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Business Continuity Management Interview

6 Questions Answered by Symcor’s Business Continuity Management Team

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Symcor June 04, 2020
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With resilience and innovation, Symcor continues to support its clients during COVID-19. Symcor’s trusted solutions in payment processing, customer communications and experiences, and the prevention of fraud are helping our clients accelerate change with agility and efficiency during this global public health crisis.

COVID-19 has made it necessary to reinvent conventional business practices and redesign how workplaces function. During this unfamiliar time, the role of Business Continuity Management (BCM) has been key for organizations to be empowered with an overall framework and proactive scenario planning to ensure preparedness for any situation. In Symcor’s own BCM practice, cross-functional teams have followed an extensive and comprehensive COVID-19 response plan to ensure we maintain business continuity for our clients and partners, with the same service level standards they have come to expect of Symcor. Supporting our employees, our clients and our communities has never been more important, and our BCM strategy has ensured we safeguard and uphold their trust.

In this Q&A conversation with Toni Cosentino, who leads Symcor’s Business Continuity Management, we discuss how Symcor has approached business continuity during COVID-19 and other natural and man-made disasters in the past, and how she sees the future of this practice evolving.

Q1: Can you provide an overview of Symcor’s Business Continuity Management team and its roles and responsibilities?

A1: The BCM team provides oversight to Symcor’s Business Continuity Program (BCP), which includes ensuring contingency preparedness for all Symcor sites across Canada and all lines of service. Contingency preparedness essentially consists of working closely with business units to understand their processes and identify risks. It also involves helping them work through solutions to manage and minimize risk. Symcor’s BCM team ensures that our business continuity and disaster recovery plans are ready and tested to effectively deliver critical services and functions when required. 

The functions performed by Symcor have been deemed essential services, so any inability on our part to continue operating could create significant systemic risk to the financial sector. 

Q2: What are the core values that drive Symcor’s Business Continuity Management Policy?

A2: Symcor’s BCM policies are driven by our core values of operating with Integrity, Accountability and Performance. Every decision that is made needs to support a holistic and cross-functional approach for organizational resiliency and developing appropriate responses to unforeseen events.

Driven by these values, we focus on reviewing vulnerabilities in the business and operating models, looking at how an event would impact our employees, our clients, supply chain, information and communication, sites and facilities, and finance.

This process helps us identify the dependencies inherent in the delivery of those services. Achieving this insight is a highly collaborative effort across all teams within Symcor, as well as externally with our partners and clients. 

The choices we make when designing and implementing the BCM policy impact our employees, clients and shareholders, as unforeseen events may occur at any time. As a result, Symcor has a comprehensive and rigorous BCP and technology Disaster Recovery Plan, geared to achieve a state of continuity of critical functions, systems, networks and personnel that are vital to supporting clients.

Q3: Can you share a few examples of how Symcor is continuing to support its clients and partners during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A3: Symcor has been monitoring the global spread of COVID-19 since the very early days. We proactively reached out to all clients to provide insight into our Pandemic Response Plan. As the situation rapidly developed and required clients to make significant changes to their existing processes, Symcor accelerated process changes to support their evolving needs, as well as those of the community. Leveraging existing protocols such as our Change Management process, we are ensuring our clients’ business needs are addressed in a timely manner.

Communication is another key priority at this time. We are committed to keeping our clients updated on new developments as they arise through a number of communication channels and mediums. Apart from daily update emails and regular conference calls to ensure our clients are well-informed, we promote interactive communication through our corporate website - symcor.ca, our corporate LinkedIn page, a dedicated COVID-19 mailbox that receives all client queries, and a COVID-19 Resource Centre that houses updated, pertinent information including a repository of Frequently Asked Question (FAQs).

I want to share two instances where Symcor helped clients and partners by accelerating change and developing innovative solutions that addressed the unforeseen challenges created by COVID-19.

1. Operationalized a Digital Mailroom Solution for Symcor’s CSR Partner within 24 Hours: COVID-19 made it challenging for Symcor’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) partner, Pathways to Education, to access essential physical documents. Symcor identified and operationalized a Digital Mailroom Solution the same day and provided it to Pathways to Education at no cost. Symcor was able to support Pathways to enable them to continue their important community work.

