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BLOG: Importance of real-time access in a crisis

Eslinda Hamzah | July 23, 2013
During a disaster, real-time access to critical information and each other is crucial for the CEO and board.

Even the best laid crisis management plan is no good if the CEO and board of directors lack the ability to communicate as they work to avert a corporate meltdown. In-person meetings are highly unlikely on short notice especially if the meetings are frequent.  In these situations, video or teleconferencing also does not allow for the sharing of important confidential documents.

Without a secure online mode of communicating, there's a danger that the collective experience of a board of directors will go unrealised. Board portals, long an efficient means of communicating with a geographically dispersed or time-pressed board of directors, can prove vital to a company's survival during a disaster.

Rapid onset crises

Crises can strike at any time. We have witnessed shocks on the broadest scale from terrorist attacks to natural disasters. These events have sounded a wake-up call to entire countries or industries, which are increasingly linked in an interdependent world. Other crises are more targeted, where a single company faces a product tampering, hostile takeover bid or leaking of sensitive information. Add to the list of potential crises the departure of a key executive, the failure of a systematic technology, production issues, workplace violence or a criminal act committed by an employee, and it's plain to see that there's plenty a company must anticipate.

Each one of these events calls for strategic input from the board. More than that, a real-time dialogue and debate on next steps based on available information is crucial.

Role of the board in a crisis

While a company's officers are front and centre in managing a disaster, the board can contribute on many fronts. In addition to approving key decisions, a board can provide the CEO with a confidential place to sound out ideas. Board members can advise based on their previous crisis experience or specialised expertise. They can also voice confidence in management's efforts to respond to the crisis.

Constant communication between the CEO and board is crucial on several levels. First, the CEO needs to keep the board informed as events progress. Beyond that, the CEO must discuss alternative courses of action with the board. Real-time communication also puts at the CEO's disposal the board's collective experience with crises at other companies.

Importance of real-time access

Just when the need for communication between the CEO and board is the most intense, time is also the most limited. Every crisis calls for major decisions. The ability of a board to effectively receive, review and comment on information in real time is critical. Any business continuity, disaster recovery or crisis plan should provide a procedure and protocol for the firm's senior executives to share information with their directors, as securely and quickly as possible. After all, what value is a strong board of directors, if, during a disaster, they don't have access to critical information and each other?

 

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