Building An Effective Business Continuity Plan
Businesses rarely like to think about failures, disasters, emergencies, accidents, or uncontrollable circumstances. When business is disrupted, it can cost money. Lost revenues plus extra expenses means reduced profits. Insurance does not cover all costs and cannot replace customers that defect to the competition. A business continuity plan to continue business is essential. In the unfortunate event something happens to your company, it’s critical that you have a strong, effective, and organized plan in place to keep your business alive.
Business Continuity can be described as the capability of an organization to continue the delivery of its products or services, at acceptable predefined levels, following a disruptive incident. Business continuity planning consists of five distinct stages: (1) defining potential risks, (2) determining how those risks will affect operations, (3) developing and implementing safeguards or procedures to diminish those risks, (4) testing those safeguards and procedures to verify they work, and (5) continually reviewing processes to ensure the plan is up to date.
Why Create A Business Continuity Plan:
“Twenty-five percent of businesses do not reopen following a major event. It does not take a major catastrophe to shut down a business. In fact, seemingly minor disruptions compared to widespread natural disasters can often cause significant damage — power failures, broken water pipes, or loss of computer data.” (Travelers Insurance) With a clear understanding of what business continuity planning is and how it works, here are some reasons businesses like yours need these safeguards in place:
· Minimize interruptions. In their most basic sense, continuity plans minimize interruptions in the event that something unforeseen happens. Instead of having to deal with each problem or issue as independent events, you can streamline your responses for minimal downtime. For companies that depend heavily on things like customer uptime or largescale manufacturing, the time saved from these interruptions can be worth thousands – or even millions – of dollars.
· Establish alternatives. When something happens that shuts down production or disables standard means of operation, a continuity plan can save the day by establishing alternative options. For example, a large storm may cause a power outage in one of your production facilities, but with a continuity plan, managers understand how to access and use generators to keep production going.
· Ensure employees are responsive. Finally, one of the most important reasons for developing a business continuity plan is to ensure all employees are on the same page. Without one, you can’t be certain your employees will be responsive and capable of handling unique circumstances. Having a well-documented business continuity plan in advance, and training your employees to follow it, helps to ensure an organized, safe and timely recovery.
There are plenty of other company-specific reasons to create a business continuity plan, but these four are near the top for every business. If you think hard enough, you can probably come up with a dozen more reasons why your company needs one.
Elements That Need To Be Included:
However, it’s not enough to simply know you need a continuity plan. You must work hard to ensure it’s functional and effective. Here are some elements you’ll definitely want to include:
· Facilities management. When natural disasters hit, it’s difficult to know what (if anything) will be spared. That’s why it’s critically important that you include detailed facilities management planning. Everything from office space and warehousing to storefronts and manufacturing plants should be included. If any sort of physical threat (fire, burglary, vandalism, natural disasters, etc.) can harm it, assume it will, and include it in the plan.
· Disaster recovery. From a virtual perspective, you also need to think about disaster recovery. What will your business do in the event your critical IT systems are compromised or disrupted? How will data be backed up and accessed? Computers, servers, and data centers all need to be carefully dealt with.
· Ensure Data remains secure and available. It is not always enough to make sure that you have a backup of your critical data. When some data is not available, business stops. Plan for redundancy to your network and servers so there is no single point of failure. Include hardware, power, air conditioning and even a complete backup location should be considered in the plan.
· Health and safety. One area that many businesses forget about is health and safety. However, with the ongoing threat of Ebola and other dangerous diseases, it’s important that you take health threats very seriously. For example, in 2014, Sierra Leone introduced a 72-hour nationwide shutdown in an effort to curb the spread of disease. Many businesses there were forced to develop temporary solutions on-the-fly. Would you have to do the same?
Start Building Your Business Continuity Plan Today:
So, where do you start? How can you develop proper plan and ensure it’s effective? The best advice you can receive is to start today. Meet with your business’ key decision makers, identify potential risks, determine the extent of those risks, develop safeguards, implement them, and educate your employees. From there, you should continually monitor and tweak the plan to account for changing variables and new risks. As business owners, we all like to think about success and profitability; however, you should simultaneously consider the risks, too.