2. Managing Payment Deferrals brought about by COVID-19: Our teams in Operations and IT helped clients manage tax payment deferrals of post-dated items as driven by government municipality programs to support Canadians during these difficult times. We are proud to have enabled this versatile solution, which can be leveraged across other municipalities that are managing payment deferrals.

Q4: Talk to us about the importance of collaboration and team work when ensuring business continuity during a pandemic.

A4: During this unprecedented time, regular collaboration with our employees, clients, stakeholders, vendors and business partners has been integral. A foundation of trust and a good working relationship with our clients, where we share common goals and expectations, allows us to pivot and adjust where needed.

Additionally, Symcor identified and deployed key teams and partners to support the BCM function in achieving and sustaining operational resiliency. We set up a Crisis Management Team and a Communication Response Team, which included key cross-functional teams within Symcor, to allow for a constant flow of information and collaboration within the organization.

We also brought the right talent and resources to the table by forming sub-committees to ensure each phase of the pandemic is properly examined and planned for. This has helped us deliver against critical business initiatives and services, and meet the needs of our clients and employees in an ever-changing time.

As cross-functional teams across Symcor collaborate on major technological milestones and business continuity objectives, we have also prioritized maintaining our connection to each other. Recently, two members of our senior leadership team participated in a virtual ‘fireside chat’ to discuss their journeys at Symcor and their experiences leading a team during this unprecedented time. We encourage this type of social engagement at Symcor to maintain our connections and boost morale.  

Q5: What are the top priorities of BCP leaders in times like these?

A5: First and foremost, BCP leaders must ensure the well-being and safety of their employees. Prioritize the implementation of safety measures to minimize risk of infection to employees, vendors, contractors and agency personnel, and continue to reassess actions and pivot as needed throughout the full duration of the event. My top recommendations to industry leaders are:

  1. Communicate with relevant stakeholders in a clear, transparent and timely fashion to secure ongoing support from employees, clients, vendors and partners.

     

  2. Maintain regular contact with your suppliers regarding their capabilities to deliver goods and services during the COVID-19 crisis and their recovery plans, to ensure that the company can consider alternative supply chain options in a timely manner where necessary.

     

  3. Build resilience in preparation for the ‘new normal’. Once the COVID-19 pandemic is controlled, review your Business Continuity and Pandemic Response Plans to assess how they are working to support this crisis. Validate to see what has worked well and what requires improvement as we prepare to maneuver through potential waves of this situation.

     

  4. Continue to focus on organizational goals including sustaining services, commitment to growth, and be flexible to adapting to a new way of executing business deliverables and meeting client expectations.

     

  5. Conduct post incident reviews, learn from this experience and leverage any learnings to update your BCM program.

     

  6. Understand the needs of critical services and modify strategies to meet new demands.


Q6: Do you see this experience reshaping business continuity models across industries?

A6: Yes, we expect business continuity models to change to reflect the business measures and decisions that are being taken to continue services during this time. The emergence of an agile workforce strategy requires a review of how employees deliver customer experiences and the digital channels that are needed to support business continuity.   

Acceleration into digital services will also challenge organizations to revisit and even reimagine their services. This period in time will also lead to the rapid adoption and onboarding of additional collaborative tools and technologies. To manage immediate resilience issues and lay a foundation for the future, organizations have to address issues like virtual team collaboration, sudden changes in volumes, real-time decision-making, workforce productivity and security risks.

For more than 23 years, Symcor has been a trusted provider of business process outsourcing solutions to Canadian businesses, helping them accelerate their digital transformation. During COVID-19, our clients and partners continue to rely on our industry-wide infrastructure, technological expertise and robust business continuity planning to bolster their operations for continuity and resilience. Symcor’s culture is led by our North Star – Connecting for Common Good. Through the course of this global health crisis and beyond, Symcor is committed to digital innovation and harnessing advanced technologies to empower Canadian businesses with the tools they need to support their communities. The post-COVID-19 world will indeed look different, socially and economically, and Symcor is committed to supporting organizations as they prepare for a successful future.