Business continuity is the process of establishing a plan that will ensure that business functions are still available to stakeholders during a time of disaster. It is best to think about it as an action that happens before disasters in effort to reduce or eliminate downtime if these occur. This has become increasingly important to many businesses. A common problem, however, is ensuring that your plan will work in reality.
Here are six tips to help ensure that your business continuity efforts will work.
1. Know your risks When creating a business continuity plan, or updating existing operations, it is a good idea to step back and as a group – with key staff – identify all possible risks to your organization. It’s important to focus on risks both from within and outside the organization. No risk is too small, even if it and issue that could only affect one person or department.
You should also try to detail the consequences and what could happen should these defined risks come to fruition. This will give you a better idea of areas that need to be improved and potential problematic systems or positions. From here, you can also better develop a more solid plan that has a higher chance of succeeding.
2. Ensure your plan matches your business Because business continuity planning can be complex, many small businesses prefer to use ready made plans and templates. The problem with these is that they may not provide exactly what you need – most of these templates are fairly general. While we aren’t saying you shouldn’t use a template, and they can save time and money, you need to be sure that you either find a template that covers your business, or you adapt it to fit your business needs.
Pay close attention to where the plan fits in with your company, the scale of your company compared to the plan, available resources, where your work and how your employees work (remotely, onsite, both, etc.). If these differ from the template or current plan, you should take steps to modify or update your strategy to ensure it meets your needs.
3. Be sure that all staff buy in It is usually pretty easy to get the staff under your command to buy into a business continuity plan – after all, they may have helped modify or come up with the plan. What you have to ensure is that all upper management and stakeholders are not only aware of the plan, how it will work and when it is to be activated, but also support it.
One way to do this is to have a signoff sheet where all managers and key employees sign their names to ensure that they understand and support the plan. If you have holdouts, you should work with them to figure out what aspects of the plan they disagree with and work out if they have better or alternative solutions to bring to the table.
4. Keep your plan up to date A common mistake many businesses make is to develop a great continuity plan, but then not update it. Businesses and the climate around them are always changing. Having a plan that was workable five years ago will likely not meet your exact needs today.
To ensure that your business continuity plan is viable it is recommend that you update it on a yearly basis, or certainly when you undergo a big change in your business. Be sure to pay attention to whom has changed roles, any new systems introduced or retired and any changes to the core business
5. Communication is key Communication is a crucial part of any business. In order to have a continuity plan that actually works, you need to ensure that you communicate with all staff, and that they know not only their roles but who to report to and what to do if they are unable to reach the office, for example.
It is also be a good idea to communicate with those outside of the business who could be affected by a disaster that impacts your company. Generally, all parties involved should know and have access to the plan and be informed of updates or changes. Employees should also see how disasters might affect not only the company and their individual role in it, but people outside of the organization as well.
6. Practice Think of any professional athlete. They didn’t get to where they are today by sitting around and not doing anything. They practiced their sport and took note of what needed to be improved upon, then went and worked on their game. The idea here is that you should practice implementing your plan on a regular basis. The timing depends on your business and propensity to danger. If you have defined a high amount of risk to your organization, it is a good idea to practice implementing the plan once every two to three months. Most organizations should be fine with twice a year.
After each practice, teams should get together for experience sharing to talk about what they noticed worked well and what needs to be improved on. Then changes can be implemented and the plan evolved.
If you are looking to integrate a business continuity plan in your business, or improve on an existing plan, contact us today to see how we can create a viable, workable solution that will minimize negative impact on your business.