Plan A or Plan B?

Why business continuity plans are a must for SMBs

A global survey has found that employees are ready to embrace remote access and mobile PC solutions – so why aren’t all businesses on board?

The last 12 months has offered a real reality check for small and medium businesses as it seemed that everything from wide ranging floods across the eastern Australian states, to sudden airline groundings, all stopped business as usual for many operations across Australia. More widely these types of events occurred globally, which led to high absenteeism in the workplace, and they are considered to be highly disruptive to businesses across the world. The result is that more businesses than ever before are finally reviewing the need to implement business continuity plans (BCPs) to prepare for unplanned events.

Business continuity – is everyone on board?

Last year LogMeIn conducted its biennial Business Continuity Survey of businesses across the globe – including Australia – to gauge the level of business continuity planning within different sized organisations. The survey respondents included employees with an office-based job requiring computer access.

The recent survey polled 663 employees who had trialled LogMeIn Pro for 12 months from the beginning of July 1, 2010, and it showed that many businesses were heeding the message to plan for all eventualities, with 81 percent of respondents stating that they would be able to continue working if the office was closed, perhaps due to a burglary or flood damage, either from home or another office space. This result is a huge increase on LogMeIn’s 2009 survey where 50 percent of respondents said their company didn’t have a business continuity plan. It shows recent work-halting events, and the need for businesses to be on 24/7, has meant many companies have actioned the next steps to enable a remote workforce.

It is worth noting almost 20 percent of the respondents reported that they would be prevented from doing their work if a business disruption took place, and when you review the sectors this represents it is an issue for all businesses, big and small. From a sector perspective, 18.5 percent of small business workers would be unable to work; 17.4 percent from medium-sized business would be stranded; and 21.4 percent from enterprise organisations would lose productivity.

It is interesting to note that of those respondents who worked for businesses who had not implemented a business continuity plan, a resounding 90 percent said that they would like to have the option of being able to access their work computer from any location. Employees wanting to have more access to the work computer – you would think businesses would be jumping at the chance to get them on board!

BYOD and mobility – buzz words or game changers?

It’s a safe bet to say that the trending terms of mobility and bring your own devices (BYOD) will continue to strengthen as key business buzz topics this year. There is no doubt that the surge in employees embracing mobile devices, and mobile connectivity in general, has made our working and personal lives more interconnected. And from the top down, many tech-savvy business owners are happy to jump from a tablet device, to a smartphone, and back again to a desktop PC. So it’s a natural progression that once your business has a business continuity plan in place, the next opportunity for businesses is to plan a BYOD strategy.

Like many enterprise-sized businesses, many SMBs are struggling to enable employees to use personal computing devices to their full potential, by not understanding how to successfully implement flexible working arrangements that not only embrace the capabilities of accessing personal devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops for a remote workforce, but also the mobile capabilities of your employees too. It’s no longer just the road warriors and sales folk who can embrace the mobile age.

LogMeIn’s global survey revealed that just over 61 percent of organisations had a flexible working arrangement in place. So whilst 81 percent of respondents have the ability to work remotely, only 61 percent can capitalise on that opportunity with flexible working arrangements.

And the flow-on effect in terms of embracing a culture of flexibility (for example offering options around working remotely or telecommuting) was played out in the survey too, with almost 70 percent of respondents saying flexibility in the workplace makes an employer more attractive to work for, with just under 55 precent of the proactive teleworkers working in the small business sector.

Nothing to lose and everything to gain

Let’s do the maths – more people are bringing personal computing devices, such as tablets and smartphones, to work of their own accord, and the majority of these fantastic employees (a solid 90 percent) would jump at the chance to have the option to work remotely. It’s a great vote for BYO devices. But don’t just take our word for it, why not poll your workplace and get feedback on the ground?

Empowering a remote workforce alongside a BYOD strategy – when well implemented – represents a game changing opportunity for Australian SMBs. It reveals a unique opportunity for businesses to increase productivity on-the-go, and build employee satisfaction – while reducing the number of hours spent at the physical office. Small businesses are nimble enough to get the jump on the big end of town too, as BYOD and business continuity strategies, such as implementing remote access software, can be quickly rolled out on a smaller scale.

Consider the benefits for your team by accessing a work computer from home, whilst waiting for a meeting to start – or helping land an important client, when a deadline hits while away on a holiday. If en route, you would never have to turn around and dash back to the office, because you left your thumb drive on the work desk. All your files would be at your fingertips – which can have a significant impact not only your time and productivity, but also how your employees will represent your business in regard to presenting professionalism, efficiency and the ability to work on-the-go should the need arise.

Importantly, a BYOD strategy provides an opportunity for SMBs to level the playing field with bigger competitors. If you’re managing a small business, there will be times when you or your employees will need to leave the office to tackle the business needs, meet new clients, and get away from the desk. Using remote access software for example, you can build on the use of smartphones and laptops to truly take the office or home computer with you wherever you go, having access to all of your files, address books and calendars. It’s worth noting that for any business, leveraging this level of service and accessibility can be the difference between securing a new client, being able to provide fast feedback, or resolve an issue or enquiry in a matter of minutes – all factors that may make or break your business success.

Top 5 tips For business continuity:

  1. Develop a business continuity plan now – If you don’t have one already, then develop a business continuity plan. This plan can include a little or a lot depending on your business needs. Start with a white board and a flow chart to identify the businesses exposure to internal and external threats and then work with your team to design solutions that will overcome these should they arise.
  2. Review the best tools for your business – There are a lot of great tools available that make secure remote access, conference call, online collaboration and staying connected a simple and easy task – and many of the best ones are free to trial. Start by deploying a few tools to your team to evaluate which ones meet your business’ needs, and if they suit you – then roll them out across the company.
  3. Give your employees remote access – In this age, employees should be given the tools that enable them to stay productive when out of the office – from communications to remote computer access. Ensure the level of access reflects their seniority within the team, but as a start, access to business emails is a must. If an unplanned event crops up – be it a natural disaster, a sick child, public transport or traffic woes – your team will still be able to work from home, or on the road, and be just as productive as if they were in the office.
  4. Harness BYO devices – Start by giving your employees the option to be able to use personal devices in your business. Many employees are looking at how they can get the most out of their personal devices; work with your team to see what the business can provide to enable this.
  5. Offer flexible working arrangements – Work with your employees so that they understand the opportunities and new capabilities the business continuity plan and BYOD strategy gives them. These strategies will allow your business to be more flexible in its approach to workplace productivity – and make your business an all-round better place to work and manage.

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