Your company will face a wide variety of potential risks in its lifetime. With luck, most of these will never occur. But if they do, the best thing to be is prepared, and the best thing to have is an effective Business Continuity Plan (BCP). When disaster strikes, you need to know that your assets and personnel are protected. The future of your company may depend on business continuity planning effectively.
Just as there’s no one way for things to go wrong, there’s no one way to create a BCP. That said, all solid BCPs share the same core steps and considerations. Let us take you through the journey of effectively planning for the unexpected.
Core Components of a Business Continuity Plan
Knowing the Risks
The first step of business continuity planning is identifying the particular risks that could impact your business. To do this well, you’ll need the right team and the right data.
Assembling a Team
It’s best to create a dedicated management team with clearly defined roles for overseeing the entire process. A team with good analytical minds and organizational skills would be ideal. In addition, seek out departmental leaders, long-time employees, and those in the know, as their direct experience will be invaluable for data gathering.
Define your potential threat from the outset. Is it a technological, environmental, safety, or reputational threat? With this in mind, start assessing the risks involved. What are the potential impacts on revenue, operations, personnel, or assets? Look at the likelihoods and examine the worst-case scenarios. The more fully realized the threat, the better.
Business Impact Analysis
The major part of any BCP is the Business Impact Analysis (BIA). This involves diving into your business processes, their importance, the resources they use, and how they relate to each other. Combine this with the most likely risks you can encounter (whether they come from the environment or from economics), and you can examine how each process stands to be disrupted and how badly.
The outcome of your BIA will be measured in costs, giving you a clear idea of what operations need to be recovered first and how long it will take to do so. When sitting down to draft your BCP, be sure to include the BIA findings. It’ll help clearly outline the stakes for all.
Develop Your Business Continuity Planning
With your data gathered and risks understood, it’s time to draft your BCP. This could take any number of forms, but let’s explore some guidelines.
Clearly Define Your Actions
When disaster strikes, what are the concrete steps to take? The clearer and more comprehensive you can make these, the better prepared your business will be. They can be roughly grouped into four areas:
- Response: A quick reaction and implementation of the BCP is essential. How will this happen?
- Relocation: What or who needs to be moved? How will they be accommodated?
- Recovery: Certain processes need more time to recover than others. What is the Recovery Time Objective (RTO)? How will you assess the impact and damages?
- Restoration: How will normalcy be restored? There must also be time for review and reflection.
Disaster Recovery Plan
The Disaster Recovery plan is often confused with a BCP, but it actually forms part of it. While you are indeed planning for disaster, this specific term is used to refer to the recovery of your IT and data-related systems in the event of sudden losses. For technology-related risks like hacking and phishing, this is an essential part of the Recovery area of your BCP.
Organizing Your Data
Quick and easy access to information is key in a crisis. Organizing your data for your BCP can be done manually or with the help of dedicated disaster recovery software. Some essential data might include:
- Contact lists and details of employees, key players, the management team, and any relevant emergency services.
- Emergency gathering locations.
- An extensive inventory of assets.
- A time frame of the recovery process.
- Required resources to get back up and running.
- Proactive and reactive strategies in dealing with the threat.
- The training required to safeguard your assets, employees, and business.
Being open with your personnel at all levels will greatly help you with gathering information and utilizing their experience. It’ll also give your planning greater transparency, which will inform your employees of the risks, making them more willing to help. A solid BCP will also work wonders for your reputation, demonstrating your foresight and planning to your clients. Conduct interviews, ask questions, and be open.
Testing Your Business Continuity Planning
There’s theory, then there’s practice. Any good BCP needs to be thoroughly tested to find and close any gaps. There are also a number of ways to go about this:
Tabletop reviews: This is a great way to run through your BCP on a smaller scale. A few people in a boardroom can rehash the plan and iron out any difficulties.
Walkthroughs: Take employee groups of any size through the steps of your BCP, demonstrating what needs to be done in case of an emergency.
Drills: For a larger-scale test, it’s a good idea to involve all personnel in an emergency run-through of a scenario. It’ll keep everyone sharp and show the effectiveness of business-wide implementation. Just be sure to brief everyone beforehand.
Mock recovery test: This is like a drill, but it’s more in-depth. Fully enact the scenario in a controlled environment and see what issues and shortcomings may arise in your BCP implementation.
Review and Renew
A good BCP is constantly open to feedback and the changing times. With each test, be sure to collect feedback and discuss results. Even the best-laid plans can go awry. Companies with higher turnover or rapidly evolving technology may find their BCPs outdated quite quickly, so revisiting them frequently is essential.
Plan as Best You Can
Ultimately, business continuity planning is only as good as the time and effort you invest in it. While it may seem tempting to gloss over areas and steps, putting in the bare minimum, the potential ramifications for your business can be huge. Be smart, be prepared.
If you’re in the Burnsville, Twin Cities, Fargo, Duluth, or St. Cloud areas, when planning for the unexpected, you need a partner with experience in weathering the storm. That’s where we come in. With over 50 years of industry experience, our advanced technology can help your business be prepared for any eventuality. Contact Metro Sales today.