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Back to Basics: Planning and Implementation of Business Continuity

By Jordan Macavoy, Reciprocity Labs:

Businesses hardly think about failure, calamities, emergencies, and other risky events. Today’s headlines have shown us that even the most successful and organized companies can be brought down by natural and man-made disasters. Disruptions such as floods, hurricanes, fires, cyberattacks, and disease outbreaks are enough to cause significant damage to an organization. To help your business weather such storms, now, more than ever, it’s critical to have an updated business continuity plan in place.

What Is a Business Continuity Plan
Companies aren’t reluctant to adopt a business continuity plan (BCP); they just don’t understand what it is and how it can help them. Once again, today’s headlines have opened our eyes even wider. We have all witnessed the devastating effects that businesses have faced since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Other recent hazards, such as the WannaCry ransomware attack, and hurricane Harvey, also affected businesses significantly. However, some organizations feel that insurance policies provide enough cover for them to need a BCP. Although an insurance cover may enable you to recoup economic or property loss, it won’t help your business to pick off from where it was before the disaster hit.

The first thing we learned when we entered into this profession is that a BCP outlines the procedures an organization will follow after an unplanned disruption of service. It contains contingencies for every aspect of the business that may get affected by the event and enables the operations to remain alive or quickly resume work after a crisis. It’s different from a disaster recovery plan, which focuses on restoring services to the way they were before the calamity.

Reasons to Create a BCP
Every company needs a business continuity plan. There’s no need to wonder why, but if there’s any doubt, let’s revisit some well-founded reasons.

  • Minimize Interruptions. When an unforeseen event such as a cyberattack strikes your business, it will undoubtedly disrupt your operations. A continuity plan tries to foresee such a scenario and creates steps that will help reduce downtime when the event occurs. Minimizing any interruption allows your business to resume operations quickly.
  • Limit Damage. A continuity plan can help you to limit the damage caused by a disaster. For instance, a company that stores sensitive customer information. If a data breach happens, the BCP will have clear instructions on what steps you should take in such a situation. These procedures will help prevent further data compromise.
  • Create Alternatives. Some serious disasters such as hurricanes can leave your business premises badly damaged and employees unable to come to work. A BCP provides an alternative option in case you lose your main center of operation. For example, your employees can work remotely before you restore your facilities.
  • Communicating With Confidence. Disasters are followed by chaos. If unprepared, you may end up making wrong and costly decisions. A continuity plan helps to create a state of order and bring everyone on the same page during a calamity. The plan not only delegates responsibilities to employees, but it also communicates to all stakeholders regarding a change in typical business operations.

Steps in Developing a Business Continuity Plan
At a time when organizations are facing different disruptions on multiple fronts, it’s essential we review our BCP plans. This will help you to evaluate whether your current plan can enable your business to survive the latest crises, and create effective processes that will allow your organization to remain resilient in times of difficulty. Let’s remind ourselves of the steps to create a business continuity plan.

  1. Identify the Objective of the Plan and Set Goals
    Like any other business planning process, you should start by defining the scope of the plan. Decide how detailed you want the plan to be, which departments will be covered by the BCP, the outcomes you would want, and how to track the success of the plan. You should also create a budget to cover the costs incurred in the process of creating the plan.
  2. Form Your Business Continuity Team
    Assemble a cross-department team to be in charge of your organization’s crisis preparedness efforts. Choose a team leader and then delegate specific roles to each team member. The responsibilities may range from communicating to stakeholders, assessing the damage caused by the calamity to coordinating the activities of the BCP.
  3. Perform a Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
    A business impact analysis is essential when creating a continuity plan. It allows your company to understand the impact that every potential threat could have on your business. This information helps the team to develop strategies to keep the business afloat during a crisis. The BIA identifies the core operations of your business and documents the resources needed to protect your critical functions.
  4. Strategizing and Planning
    Using the results of the BIA, the team will create a detailed response and recovery strategies and plans. The team will look into the effects of any crisis scenario and create the strategies they will use to mitigate the threats. For every essential business function, there should be a corresponding response strategy.
  5. Compilation and Documentation
    In this step, you write the business continuity plan. This will act as the first draft, and it will be finalized after rigorous testing of the response plans.
  6. Implementation and Testing
    Here, you implement the mitigation strategies in step 4. This phase involves the communication of the business plan to everyone within the organization, lets everyone know their role in the BCP, and trains staff members on how to respond to different disasters. Drills and scenario exercises are held to test the effectiveness of the response strategies.
  7. Adjustments and Improvements
    Since risks change as the business grows, your BCP needs to be tested and updated regularly. The plan should be improved if; strategies are found to be ineffective after a test, new factors emerge in the workplace such as the purchase of new technology, the plan is found to be vague in some areas, or roles and responsibilities change in the BCP team.

Pro Tips While Creating a BCP

  • Before creating your business continuity plan, consult with other business owners, partners, or trade unions. They can give you insights or even a template that you can use to build a comprehensive plan.
  • Investigate what aspects of your business are most vulnerable and what harmful events are most likely to occur. This will help you prepare for the scenarios that have a high probability of occurring and create a plan that will keep your most critical functions alive.
  • To guarantee your solutions are actionable and up-to-date, test the plan thoroughly, and review it periodically. Conduct simulations and involve every employee in every step. This will help you identify errors and blind spots, and ensure all staff members know what to do in any scenario.

Key Takeaways

  • A business Continuity plan enables an organization to respond appropriately to any adverse event and reduce confusion in a time of crisis.
  • A BCP protects your employees and most critical assets, allowing you to continue your core operations when a crisis occurs.
  • Continuity planning is a continuous process; therefore, you should regularly test, modify, and update the plan.

Closing Thoughts
Major disruptions are emerging every day. Even for the most experienced BCP experts, it’s not easy keeping up with the evolving disaster landscape. To avoid being caught on the wrong foot, update your business continuity plan frequently.

About the Author: Jordan Macavoy is the Vice President of Marketing at Reciprocity Labs and manages the company’s go-to-market strategy and execution. Prior to joining Reciprocity, MacAvoy served in executive roles at Fundbox, a Forbes Next Billion Dollar Company, and Intuit, via their acquisition of the SaaS marketing and communications solution, Demandforce.

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