Episode 1: The Reality of Business Continuity Planning During a Pandemic

Real Life Can Be Stranger Than Fiction

COVID-19 has changed marketing today – and most likely forever. The impact of the pandemic and the pace of change has been rapid beyond belief. Every business needed to implement a holistic BCP (Business Continuity Plan), in many cases for the first time.

As a global marketing services business with over 100 customers relying on us, we are ideally set-up to deliver a great BCP response.

But even with our preparation, certifications and processes, we encountered some incredible challenges.

Being at the rock-face of managed services delivery, what we’d like to share in this series is best-practice for Marketing Business Continuity Planning – but also the real-life stories that you don’t find in the white papers and the text books.

BCP in a Nutshell at Theorem

At Theorem our core principles are “Be Expert, Be Transparent, Be Direct and Be Effective.” Our approach to Business Continuity Planning reflects those core company values:

Policy – Have up-to-date policies, written down, available and accessible. Agility – Business Continuity Planning is a framework not an answer. Be prepared for ambiguity. Communication – Great implementation is 90% communication. Use it well. Transparency – An imperfect situation can be managed with open dialogue.

This PACT approach created the simplicity needed to tackle a most complex challenge.

Delivering Our BCP Process: The Details

Being a company with offices in the US, India, Australia and the UK, it was clear that continuity planning would need to move to ‘on the ground implementation’ at an accelerated pace.

Maintaining the health and well-being of all Theorem employees was, and is, our top priority. Organizational continuity planning always centered around this core principle.

As the COVID-19 situation escalated, a few things became very clear. All lines of internal communication would need to be as open and transparent as possible – while employee and client inputs would be critical to our success.

A Guide to the Key Aspects of Our Business Continuity Planning Approach :

Immediate Tasks

The need to be adaptive and ready to change course in an instant was more important than ever. Information was changing, risk was escalating, timelines were condensing and bottlenecks were presenting themselves. We needed to go from 5 offices, to 1,000 home-offices in a matter of days.

The first task was to establish policies and implement actions to protect the employees. The second most important action was to be aware of our two key stakeholders; employees and clients. We immediately contacted employees for operational input and clients to understand their demand requirements. Next up was to rapidly enable work from home for all staff (nearly 1,000 individuals). To enable work from home, we ran a complete tech inventory, then worked collaboratively with suppliers and employees to secure and prepare equipment and check individual connectivity.

Early Delivery 

Throughout the process, adjustment were made utilizing all of the data at our disposal to evaluate progress and circumstances on an ongoing basis. It was clear that the only way to manage volumes and properly prioritize work, was working directly with clients. 

We evaluated coverage needs and gaps by client and services. We established goals to achieve with interim milestone targets. Analyzed our live utilization data to make adjustments and ensure reasonable needs we met. We refined best practices and training in line with rapid market developments. Communicated continuously at the employee and client levels – with transparency and honesty, striving for perfect but understanding it may not be achievable.

Situation Optimization

The next step of the process was to match SLAs to delivery times and adjust accordingly. To ensure SLA compliance, work from home dry runs were performed with both individuals and teams. In addition, we ensured access to additional VPNs to ensure we were able to maintain security compliance.

Clients responded with support and understanding, helping us prioritize work when needed. We progressed through it all with a sense of calmness, purpose, teamwork, and structure – everyone was in it together and played their part. Teams saw the effort and urgency and volunteered to help through-out. Created tools to enable but also mobilize workforce in different ways. Used two daily stand-ups to optimize plans and tweak to match client requirements.

Ready & Able to Change

The initial impact has been headed off at the pass, but more changes are yet to come. As we continue to navigate this constantly evolving situation, it is clear that our Business Continuity Planning actions during this unprecedented crisis are setting us up for a better future. With one prevalent underlying theme leading the way; a proactive approach is necessary.  

We fully expect to continue to meet challenges along the way, but our rapid response capabilities are serving us well. The need to continue to communicate and collaborate is now more critical than ever. Radical continuity planning is radical and forces long-term change for good. This has set us up better as a future business.

