The purpose of Business Continuity (BC) is to maintain business operations following a disaster. BC and disaster recovery work together to bring an organization back to full operations. Usually, when a disaster happens your BC plan will allow your company to continue operations at a diminished capacity, so say 60% of your full capacity. While you are operating at 60%, you begin your disaster recovery, which is a plan that brings you back from your diminished capacity (60%) to your full 100%. 90% of small businesses that suffer a disaster and don’t reopen within 5 days go out of business permanently within a year. A good business continuity plan outlines the procedures and instructions an organization should follow during different types of disasters. It should cover all aspects of business such as processes, physical assets, all human elements and more. The top priority should always be the safety of your human resources(employees, contractors etc), then critical business functions and so on.
Steps to a Business Continuity Plan
Create an emergency preparedness team and assign the project to them
It’s a good idea to create a team and have them responsible for the development of the BCP. You also need to make sure that the people you assign to this team have the proper authority to implement everything that they will need.
Identify essential services and functions
This is defined as:
a service that when not delivered creates an impact on the health and safety of individuals.
A service that may cause the failure of a business unit.
Services that must be performed to satisfy regulatory requirements.
A service where if not performed has significant business impact immediately or in the future.
Determine acceptable downtime for each critical function
This is important so you know how quickly you need to get everything back up and running during any given situation.
Identify the required staff
For an effective Business Continuity plan you need to know what staff members and skillsets are required to perform and maintain critical functions. In addition to skillset, try to find any special requirements that are required, such as a license to operate a certain type of machinery.
Create a plan for each essential service
A description of the service or function
Individuals responsible for implementing the action plan
Business impact issues
A communication plan for notifying stakeholders and plans for relocating staff.
Any physical resources required (eg machinery)
Review the plan with your emergency preparedness team
Once a draft is created it should be reviewed by upper management and people experienced in dealing with emergency situations to ensure:
Consistency across all business units
It addresses all critical issues
Plan Testing and Maintenance
Once the plan has been made, it should be tested and updated regularly. The testing part helps you to identify any problems with the plan that may have been missed during its creation, and regularly updating the plan means even with employee turnover and changes to departments, you always have the right resources listed in the business continuity plan.
Tips for a good Business Continuity Plan
Have a checklist: You should have a checklist that includes supplies and equipment, location of data backups and backup sites, where the BC plan is available and who should have it, contact information for responders, key personnel and backup site providers. The contacts need to be updated regularly to ensure any changes in position or turnover in the company doesn’t result in one of these positions being absent during a disaster.
Have a Disaster Recovery Plan: This is an important part of the overall business continuity plan; this outlines your plan to return to normal operations following the disaster. You also need to define what your recovery time is (with as much accuracy as possible) and ensure this is acceptable based on your business expectations. If you have a Maximum Tolerable Downtime (MTD) you need to know this and factor that into your recovery plan.
Use experienced personnel’s insights: As you are creating your plan, you may want to interview people that have gone through disasters successfully and get their input. They can share valuable strategies for getting through these types of situations and can give you feedback on your plan once your first draft is completed.
Test your plan annually: You should test your BC and DR plans at least annually. Testing is the only effective way to know if your plan will work. It’s also important that you purposely try to break the plan, choose challenging scenarios that will make it easier to find holes in your plan before the real thing happens. There are multiple ways to test your plans, with some being more theory, like tabletop exercises and structured walk throughs. While others are more hands on, such as disaster simulation testing.
Have Management Backing: In order to have a successful BC plan, you need senior management to make this a priority. I think most management thoroughly understands the importance of this but if not do your best to convince them, it will make your life a lot easier.
A business continuity plan is all about keeping the business running during an emergency situation. It starts with identifying what your critical services/functions are and then planning out what you need to do to keep those running during a crisis. It’s best to create a separate team and assign them the responsibility of creating this plan so that you have someone to hold accountable for completing the project. Once you have a plan that meets your maximum tolerable downtime (MTD), the plan needs to be tested to ensure that it’s effective and you need to regularly update your plan to ensure that it accurately reflects your company as people and departments change.