It can be easy to overlook the importance of staffing in a regular business continuity plan. The focus is often on the “what, where and how” — what needs to be done, where the decisions will be made, and how processes and procedures can be followed. The “who” is more difficult to plan for, as each staff member is an individual, with particular, and changing, skills, knowledge and experience, complicating the task of ensuring the people side of the business continuity plan is kept up to date.
While companies should have processes in place to cover individual team member absences, whether for vacation or illness, these are generally short-term deliberate solutions, designed to ensure core activities can be executed until the covered team member’s return. Business continuity should address both short-term absence and permanent departure to ensure the treasury department can continue to operate in changing circumstances. Any staff departure also places an extra burden on others to cover the load until a replacement can be found. The “great resignation” has simply emphasized the importance of people within the business continuity plan.
The requirement to work from home during the early stages of the pandemic led companies to accelerate the adoption of automation, as manual intervention was made more difficult. The benefits of automation remain broadly the same as before.
Automation requires the standardization of core processes, which are then embedded as a workflow within the technology solution. The standardized workflow incorporates clear controls that help to maintain the required separation of duties and supports audit trails. In both cases, these remain enforced during periods of staff absence, just as effectively as during periods of regular operations. Finally, automation of mundane operations releases treasury professionals from those activities, allowing them to devote more time to more value-added analysis and other strategic activity. In turn, this may result in greater job satisfaction, helping to support team member retention.
While greater automation of these activities can help to reduce the risk of disruption to staffing due to the impact of the great resignation, technology that automates workflows still needs manual interventions at certain points, such as to authorize or release certain transactions. The same workflows can incorporate the provision of logins to the system to back-up personnel, often from other departments. The technology can support individual authority limits reflecting these individuals’ specific expertise, ensuring that only suitably qualified individuals are making key decisions.
Using technology in this way will help to ensure the controls outlined above will continue to apply, even during periods of significant staff absence. Without this functionality and the ability to maintain a separation of duties and an auditable trail, there will be opportunities for error or fraud, which are potentially catastrophic to financial performance. Having inconsistent controls in a business continuity environment can leave the company more open to a business interruption by cybercriminals. Automated processes help to protect treasury teams, and the company as a whole, against this outcome.
Want to learn more? Check out the 2022 AFP Treasury in Practice Guide: People Side of Business Continuity, underwritten by Kyriba.