If you are in business for any length of time, whether your company is big or small, you’ve likely dealt with differing levels of risk management relevant to specific points of your business growth. Perhaps, this topic is not something you’ve thought about yet, or you are in the early stages of your business. Still, the truth is this: not having a business continuity plan is like taking a long road trip without caring about the condition of your vehicle or the odds you will make it. Let’s take a look at some basics to help support your knowledge about business continuity.
What is Business Continuity Planning?
Business continuity planning (BCP) is a broad definition that covers a company’s strategy for continuing business operations if major disasters, societal unrest, or any other unplanned event threatens the day-to-day operation of the business. And, as business owners, we find ways to make our businesses better, right? Well, this is an essential part of that goal.
The BCP lays out all of the conditions that need to be realized if you cannot conduct business as usual. Think about your IT operations, for example, or if you run a company with a contact center, do you have a backup site where your call center agents could be relocated safely and with minimal interruption to your operations?
Keep in mind, you don’t need to duplicate your entire operation; this plan is meant to do the minimum temporarily. However, it’s a good idea to have a plan that is as effective and efficient as possible. Consider getting some advice from a consultant if you need to. They could help you identify the minimum operations your business needs to continue with an acceptable level of service should the unforeseen occur.
Creating a Solid Plan
Your department or business managers can complete the steps we’re going to work through here in any order based on how you’ll approach the formulation of your BCP. Just like your business plan, this plan should be considered a “living document” and be regularly reviewed and amended as your business evolves.
BUSINESS IMPACT ANALYSIS (BIA)
Conducting a BIA is an excellent place to start formulating any solid BCP. When you run your BIA, it refers to the process of understanding how a significant event could interrupt your business. Natural disasters could cut off electricity to your production plant, or if you manage a home-based business doing tax consulting, a tornado could mean you’re out of data connections or telecommunications. You can see that this sort of critical thinking doesn’t just apply to large businesses; even small to medium-sized are impacted by lapses in business continuity.
As you begin running your BIA, you want to think about what a business interruption event means to your business, and clearly define those processes (which you should be able to take direction from your business plan, hint hint). This part of your critical thinking also covers a secondary but crucial element of your overall strategy, business risk planning. There are potential insurance implications here, so be sure and check with a business consultant or financial planner, just in case.
As the name suggests, this is the plan that your company will use to bring operations back online after a disaster or business interruption event. Here you can rely on local intelligence, for example, if you live in an area prone to earthquakes or tornados. Based on historical precedence, you can formulate a plan that is responsive to your specific conditions.
This level of planning is particular to specific businesses as not every type of business will have to think about offsite planning. But suppose you operate a logistics or supply chain business, a business with a contact or call center, or a company that relies on conducting ongoing strategic planning like emergency or response services. In that case, you will need to plan for offsite operations.
BRING IT ALL TOGETHER
Once you’ve created all of these foundational assessments, impact plans, risk assessments, and any other type of plan that’s relevant for your business, it’s time to complete your final BCP. That last plan will be the comprehensive process management guide for you, managers, and team members. If you’ve done the job correctly, your company should be able to run efficiently, if not at 100% capacity.
All the planning, forecasting, and plotting in the world will mean nothing if your teams don’t know how to implement these plans. Consider moving away from the traditional corporate view that these plans are intended to be for “top management” or “eyes only” audience. Honestly, the more of your team members who know how to access and activate these plans, the better it’s going to be for you.
With all things being equal, you should almost be able to “flip a switch” and have your business continue operating, and to a certain degree, it can be that easily done. But as every business owner knows, it takes a lot of hard work to make something look easy, and the more you train your staff and team leaders in your BCP, the better it will work in a real emergency situation.
THE LEGAL STUFF
Your clients and customers have a reasonable expectation that you have taken all necessary steps to secure their business interest in your company. In some cases, there might be legal implications that could work heavily against you if you don’t have sufficient planning in place to keep your clients’ property safe. So take some time to learn more about business and commercial litigation as it applies to this type of business planning.