’t think straight worrying about what will come out in the next new cycle? Fear not: your business continuity plan gives you a blueprint for continuing on while taking into account the event you face, having been created at a time when there was the time and space to plan something comprehensive and thoughtful.

These plans are unique to each individual business that creates them, but often include some very similar information: a response decision-making framework, , key contact lists, inventories, communication protocols, and much more.

Some organizations might focus on certain specifics. For example, being a tech company, Twilio might fall into the common trap of only planning for technology disruptions. We know, though, that it takes more than a secure platform and high-availability architecture to maintain the standards our customers expect, so we focus not just on the platform, but the systems, facilities, and third party relationships that all coordinate to help us deliver our best service no matter what the scenario.

Key considerations of Twilio’s Business Continuity Program (BCP)

  • Ensuring resilience in the face of unpredictable crisis events is a continual effort, and an investment reflecting our ongoing commitment to protecting our people, customers, and products. Below you’ll find more on how we structured and created our plans.

  • Business impact analysis: This annual process helps us understand our business requirements, set recovery plan requirements, and identify gaps and areas of vulnerability that need to be addressed. It’s the starting point for a functional, effective BCP.

  • Strategy analysis: After the business impact analysis, our team identifies strategies for recovery if a disruptive event occurs, and identifies areas where we could do better and strengthen our response.

  • BCP planning: With strategies in place, we update our plans on how specific teams can respond and recover in the event of varying loss scenarios. Teams have ownership over their plans to ensure they are usable, actionable, and updated.

  • Exercises: Plans are exercised as part of the annual life cycle of the entire planning process and are tested via tabletop exercises and simulations. We have a formal process in place to document and track any corrective actions and lessons learned during the exercises.

  • Third party assurance: Safety and business continuity are not created in isolation. As such, Twilio evaluates the business capabilities of our third-party partners, vendors, and other key organizations through our security team.

Special business continuity considerations in the age of COVID-19

Life in the age of COVID-19 is a highly fluid situation that no one has ever seen before. News sources, political leaders, scientists, and medical professionals are all responding to new information in real time, leaving us as business leaders no choice but to do the same.

In this time of uncertainty and constantly updated news cycles, businesses should start first by reviewing their existing plans to ensure they are up to date. One key element your program should have for this unique circumstance? A pandemic plan.

You may already have one, but if not, here are some key considerations for creating one:

  1. Leadership continuity and succession planning in the event of illness, inability to work, and remote working circumstances;

  2. Contingency plans for vast portions of your workforce being unable to work;

  3. Work arrangements for employees as they relate to health, remote working set-ups, absenteeism, and the ongoing need for regular communication when employees are not in the same geographic location or are facing equipment or technological shortcomings.

  4. Ensuring policies and procedures for pandemic events support the science and best practices recommended by experts; ie, not working when an employee is unwell regardless of whether or not they can obtain a doctor’s note, given the challenge of obtaining said note;

  5. Reviewing policies and availability for deep cleaning in physical offices during times of lockdown and remote work;

  6. Evaluating if your physical locations could potentially be commandeered by health or government officials as makeshift medical headquarters, and creating a plan for such a circumstance;

  7. Assessing employee mental health and social needs during a time when social engagement is severely limited, and providing outlets and support if possible.

We can help you identify solutions to minimize the impact on your operations, suggest best practices on how to effectively communicate with your customers, which channels to use to communicate with your customers, and when to communicate with your customers.

Learn more

Read our CCO's recommendations for COVID-19.

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