Business continuity planning is essential for organizations of all sizes. Whether disruptions in your business occur because of natural disasters like earthquakes or floods, or it’s something like a fire or even theft, it’s critical to have plans in place for continuity.
There are many threats that modern businesses are exposed to, and business continuity planning allows you to have a strong foundation for your recovery strategy.
A business continuity plan is a way to recognize realistic possible threats and take an honest look at the impact they could have on the day-to-day operations of the business. A continuity plan also helps create specific steps and procedures that allow a business to keep functioning at some level, even in a worst-case scenario.
There are some reasons businesses don’t put these plans in place. One big reason is that they assume everyone will know what to do in an emergency situation, and that’s simply not the case.
Another reason is that businesses believe insurance is in and of itself a business continuity strategy, which is, again, not the case.
Business continuity planning is also not the same as disaster recovery planning. Business continuity is about remaining financially viable, while disaster recovery is more focused on how you respond immediately following an event.
The following are some tips for business continuity planning to implement as soon as possible.
Know the Framework of a Business Continuity Plan
Within your business continuity plan, you’ll need certain components, and it needs to all be written out.
First, you’ll need to identify risks and then have specific steps outlined that you’ll take in each of the scenarios. You’ll also need to create a disaster recovery team and dictate who will be responsible for what.
If you have multiple departments in your business, you want to make sure they’re all integrated into your plan.
You’ll also want to have an overall idea of what you want to achieve with your business continuity plan.
Some risks are going to be more likely to affect your business than others. For example, you may operate in an area that’s hurricane or flood-prone. You’ll need to be more detailed in how you’ll prevent disruption to your business based on the priority of risks.
You also need to identify all the essential services and functions of your business and your operations.
Think about how these could be impacted by a disaster. Consider, for example, a high rate of absent employees, a lack of availability of supplies and materials, or service interruptions such as power and communications.
An essential service is something that, when it’s not available, impacts the health and safety of people.
Just like your plan needs to identify and then prioritize risks, you also need to identify possible outcomes.
Go step-by-step what could happen in each potential disaster situation that could affect your business. This will help you then build step-by-step instructions for how to deal with these scenarios, and these are going to serve as the blueprint for business continuity.
Within your continuity plan, you should list out all emergency contacts and write down who should be contacted immediately and who is in charge of what. Your plan should also ensure all key stakeholders are in the loop.
Think about external parties as well as internal stakeholders. For example, you might list out your technology services providers and insurance companies.
There is a measure called recovery time objective or RTO. This is a goal you set that will detail how quickly you hope to restore operations. You can set this for the organization as a whole and also for individual systems or departments.
There’s also a measure called recovery point objective or RPO, which is a goal you set as far as how much data you can reasonably afford to lose as you restore backups.
Finally, when you create a business continuity plan, you need to make sure your employees understand it, are familiar with it, and are trained on it. Training is one of the most important parts of this kind of plan, and you might also want to do some testing to see what would happen if your business and employees were faced with a disaster situation.
This will allow you to see where any gaps exist in your plan and what you can do to remedy them before it’s too late.
Reevaluate your plan regularly as well, because they can quickly become obsolete.