DISRUPTIONS to your business can happen at any moment. A good business plan recognises potential threats to an organisation and analyses what impact they may have on dayto-day operations. It also provides a way to mitigate these threats, putting in place a framework which allows key functions of the business to continue, even if the worst happens.

What is business continuity?

Business continuity is about having a plan to deal with difficult situations, so your organisation can continue to function with as little disruption as possible. Whether it’s a private business, public sector organisation, or charity, you need to know how you can keep going under any circumstances.

Why is business continuity important?

Companies can face the risk of going out of business at any time. That is scary – both to the employer and employee. A plan can reduce the effect of an interruption by mitigating against the risk.

  • It could also prevent disruptions in operations that otherwise could result in closure.
  • It provides order and structure as plans will include steps and procedures of things to do.
  • It is cheaper to the organisation in the long run.

What are the elements of a business continuity plan?

  • Analysis – Identify the risks/threats to your business, as well as your business’ critical functions. The threats range from major natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods to other risks such as power failure, water outages, bomb scares, cyberattacks and environmental issues. Ask yourself, “If my business goes down due to a threat, how long will it take for it to be back up and running?”
  • Response/Recovery Design – Formulate your plan of action and ensure all roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. Have a designated person to activate the plan, a telecommunications team, a facilities operations team and floor/fire wardens. Your plan should encompass an incident and response plan, and a crisis communication plan.
  • Implementation – Put your plan in place and clearly communicate it to all employees. It should be easily accessible to all employees and copies of the plan should be stored offsite as well.
  • Testing – Test your plan to identify any gaps in the plan and ensure that the plan verifies whether your recovery procedures are actually effective. This involves several elements, including emergency drills, tabletop exercises and call tree tests.
  • Maintenance – The plan must be updated annually to reflect changes in the current working environment. Each time you conduct a testing exercise it should improve the efficiency of the plan and make staff more familiar with the procedures, so they function more effectively in a crisis.

What are some benefits of business continuity planning?

  • A viable ongoing business is maintained.
  • Key services are smoothly continued.
  • Uncertainty is reduced and managed in the event of emergency.
  • A competitive edge is provided in the market.
  • Customers gain confidence in knowing your business can survive threats.

How can business continuity planning be inculcated into your company’s culture?

To effectively make business continuity planning a part of your organisation’s norms you must:

  • employ creativity in the solutions they apply to unknown problems
  • build and utilise connections with people and resources
  • engage in leadership styles that create high levels of staff engagement
  • allow team members to generate solutions to business problems

In short, you must bring resilience principles into the proactive management of your day-to-day operations. This will position you well to ride the waves of uncertainty during times of crisis. Remember, the essentials of business continuity are:

  • Corporate commitment
  • Staff understanding and training
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Planning and testing
  • Continual review and revision

Business continuity should never be handed off to a disinterested lackadaisical employee you are simply trying to keep busy. This type of attitude and approach will be reflected in your result through poor, ineffective planning and testing. Always view your business continuity plan as a priority. A little quote I’ve used throughout the years, “Don’t wait until you hear the thunder to start to build the ark!”

Cheryl Griffith is a business continuity management consultant.

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