As the world begins to move out of lockdown measures in response to COVID-19, companies and their boards will begin to reassess their business continuity plans not only to further strengthen them in the event of another incident or a second wave but also to identify lessons learned and develop narrative reporting for upcoming annual reports and compliance statements against s.172 of the Companies Act 2006.
As part of this process it is important to develop a post implementation (PIR) review process to assess measures, projects or procedures that had been put in place as a response to COVID-19 as boards continue to manage the impact caused and to kick-start the road to recovery for those impacted financially. These lessons learned will assist to bolster your boards’ business continuity plans and will contribute to increasing efficiencies, allowing boards to respond more efficiently to future critical incidents.
The purpose of a PIR
PIR’s purpose is to evaluate whether project implementation objectives were met, to determine how effectively this was achieved, to learn lessons for the future, and to ensure that the organisation gets the greatest possible benefit from implementation of projects like business continuity planning.
After long projects being delivered under strict deadlines and ever moving goal posts, especially given our current operating environment, the last thing many teams want to do is relive the process and will embrace ways to improve.
However, a forward-looking review can discover many tips and strategies for improvement. PIR can be an efficient tool in evaluating the implementation of certain measures, projects or procedures. The need for post-implementation project reviews seems rudimentary. Every outcome, be it a product, process or service, should be compared with the initial concept and its effectiveness assessed accordingly, yet this rarely makes an appearance on boardroom agendas once a certain project is complete.
The main reasons boards and senior managers should complete a PIR process are:
1. Determine project success – discuss at board level with senior managers whether the project/deliverables are functioning as expected? Question whether it is functioning well and in a way that is flexible to future operating demands? Boards will want to know where the end result compares with the original project plan, in terms of quality, schedule and budget. Lastly, boards and senior managers will want to review how the project or program impacted the organisation’s objectives and whether the new process is strategically aligned or requires modification.
2. Engage and assess the satisfaction of stakeholders – Boards should be reviewing the impact at stakeholder level and whether any issues have arisen and how those will be addressed. For example, boards should ask for insights on new IT software being utilised for home working, whether all staff and newcomers had been trained sufficiently and if there is a need for further training and development. As mentioned the views of staff is an incredibly important feedback mechanism to assess whether a project has gone well. If key individuals aren't satisfied, boards should discuss how this is to be addressed. Testing such satisfaction levels also adds to the board’s stakeholder engagement initiatives and helps further strengthen governance procedures.
3. Identify areas for development – As mentioned above engaging with stakeholders will help assist in identifying areas of development and additional benefits that could possibly be achieved. This also provides companies the opportunity to complete a risk assessment to review the initial main risks, how they were addressed, prioritised and whether any unforeseen risks have arisen that need to be treated.
4. Identify lessons learned – This provides the board, senior managers and those involved with the business continuity plan an opportunity to be open and honest on what aspects of the implementation had went well, what went poorly and the negative lessons learned. It is important for those leading the discussions and board members to ensure that people aren’t in any way punished for being open, the purpose is to focus on the future and not assign blame.
How to report findings
In order to report findings and recommendations on the implementation of the company’s business continuity plan the first step is to conduct a thorough gap analysis reviewing the expected deliverables including documentation and ensure either that these
- have been delivered to an acceptable level of quality, or
- that an acceptable substitute is currently in place.
If there are gaps, then this should be highlighted at the PIR meeting or equivalent board meeting. Where possible, using outside service providers or internal audit functions should be encouraged for the review process to get an objective, unclouded view of how well the plan had been implemented. Alternatively individuals can offer a lot from the perspectives of those who were directly involved in the project hence the best possible strategy is to strike a balance between the two.
Regarding documentation the Company Secretary should be heavily involved in documenting practices and procedures that led to the implementation of the plan and make recommendations for applying them to similar future implementation projects.
The Company Secretary should also be involved in any review of key documents to ensure that governance procedures on the company’s internal or external web pages are kept up to date. Compiling together the key documents will help assess the planning process, as well as the actual benefits achieved. Company Secretaries should also be adding the impact and plans on governance items such as the hosting of the AGM, board meetings and compiling critical evidence to illustrate s.172 considerations, discussions and that the long term economic viability of the business had been considered by all directors under the company’s business continuity plans.
The compilation of such decision making and the PIR process will benefit boards on how to best draw on existing information to report on the impact of decisions made in the interests of employees, suppliers, customers, communities and the environment.
This period is a crucial time for companies and a point where the Company Secretary and the duties they fulfil are of key importance to the business. For further information on PIRs please contact Shaun Zulafqar or another member of the company secretarial team.
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