Coronavirus Business Continuity – Updated 6 Mar 2020

The Coronavirus is starting to create issues for small businesses and their business continuity plan.  The Coronavirus is evolving quickly and each day is bringing new infections around the world.  It may not be long before it is declared a Pandemic.  Currently, in Australia, there are minimal cases, but spikes in cases in South Korea and Italy what may happen in countries where newly undiagnosed people are infected and travel.

10 MAR Update.

We are seeing an uptick in infections, with 70 identified and the death of a resident from a nursing home.  Strong quarantine measures should limit the extent to which cases spread through the community, although there is significant panic buying.  Commodities like toilet paper, flour and canned food have become scarce due to irrational buying.  We expect this to decrease over the next few weeks.

Our industry-specific advice for health care, in particular, aged care has been to limit the number of agency staff operating in facilities as they are likely to be vectors between facilities.  These facilities are at high risk due to the elderly nature of the residents.

Business Continuity and Supply Chains

As of the 24th of February, the IT Supply chain in Australia is starting to see severe effects.  Until recently, the impact has been limited to cancelled conferences, including Cisco Live and Mobile World Congress 2020.  This week were are starting to see constrained availability from Lenovo and HP.  Both have significant manufacturing plants in China and the limitations on workers attending the factories have decreased availability.  Component manufacturers, including Intel CPUs and memory from a range of suppliers, are also becoming difficult to source, meaning that PC manufacturers are also becoming constrained.  Acer, which manufactures in Taiwan is starting to see decreased stock availability.

Think about the materials and products that you use in your business and where they are sourced.  If they are from China, or sourced from China, you may start to see issues.

Business Continuity and Restrictions on movement.

As the Coronavirus spreads, it is looking more likely that it will be declared a pandemic and this may see increased restrictions on the movement of people in Australia.  Wuhan has just undergone a huge experiment in work from home, as restrictions were placed on the movement of people and the congregation of people in places like offices and factories.  This experiment was mandated by the Chinese Government as they banned the movement and congregation of people in an effort to decrease the number of people infected and carrying the disease.  For us, it is worthwhile at this stage thinking how you could respond if needed in your business to continue working if people ere not permitted to travel to work.

What does the Coronavirus mean for Australian businesses?

IT stocks like PCs and Servers are heavily constrained.  This will increase through a range of industries. South Korea and Italy have seen recent increases in victims with Coronavirus and the fact they are developing late after travel restrictions were bought in is a worrying trend.  We have been monitoring the WHO Coronavirus Sitreps for the latest details.  The key will be to see how these countries respond and what resrictions they put in place.

Remote Work from Home solutions a possibility if the Coronavirus increases in Australia.

The second thing is that we are looking at it remote desktop solutions to allow for increased interest in work from home solutions.  This will mitigate the risk of staff in an office situation and will allow businesses to protect staff and minimise the business impact from Coronavirus.  The recent travel bans and quarantines in Wuhan have been described as the world’s largest work from home experiment.  For Wuhan businesses, it was thrust upon them with little warning.  Over the next few weeks, we will monitor changes and if there is an increase in the number of cases, customers may start to look at the ability to conduct work with as many staff as possible working from home.

 

Intel CPU shortage coronavirus

The Coronavirus is starting to impact the PC, laptop and Server market, with Intel stocks hit hardest.

 

Work from home solutions for Small Businesses

At Extreme Networks, we use

  • Microsoft Remote Desktop
  • Logitech video conference equipment
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Confluence
  • Skype

This is set up predominantly so that engineers can have access to the tools they need to work when onsite, but it also means that they are able to work from home, if it was required.

Many businesses, particularly professional services like accountants and lawyers are able to work quite effectively.  Others that require physical labour are not so lucky.

Your Coronavirus Business Continuity plan should look at the impact that the Virus is having now, particularly with your Supply Chain and the possibility of the restriction of movement for people and how that will impact your cashflow.

Small Business Cost Controls

We have had some success with customers who have been able to negotiate significant rent reductions from landlords as revenue drops, especially in hospitality,  and leisure and travel.  We encourage small businesses to have a discussion with their landlords about the current rent vs the decline in revenue.  Landlords are very aware that filling many spaces, especially retail could be extremely difficult given the current climate.

Federal Government stimulus

We expect the Federal Government to release a stimulus package, potentially as early as this week.  The Prime Minister has released the principles of the plan, but no details yet.

Business Confidence

The biggest impact that we are seeing is in business and consumer confidence.  Panic buyer in consumers along with a significant decrease in discretionary spending along with businesses putting a hold on any non urgent capex is leading to a contraction in the economy.  We were to attend a conference next week which ‘out of an abundance of caution’ has been canceled.  The problem is that with all businesses contracting their spending, we are expecting to see an increase in businesses closing.  SMEs are encouraged to look carefully at their debtors – balanced with a view that after the crisis, many customers will remember those who provided them some flexibility when times were tough.

Advice to reduce risks of catching COVID 19

These are from the Department of Health website.

Ten ways to reduce your risk of coronavirus

  • Wash hands often with soap and running water, for at least 20 seconds. Dry with paper towel or hand dryer.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
  • Isolate yourself at home if you feel sick. If you take medication ensure you have adequate supplies.
  • Phone your GP first if you need medical attention. They will tell you what to do.
  • Continue healthy habits: exercise, drink water, get plenty of sleep, and now is the time to quit smoking. Call the Quitline 137 848.
  • Don’t wear a face mask if you are well.
  • Buy an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with over 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Get the flu shot (available April).
  • Shaking hands is optional!

 

Stay safe – cough into your elbow and wash your hands!