Business continuity planning is the process involved in creating a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats from a company or organization. A business continuity plan (BCP) is a set of plans in place that you can follow in order to keep particular business processes going in the event of a disruption. BCPs can and should be created for disruptions of all levels—from who is in charge when an executive goes on vacation to how to handle power outages to how to pivot in the midst of a global pandemic.
A disruption can be a huge crisis—such as a Hurricane or Covid-19 or a Cyber-attack—or something as simple as an employee vacation or a traffic accident making your place of business inaccessible. Regardless of the size of the disruptive event, it is important in these situations to have plans in place to empower your team and business to keep moving forward. It is crucial for the survival and growth of your business to get up and running as soon as possible. And this can only happen if all members in your team know their role and what to do in the midst of the disruption.
The act of putting together strategies to mitigate the risks from unexpected events is at the very heart of business continuity management. Business continuity helps preserve productivity and efficiency and peace of mind during emergencies. If you can enter the fray knowing that you have a plan in place, you will not be walking blindly.
Organizations that are not prepared to handle an array of disruptions (be they technological, manmade, or a weather phenomenon) can be left scrambling, risking employee health and client retention. Your plans should be personalized to meet the needs of your employees and the market you serve. They should be flexible as well.
Developing a Business Continuity Plan:
In order to make sure your business continuity management takes a comprehensive approach; it should involve the following:
RISK ASSESMENT: This involves identifying potential threat to your business or processes. Your list may include anything from hacking to blizzards, sick employees to military conflict. If you identify a threat that could potentially impact your day-to-day operations, put it on the list.
BUSINESS IMPACT ANALYSIS (BIA): This should be a list of impacts to your business, such as loss of income, productivity or even your brand’s reputation. You should create a BIA for each of your critical processes and systems.
DISASTER RECOVERY PLAN (DRP): Primarily a concern for IT, DRPs are put in place to recover your data, systems, applications. You can and should separate DRPs for each critical system and application.
BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLAN (BCP): These plans should be in place to ensure that a business process can continue, even if you don’t have the people, workflows, or resources you would under normal circumstances.
CRISIS MANAGEMENT STRATEGY: This largely deals with the human side of the crisis. How do you ensure that your staff remains safe? Who talks to your vendors, customers, internal stakeholders and the media? What do they say?
BCPs are an important part of any business. Threats and disruptions mean a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. And businesses can’t merely rely on insurance alone because it doesn’t cover all the costs and the customers who move to the competition.
Some additional steps that need to be taken in order to develop a business continuity plan include:
BUSINESS IMPACT ANALYSIS: This includes a business identifying functions and resources that are time-sensitive.
RECOVERY: In this portion of a BCP, the organization should identify and implement steps to recover critical business functions.
ORGANIZATION: A continuity team or continuity expert should be consulted. This person or team will devise a plan to manage the disruption.
TRAINING: The business continuity team must be trained, and the plan tested. Employees should also complete exercises that rehearse the plan and its strategies so that all stakeholders know what to do in a time of emergency. Amid a crisis is not the time to teach people how to react to said crisis. (For example, fire drills.)
It is useful to have the completed BCP also include a checklist that has key details such as emergency contact information, a list of resources that the continuity team may need, where backup data and other required information are housed, and other important personnel.
It is also important to test those responsible for implementing the BCP and ensuring that it can be applied to multiple risk scenarios. This will help identify any weaknesses in the plan which can then be identified and corrected. But remember, for any business continuity plan to be successful, all employees—even those who aren’t on the continuity team—must be aware of the plan. Something as simple as having the foresight to print out the plan rather than it solely being digital is an example of something that could come up when testing the plan in the mock event of a power loss.