Have you wondered how your company or business would continue to serve customers or members with critical services and products after a disaster, such as a fire or a flood? Do you even know what those critical services and products are? These are some essential considerations when running a business. You should know what processes and systems must continue within your operations in order to provide these essential services and products.
If a disaster or crisis, such as a fire or communication breakdown, were to occur, many companies and businesses would damage their reputation, lose profits, or even be forced to shut down. A well-thought-out and effective Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is what your organization needs to prevent interruptions and minimize their impact. Also, if your business already has a BCP, you also have to update or revise it so that it addresses the changing nature of threats and disasters.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide has required many companies, big and small, to blow the dust off their BCPs. Keep in mind that a business crisis or disaster can cost your organization a lot of money and resources and potentially ruin your reputation if you are not proactively prepared and equipped to handle one.
Also, customers and other stakeholders, such as investors, are not very forgiving. This is especially true when a crisis is influenced and triggered by accidents within the organization.
So, if you want your organization to maintain its business continuity in the event of a crisis or natural disaster, you’ll have to come up with a robust plan to ensure the continuity of essential functions.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan, also known as BCP, outlines procedures and practices to prevent damage, maintain productivity and efficiency, and recover in the event of a disaster or emergency. It is worth noting that staying ahead and planning for natural disasters and other crises will help your business stay competitive in the market. A business continuity plan should list all the internal processes you need to perform if a major business disruption or interruption occurs.
When you prepare such a plan, it is vital to identify possible threats, such as fires, social engineering attacks, or utility disruptions. After that, you have to proactively determine what employees and other parties can do in order to get your business back on track.
In other words, a business continuity plan details the emergency management strategies and procedures you should enact to minimize the impact of disruptions. Writing out an effective business continuity plan helps minimize panic, losses, and uncertainty when a crisis or disaster happens and how to respond efficiently and effectively.
Preparing Your Company’s Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan is a crucial document that outlines directions, strategies, and procedures that your organization will follow when faced with a disaster or crisis. A BCP includes key business procedures, functions, names of assets and partners, locations, human resource functions, and other valuable information that will help maintain your company’s relationships with relevant stakeholders, such as investors, suppliers, and the government.
For instance, one crisis that your company might have to respond to is a severe flood or snowstorm. Your team may wonder, “If a snowstorm or flood disrupted our supply chain, how would we resume operations and serve customers?” Planning for contingencies to counter situations like these will help your company stay afloat when you are faced with an unavoidable crisis.
Also, preparing a business continuity plan for your company, you should consider the variety of disasters and crises that could potentially impact your company. Keeping that in mind, let’s have a look at the specific areas you must address as you develop your BCP—and how you can make sure that it will be effective when or if it is required.
1. Assess Your Risks
This is the first step in developing a business continuity plan. Regardless of your company’s size and structure, it is important to understand where the business risks lie so that you can eliminate or reduce them. In this step, you have to consider external and internal threats to your critical business operations and activities. And your BCP needs to take into account all potential business threats and scenarios.
Depending on your specific location, the risks for specific types of threats and disasters may be higher than others. For instance, if your business is located on the US East Coast, the threat of a powerful hurricane is higher. In contrast, if you are on the US West Coast, the threat from tsunamis and earthquakes is much higher.
You should list every potential threat, such as a tornado, to your business operations so that you can consider how to mitigate and minimize those risks most effectively and efficiently. Risk assessment is most effective when it is a team effort, addressing every facet of your business operations and every type of threat, such as:
2. Choose Your Business Continuity Team
The makeup or composition of your team depends on your business continuity objectives, goals, risks, and the size of your company. However, one of the important parts of your BCP is the incident command team and their duties and responsibilities.
A robust BCP should detail what your staff and employees need to do in the case of a disaster, and what communication methods and tools are required. It should also outline the timeframe in which critical IT services have to be available.
It is best to include the contact information, job titles, and any other relevant information for each team member. If applicable, you should also specify backup contacts for each department or responsibility. These first responders are important as they perform specific duties in order to keep your business running smoothly. There are two types of teams that work in unison to achieve the best results.
The Command Center Team: This business continuity team comprises the incident response team, crisis management, and recovery management team. In turn, these teams consist of program managers, information officers, and coordinators. This team should ideally be led by the Chief Information Officer in order to ensure top management buy-in and support.
The Task-Oriented team: On the other hand, this team comprises public relations, procurement, legal, cybersecurity, communications, and IT service desk teams.
It is vital to assign clear responsibilities and duties for each role and make sure there are no overlaps.
3. Define Plan Goals and Objectives
Now you must determine what you are trying to achieve with your business continuity plan. You should know the goal, whether it is resuming business functions and processes as normal or maintaining the company’s reputation. In most cases, at the highest level, the main objective of developing a BCP is to keep essential business functions and processes running and/or minimize disruption.
However, it is worth noting that every business is different and unique — so you should identify the goals and business objectives most important to how you operate. Keep in mind that these goals will guide and direct your risk assessment, the overall business continuity planning process, and your potential recovery strategies.
4. Perform a Business Impact Analysis
Business Impact Analysis, also known as BIA, is another crucial part of your BCP. A BIA is a comprehensive assessment of the effects potential threats, such as a fire, could have on each aspect of your business.
A BIA also helps you evaluate and assess whether you should outsource some non-core activities in your business continuity plan. The BIA basically helps you consider and evaluate your entire organization’s processes and systems and determine which ones are most important.
The business impact analysis document should contain explanations of your core business operations and what aspects are important for business continuity.
5. Identify Stakeholders and Critical Business Systems and Functions
With a clear and comprehensive understanding of your business risks and the potential effects on your business, it is time to identify those functions and systems that are mission critical. Note that this list will help ensure that all these systems and functions are prioritized for security and recovery.
And as you prepare the BCP, mapping your hardware, network, and software topology and dependencies could be a valuable tool for identifying and troubleshooting issues, which will accelerate recovery.
6. Back Up the Data
Although you are likely backing up all your important data, such as customer agreements, in some form, your business impact analysis and risk assessment should give you a reliable foundation for choosing the most efficient and effective backup strategy for your specific needs.
7. Draft the Plan
Equipped with all the relevant information from the previous stages, you can now draft your baseline plan. The draft plan should include the following aspects in order to ensure a well-rounded, robust, and actionable plan:
Business continuity planning is a dynamic and never-ending exercise. This is mainly because of the changing needs, preferences, and objectives of an organization. Business continuity planning should also be a consideration at all levels of your organization, from high-level strategic planning to your daily operations.
If you follow the above steps to create a BCP, you will be able to get all the fundamentals right and make sure that your company stays afloat during a crisis.