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Ensuring business continuity during COVID-19

29 Apr 2020

Article by New Relic Asia-Pacific and Japan executive vice president and general manager, Dmitri Chen.

Consumers and businesses have made fundamental behavioural shifts in an attempt to restrict the spread of COVID-19. Whether it’s a dramatic increase in the number of people working from home or a rise in the volume of e-commerce activity – the shift in consumer behaviour is placing a strain on IT infrastructure, and forcing tech teams to rethink their current priorities.

Change is inevitable, and business continuity measures are essential during times like these – both for the businesses rapidly adapting their tech game plans, and for their customers. Creating continuity while the world grapples with this crisis means making tough choices about IT incident management, understanding what variables are impacting outcomes, and quickly assessing which customer problems are the most urgent and require priority attention.

There are three main areas that IT leaders must focus on when striving to ensure business continuity is maintained during the pandemic.

Develop a strong game plan

It’s no longer business as usual, and IT teams must create a game plan for dealing with this crisis that’s specific to them. Some tech teams are trying to cope with all-digital operations for the first time, while simultaneously managing remotely located staff and customers.

Other businesses are grappling with their volume of digital interactions dramatically increasing, while there are those working overtime in order to create new apps to become more relevant as their customer needs change.

Each business must take a proactive and preventative approach, rather than reactive "firefighting" and the creation of a strong game plan sits at the centre of this.

Tech teams need to be focused on maintaining consistent levels of service no matter how much system demand has increased. For businesses struggling with higher user volumes, it’s about scaling up services where needed. This is where advanced diagnostic tools and technology like AIOps (artificial intelligence for IT Operations) could prove beneficial – not just in identifying problems, but by detecting incidents and patterns of use that could prove central to long term planning.

By cutting through large volumes of data and consolidating information into one location, tech teams can save time and prevent issues from happening long before they cause system-wide problems.

Start the game plan by identifying problems (such as being forced to create digital channels, or experiencing a big drop in client traffic and/or massive spikes due to COVID-19) and end with a feedback loop for an effective pulse check.

Communicate clearly

A business can deploy the most cutting-edge technology in the world, but without the right team to oversee the rollout, it will be completely ineffective. To maintain continuity in these challenging times, CIOs and IT managers need to communicate with their teams regularly, ensure that each team knows what their role is and the problems they’re being asked to address.

With a clear line of sight, the mean time to detect (MTTD) and mean time to repair (MTTR) any issues after an important deployment or rollout will most likely improve.

Additionally, for those businesses that are seeing an increase in demand, setting up an on-call roster will likely need to be implemented so that service continuity is maintained. The last thing anyone needs is a scenario where it’s 2am, and there are no team members on hand to fix a system-wide issue or outage.

An effective internal communications plan should assign ownership to broad deliverables, as transparency will be even more critical in times of crisis.

Use observability to prevent repeat issues

While traditional monitoring uses error logs and other metrics to identify problems, observability provides a next level of analysis for tech teams; explaining why an issue or problem happened, instead of just providing a simple analysis of what went wrong.

In a time of crisis, being quick to respond to issues and accurately diagnosing them is more important than ever. Teams that can easily spot problems before or as they occur – rather than when they cause system-wide issues – will be on a much stronger footing than those who constantly find themselves reacting to problems. By using observability to understand the big picture, problems can not only be solved quickly, but prevented from recurring.

COVID-19 represents a major economic disruption, where IT expertise will be needed to augment relief efforts and keep business and the economy running, and organisations that implement effective business continuity efforts will be in a much stronger position to rise to the challenge.