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Navigating Business Continuity Planning in 2020 with Assurance Software CEO Jon Ezrine and COO Brian Zawada

Read a Full Transcript of the Video

The arrival of COVID-19 made it clear that many businesses were underprepared for a widespread and long-term business disruption. Caught without a functioning business continuity program and supporting execution effort in place, response times lagged for many companies and some operations struggled to adapt to the dynamic business environment.

In this episode of our Software Sessions video series, Resurgens Technology Partners’ Henry Chancy sits down with Assurance Software CEO Jon Ezrine and COO Brian Zawada to discuss business continuity programs—including how they have worked with their clients to navigate 2020 and prepare for future and simultaneous disruptions.

Jon and Brian are well-versed on the topic—Assurance Software, a Resurgens portfolio company, is the largest provider of business continuity management and planning solutions in the world. With over 800 customers globally, Assurance helps organizations prepare and respond to any type of business disruption.

During the conversation, Jon and Brian share the following key pieces of advice for businesses:

  • Look at your business continuity plan more strategically, prioritizing customers’ needs and expectations and how delivery channels can change during the course of a disruption.
  • Prepare in advance for multiple disruptions at once, such as an ongoing pandemic and hurricane hitting simultaneously.
  • Extend your planning horizon from a few weeks to a year or more to cover both short and long-term events.
  • Establish strong internal and external communication practices to respond to time-sensitive issues with special consideration for your communication technology stack and its capabilities during various disruption types.
  • Understand where you are in the journey toward having a sound business continuity operating system. Map out where you want to be based on your unique risk appetite and risk tolerance.
  • Establish enterprise-wide cross training programs and be ready to shift work among different employees, eliminating single points of failure whenever possible.
  • When working to determine when and how to bring employees safely back to the office, understand the importance of being adaptable to the evolving situation and prioritize communication to the team.

If there is one thing we have all learned over the past year, it is to expect the unexpected. The Assurance Software team does a fantastic job helping companies prepare and navigate those inevitable disruptions, major or minor.

Video Transcript

Assurance Software CEO Jon Ezrine and COO Brian Zawada speak with Resurgens Technology Partners’ Henry Chancy

Henry Chancy (00:05):

Hey, welcome everybody to another Software Session with Resurgens. We’re really excited about the conversation today. We’re going to dig into a really relevant topic in today’s world especially, in business continuity. We’re thrilled today to be joined by Jon Ezrine and Brian Zawada. Brian, Jon, it would be really helpful to just get a brief introduction on the two of you and an overview of Assurance Software.

Jon Ezrine (00:27):

Thanks, Henry. I’m Jon Ezrine, the CEO of Assurance Software. And Assurance is the largest provider of business continuity solutions in the world. We have a little over 800 customers globally, and we offer consulting software and staffing to companies in order to help them prepare for and be ready to respond to any kind of business disruptions that they may face. And Assurance is the combination of three powerhouse companies through M&A. We started out as Assurance, primarily in North America. We acquired ClearView Continuity, which was the leading provider in Europe. And then this year, earlier this year, acquired Avalution Consulting which rounded out the company.

Brian Zawada (01:14):

And hi, I’m Brian Zawada. I’m one of the co-founders of Avalution, which is the third company that Jon mentioned. I’ve been in the business continuity space for about 23 years now and in the combined company, I’m the Chief Operating Officer.

Henry Chancy (01:28)

Great, really excited to have you both. Well, diving right in, you know, given this pandemic has brought to light just how crucial it is to have a functioning BC program and ultimately to have a supporting execution effort in place. Now, what are some of the key themes that you’re pushing your clients to adopt moving forward?

Brian Zawada (01:45)

Alright, I’ll take that first. I think number one, we’ve been pushing our clients to look at business continuity more strategically, less so in the weeds in terms of resources, but thinking in terms of the products and services they deliver to their customers and prioritizing that way specific to customers, working to think about what are their expectations, what are the behaviors we would expect? How does our delivery channels change throughout the course of the disruption like COVID-19? Thinking a little bit more about kind of the soft skills that their leadership team maintains and uses during disruption being more adaptable, making decisions with incomplete information are just two examples of that. We’re also getting them to start thinking about preparing for multiple disruptions at the same time. We’re already seeing, for example, here in the United States organizations that are navigating hurricanes and severe weather, while at the same time, having their people work from home during a pandemic. And, you know, the last thing I’d say is many organizations used to think about business continuity as let’s plan for the next few hours or the next few days during a disruption. Now we’re thinking in terms of weeks, months, even more than a year. And so that planning horizon has is certainly extended. So these are some of the things we’re coaching our clients toward.