How You React to Real-Life Challenges Defines You as a Company

We had the plan, we have the team, we have the processes and we have the scale. But, nothing was going to get us ready for COVID-19! Here are some of the more interesting real life things we learned:


Having  a 1,000 workstations/laptops for 1,000 workers is one thing. But performing complete audits, security checks and installing new software on all 1,000 in 48 hours is quite a challenge. To do this, we created an assembly line of 50 volunteers from around the business, working across the weekend to get every computer up to scratch.


We needed to get 50% of our teams connected to the internet at home within a week. Instead of asking them to drive this, we used our corporate broadband contact to come to the cafeteria and physically sign everyone up who needed connection. Barriers to change needed to be removed by us.


The reality of managed service is that some clients need faster connections than others. At the same time, an entire global industry of millions had just been sent home! Something we didn’t anticipate was the need to cross-train teams as we matched broadband speed to the clients requirements. The unintended consequence of this will be a more rounded and skilled team.


Every business, in India particularly, was scrambling for technology, as they feared a shortage. As part of our effort to secure the tech we would need, a sourced a supplier  that would provide the 100 dongles that we needed and could deliver that day. Perfect! But our processes kicked-in and during testing we found that the promise of the easy solution was rarely reality. The dodgy dongles were returned to sender!


Never have we been so glad to have our own Theorem buses and cars. It’s one thing having the plan and the hardware – but at some point you have to move 1,000 people and a 1,000 computers around. We wouldn’t have been able to handle our clients work if we had not had this infrastructure built into our business. We just didn’t think it would be utilized for such a task.

Every business, in India particularly, was scrambling for technology, as they feared a shortage. As part of our effort to secure the tech we would need, a sourced a supplier  that would provide the 100 dongles that we needed and could deliver that day. Perfect! But our processes kicked-in and during testing we found that the promise of the easy solution was rarely reality. The dodgy dongles were returned to sender!


The reality of a pandemic is that SLAs need to change. What was once the norm, is no longer the case. Constantly communicating with clients and rapidly changing SLAs is not something our industry is used to, shall we say. Contractual speed is not something you associate with managed services! But, in this instance this was one of the unsung heroes of the Business Continuity Planning. As clients needed to mobilize legal amendments, sometimes within 24 hours.


Without a doubt, the single biggest challenge we had was a shortness of time to act. When the order came in India to lock-down, shut the offices and for ALL staff to go home, we (and all other companies in the area) had 3 hours! With planning, judgment, commitment and some luck, we managed to get everyone home on Monday evening and over 80% coverage of client work by Tuesday. There isn’t a BCP in the world that had a 3 hour deadline plan in place.


Something we didn’t consider in our standard Business Continuity Planning was the regularity with which the Governments would introduce and change policy. At the same time, this was different in USA, UK, Asia and India! Next time, we will be more aware that these macro forces have more impact than the on-the-ground realities.

The Results...So Far!

We made it – nonetheless! Client work has been covered, employees are safe and we have a plan for improvement.

We got to 80% coverage straightaway, and we’re up to 100% in most cases. This is a testament to the combination of good plan, and a GREAT team.

We’re proud of our process, we’re proud of our implementation – but mostly we’re proud of our teams and our clients. When something like COVID-19 hits you, your response is not in a manual or a white paper. It’s in your ability to ACT (Agile, Communication, Transparency) with integrity.

We’re proud of our process, we’re proud of our implementation – but mostly we’re proud of our teams and our clients.

When something like COVID-19 hits you, your response is not in a manual or a white paper. It’s in your ability to ACT (Agile, Communication, Transparency) with integrity.

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    Meto is a tech-based nonprofit intent on making access to quality higher education a reality for all students. We have a special focus on creating scholarships for low-income students.

