I don’t know what you’ve experienced but in my working life I’ve noticed that Business Continuity Planning often features at the bottom of the pile, the last item on that list of business priorities.
And that’s if it even gets on the list to begin with! It’s rare to see this type pf planning being given the time and attention it deserves. But the coronavirus outbreak and its wide-ranging impact on economies and businesses has brought the benefits of good Business Continuity Planning into sharp focus.
So What Is Business Continuity Planning?
Business Continuity Planning is the creation of systems to deal with potential disasters and threats to a business.
It involves reviewing a number of hypothetical scenarios and planning how your business can continue to run, even if all hell breaks loose! For example: What would you do if there was a cybersecurity attack?
Or, if the City of London (and your office-based teams) had to be evacuated?
Or – as has happened this year – if the whole economy and your supply chain shuts down for a few months? Would you still be able to offer your products and services; could you afford to pay salaries to your team, your suppliers, and yourself?
It’s become evident that many plans were not worth the paper they were printed on, and are in desperate need of a complete overhaul.
That’s why I’m exploring Business Continuity Planning, and what a good plan should contain.
Preparing To Create Your Business Continuity Plan
Before you start on the actual plan, there are a number of steps to complete.
They may require some research and consultation with stakeholders, as the information is unlikely to be readily available:
- Conduct a Business Impact Analysis. Identify the critical functions and processes which are core to your business’s existence, without which there wouldn’t be a business to run! What would the impact would be if they are interrupted? Pinpoint who’s responsible for each one and capture their contact details. Include alternative locations where these functions can operate from, and details of how people will be moved there (and by who).
- The next step before the actual Business Continuity Plan is to identify the risk and impact on business functions. So, list the functions performed by each department, categorise them by order of importance, and describe what the impact would be if that function is suddenly lost. Would the department and wider business activities be crippled? Or could you easily adjust and continue operating?
- The final piece before you start on your plan is to quantify what the losses would be if part (or all) of your business became unavailable. A simple way to do this is to estimate the revenue you would normally generate in a month, quarter or year, and use that figure as a baseline. You could get more sophisticated and include things like salaries and other contractual agreements which would potentially still need to be met.
What Are The Components of A Good Business Continuity Plan?
The first thing to start with is your recovery strategy.
Include a list of team members who need to be available, their departments and contact details. You also have to think about how you will contact and communicate with people, and frequency. So, you will definitely send out communication at the start, but would you continue to do so at regular intervals? Every 30 minutes, or every hour, for example? Will the comms differ in content and frequency depending on people’s locations, where they are based and seniority?
What Resources Do You Need?
Next, work out who and what you need to keep the business going. Which members of your team, which departments and which equipment and systems are needed to perform business-critical functions?
Decide In Advance Who Will Participate In Making Decisions
Then, determine who should be part of the decision-making process. Beware though, as this can get political! There may be several people in the Senior Leadership Team, who think they should be all be involved. But try to stick to a core group; the last thing you want is a roundtable where people struggle to move things forward at what will be a crucial time.
A key point is that your Business Continuity Plan should focus on each department or area of your business. Particularly in a large organisation, you need to involve departmental heads who will naturally know more when it comes to pinpointing critical functions, people and resources.
Test & Maintain
Once completed, your Business Continuity Plan and the team whose focus it is to manage any disruption have to be tested at regular intervals to help identify any weaknesses and make sure they are robust and resilient.
On a final note…
Just to say that Business Continuity Planning isn’t just for large businesses! It applies to small, medium and even micro-businesses. The size of the plan and the level of detail may vary, but the apparent benefits of having one means this cannot be ignored and has to be priority.
If this isn’t something you have paid attention to before and creating a Business Continuity Plan is now a priority for you – which it should be – then contact me here and I can help you get started right away.
Investopedia.com. Business Continuity Planning. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/business-continuity-planning.asp [Accessed 22 May 2020]
aig.co.uk. Building a Business Continuity Plan: Guidelines For Preparation of Your Plan. (2013). [online] Available at: https://www.aig.co.uk/content/dam/aig/emea/united-kingdom/documents/property-insights/business-continuity-planning-guidelines-for-preparation-of-your-plan.pdf [Accessed 22 May 2020]