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How Project Management Applies to Business Continuity Planning

By Owen Manningham:

Disruptive events are inevitable in a business. Moreover, the probability of occurrence has increased in the recent past for both natural and man-made disasters. Unfortunately, they strike without a warning and when least expected. For this reason, only businesses that are prepared manage to recover and bounce back. About 25% of them don’t reopen after a disaster. Worse still, those that do, fail within the first year of disaster recovery. That is why business continuity management is paramount for any business. Having a business continuity plan in place ensures continuity of important business operations after a disruption to minimize losses as the business works on full recovery.

And as businesses try to find effective ways for business continuity planning, incorporating project management in the process can be a good approach. We discuss how project management applies to each step of business continuity planning below.

Developing business continuity project foundation
The first step in business continuity planning is to establish a foundation for the project. This starts with aligning the management with the project to eliminate resistance later on. Getting the buy-in from the senior management is necessary since they are responsible for allocating the resources needed for the successful completion of the project. This includes the time, budget, appropriate staff, and access to important documents and information critical in the planning such as key personnel contact information, safety policies, and procedures, and emergency response among others. Additionally, this step includes defining the scope of the project to set realistic goals and expectations, identifying the team members, allocating a budget, and creating a project implementation plan.

To complete this step, the management needs the help of a project manager. An individual who has the required certification such as PMP certification training understands how to create a project charter to describe the business continuity planning project in its entirety.

Threat evaluation and impact analysis
The next step in business continuity planning is identifying the possible threats both internal and external, quantifying the impact they can have on the business and determining the probability of them occurring. This involves taking a thorough assessment of the business functions that are crucial for business continuity to identify potential risks. Project management can prove handy in this step. Using a risk matrix, a project manager can help assess the likelihood of risks and their severity on the business for each critical business operation. In addition, risk mitigation tools can help the project manager to identify risk response strategies to mitigate these risks and keep losses at a minimum.

Strategy review and selection
After identifying the risks and mitigation strategies, the next step is to review and refine the decisions. The management can come in with its input to audit the risks and provide final approval. The business continuity planning team can then develop an emergency response plan for the approved risks taking into account government regulations and laws. What follows is communicating to the employees about the plan and the appropriate procedures to follow in a crisis. Project management applies here in identifying the important people to involve in risk selection using stakeholder analysis. In addition, project communication planning helps define how the information is to be communicated to the employees, at what frequency, and by who. Moreover, using a project audit plan is necessary in ensuring that the plan complies with both the external and internal regulations.

Plan documentation and implementation
This step involves bringing the above steps to life by documenting them into a plan and implementing the same into the organization. This includes documenting the continuity strategies for each key function and recovery plan – damage assessment, reporting procedures, resources needed, and the team involved. In addition, listing down the roles and responsibilities of the executives and crisis management team. After that, creating awareness through training is important in implementing the plan. The expertise and knowledge of a project manager can be applied in this step. Using a responsibility chart, mapping task roles, and assigning responsibility is easier. Moreover, work breakdown structure, critical path analysis, and checklists ensure that all tasks are completed as planned.

Test, assess, and improve
It is important to test and assess the business continuity plan regularly. The goal here is to ensure that the plan can work in a real crisis. In addition, you want to test the effectiveness and identify problems so that it can be fixed before a real crisis occurs. Moreover, dynamics change in the business world. You want to ensure that the plan aligns with the current business conditions and regulations.

Testing the plan takes a lot of planning from getting management approval, and creating exercise scenarios to planning for disruptions during business hours. It also takes careful analysis of the plan’s effectiveness. All these can benefit from project management tools such as what-if analysis, post-mortem analysis, and creating a scenario plan.

Building your business resilience in turbulent times is important to ensure business survival. Creating a business continuity plan is one step in achieving this. Moreover, applying project management in the process ensures an effective approach and increases the chances of getting successful outcomes. If you are in the process of business continuity planning, you can get insights above on how to apply project management in each step.

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