    In 2018, Meto was founded to connect African students with university opportunities. Along the way, we have learned that all students can benefit from our innovative model, wherein universities make the first move and invite good-fit students to apply. So, in 2023, we opened our platform to students across the globe.

    website: https://meto-intl.org/

              Nikhil Badlani Foundation

              The Mission of the Nikhil Badlani Foundation (the “Foundation”) is to enhance the lives of underserved children in West Orange, NJ and neighboring communities through music lessons, scholarships, and traffic safety education for all.

              Since the Foundation was established in 2011, Theorem has consistently been an annual sponsor of and team participant in the STOP for Nikhil 5K Run/3K Walk. This event intends to raise traffic safety awareness and to serve as a way to remembervbgfc ≈ and honor those who have been killed or seriously injured in traffic accidents. We recognize the importance of raising awareness and road safety amongst teenagers and parents alike, especially in the local communities of our Chatham, New Jersey office. Learn more about the Nikhil Badlani Foundation at nikhilbadlanifoundation.org

              Diversity and Inclusion

              Theorem actively aids in the ongoing fight against systemic racism and discrimination, realizing the importance of ongoing discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion.

              By contributing to organizations such as Black Girls Code and the Anti-Racism fund, we aim to be a fundamental supporter of diversity in the workplace and beyond. These organizations specifically speak to Theorem’s role as a leading voice in the technology innovation space and we avidly support their missions. The vision of Black Girls Code is to empower girls of color, ages 7-17 to become innovators in STEM fields and encourages them to be the builders of their own futures. The Anti-Racism Fund serves as a response to the inequities experienced by the African-American community. It provides monetary support to a dynamic portfolio of curated organizations as a way to inject and enable social change.

              Feeding America

              Feeding America is the largest charity working to end hunger in the United States. By partnering with local food banks, food pantries and other community food programs, Feeding America looks to advance change across the country and ensure equitable access to nutritious food.

              As a long-standing contributor and sponsor of Feeding America, we deeply believe in their vision of an America without hunger. The need for and importance of organizations like Feeding America has has become more and more prevalent as communities face more hardships as a result of the pandemic and the current economy. Theorem is dedicated to its continued contributions to Feeding America to do our part to empower and strengthen our communities. Learn more about Feeding America at www.feedingamerica.org

              Grameen America

              Grameen America is dedicated to helping entrepreneurial women who live in poverty build businesses to enable financial stability mobility.

              Since their founding in the United States in 2008, Theorem has supported Grameen America’s mission, which seeks to build upon the legacy of Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Through financial contributions and event participation, Theorem has contributed to Grameen America’s cause. As an immigrant entrepreneur himself, our CEO Jay Kulkarni is especially eager to support the organization’s mission of aiding underserved communities. Learn more about Grameen America at www.grameenamerica.org

              Vision Spring

              VisionSpring is making the wonder of clear vision possible for all by helping provide affordable and quality eyeglasses to those in need. For many, lack of access to affordable eyeglasses leads to loss of employment or less educational opportunities.

              VisionSpring partners with organizations who join them in their mission of supporting livelihood initiatives, enhancing potential for all. Learn more about Vision Spring at https://visionspring.org Theorem has consistently partnered with VisionSpring to organize free events, such as eye check-ups, across multiple villages in the Mysuru, India region, impacting over 3,000 rural residents. We stand with VisionSpring in their mission to increase accessibility to quality eyewear and eye care.

              Covenant House

              Covenant House provides housing and supportive services to youth facing homelessness, helping young people transform their lives.

              For more than 5+ years, Theorem has supported Covenant House with corporate sponsorships, leading career-building workshops at their Newark, NJ shelter facility and participation in the organization’s fund raising Sleep Outs. Covenant House utilizes these Sleep Outs to raise funds and help shine a light on the injustice of youth homelessness, inspiring communities to step up and protect the vulnerable. We are proud to support Covenant House’s programs, which are designed to empower young people to overcome and rise above adversity, today and in the future. Learn more about Covenant House at www.covenanthouse.org

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