Henry Chancy (03:07):

Yeah. And Jon, what kind of key actions have led to some of the greatest impacts from your perspective from Assurance’s perspective and are any of these actions going to be encouraged through you guys, to your clients, moving forward?

Jon Ezrine (03:22):

Well, we’ve spent a lot of time in the last few months talking to clients around the world, and we’ve seen some of them have performed really well and some have not. And I think the biggest differences that we’ve seen between the high performers and the low performers is that the high performers had a much better understanding of what their key priorities would be and better planning and practicing of those things in place before the issues happened. And so by performance, what we mean is more timely responses, better internal and external communications, being able to direct resources in a faster way so they could respond quickly to time-sensitive issues.

Henry Chancy (04:06):

Brian talked a lot about, you know, Assurance has very much pushed that really every firm, regardless of size should, should have an idea, a capability model to help them understand across a lot of different distinct areas, just how ready their organization is for events like, like COVID and really others. If you would, explain to us some of these focus areas and a few interesting takeaways from some of the exercises that you’ve done with some of the clients.

Brian Zawada (04:33):

One of the things that Avalution brought to the combined organization was our methodology that pairs with leading practice, we call it the business continuity operating system. And that emphasis is around focusing on what’s most important, engaging the right people. And then delivering, you just said it, kind of the capability, the ability to hopefully decrease the frequency of disruption, respond in a very timely manner, communicate effectively and return to normal as quickly as possible. And so we’ve been working with a lot of our clients to be able to go ahead and help them understand where are they in the journey toward having a sound capability that they’re confident in and where do they want to be based on their unique risk appetite, risk tolerance. And so now’s a great time to be very self-reflective how, you know, where we have we displayed solid capabilities to kind of weather this storm of COVID-19, where can we improve and how do we set those short, medium and long-term goals to get to that right level of capability?

Henry Chancy (05:33):

Yeah, probably a really good time to reflect just when it’s really fresh. You know, in turning to a really relevant topic that I think a lot of different executives across a lot of different industries are thinking about, which is this go back to work initiative. How do you bring employees back to the workplace quickly? And in a safe way? So maybe explain to us a couple of these quote unquote, what are questions that management teams should be asking themselves from a continuity standpoint, as they think about not only just bringing the company the employees back, but ultimately continuing their safety as you push forward after the initial efforts.

Jon Ezrine (06:12):

Well, in our company, it’s been tricky because we have offices in several different cities in every one of these cities has different rules around when you can go back and what you need to do when you go back. And what we’ve learned is that we just have to be very adaptable. We’ve had to be good at communicating with our teams about that. We don’t know what’s going to happen next week and things might change, and we’re going to have to continue being very adaptable. You know, as we learn what’s going to happen next.

Henry Chancy (06:34):

Yeah, yeah, definitely. And to wrap things up, guys you know, we’ve been doing this in our, in our sessions and really want to acknowledge the fact that there’s, there’s obviously a lot of struggle going on right now and in the world, a lot of adversity, but, but I think there’s also, you know, these quote unquote silver linings. Some things that have come out of this time that are positives to take away and really kind of an uplifting note that you can push forward on and really kind of grasp. What are, what are some of those COVID-19 silver linings for Assurance and more broadly?

Jon Ezrine (07:18):

Well at our company, one of the things that we started doing right when the pandemic hit is we started having town hall meetings where every employee was online and we could see each other and we could communicate both the management team down to people, but also let people ask questions and make comments and share things across the team. And we thought this was something we would do just during the pandemic. And now what we’ve realized is that we’re communicating much better, and this is something that’s going to continue even after this is long behind us. And so, I think that’s going to end up being a real positive thing that came out of all this.

Henry Chancy (07:54):

Yeah, I get that communications.

Brian Zawada (07:57):

And moving beyond Assurance, I mean, we’re seeing countless organizations now, they’re far more, they have a stronger ability to be nimble and adaptive shifting work from the office to home and back, and to multiple other locations. Being able to shift work amongst people that cross training the elimination of single points of failure when it comes to people. But the other real big silver lining is we’ve seen a lot of real heroes step up people that have just magically come up with incredible ways to be able to continue their business. And now’s the time to reflect on and capture, what those things that they came up with, the strategies that they employ, those capabilities. And at the same time, let’s not lose sight of who they are so that we can lean on them in the future when we have another disruption that comes because these are the folks that we want to count on to be those creative thinkers, to come up with those strategies to help us weather the next storm.

Henry Chancy (08:51):

Yeah. Love that, you know, see some heroes emerge here. Well guys really appreciate the time today. I think there’s a lot of relevant stuff covered here and again, a very significant topic right now. So again, I hope you both stay safe and thanks for coming on.

Jon Ezrine and Brian Zawada (09:11):

Thanks, Henry.

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