Business continuity is a process of advanced preparation and planning embarked on by an organization to ensure that it will be able to run its critical business operations during an emergency event. 

Business Continuity Planning will make provision for events such as natural disasters, utility failures, a business crisis, pandemic, workplace violence, cyber-attacks, supply shortages, or any disruptive event that can affect business operations. 

It is vital that planning and preparation must cater for events that will stop operations completely as well as those that may partially impact operations.   

What Does Business Continuity Strategy Look Like?

A Business Continuity Strategy usually comprises a checklist. This checklist provides information about supplies, equipment, data backups, and backup site locations. Moreover, the strategy identifies the plan administrators and provides contact information for emergency responders, key personnel, and backup site providers. 

It also gives guidance on detailed strategies on how business operations can continue in the event of a disruption.

Business Continuity Plans are complex and unique documents. They are developed based on the needs of each organization and its clients. Business Continuity Plans should include the following:

  • Scope and purpose
  • Goals and objectives
  • List of essential tasks required for operations
  • Roles and responsibilities of the recovery team and staff
  • Contact details for management and key staff
  • Maintenance protocols
  • Site and data backup information
  • Details on emergency protocol
  • Coordination protocol with emergency personnel

Key Elements Of A Business Continuity Plan

Essentially, there are three key elements of a Business Continuity Plan.

Resilience

An organization must increase their resilience by developing critical functions and systems that cater to the different types of disruptive events that may occur. This must comprise staff rotations, information redundancy, and preserving a surplus of capacity. 

Incorporating resilience into different disruptive event scenarios will help to maintain essential services on location and off-site.

Recovery

It is essential to make provisions for a swift recovery in order to restore business operations after a disruptive event. Businesses need to prioritize which elements must be recovered first. To do this, they can forecast recovery time objectives (RTOs) for various systems, networks, or applications. 

Recovery protocols must also entail resource inventories, contracts with third parties, and the use of converted spaces for key operations.

Contingency

An effective contingency plan will make provision for a number of external circumstances. These will include a chain of command that allocates responsibilities within the organization. 

Such responsibilities will involve hardware replacement, leasing emergency office spaces, damage evaluation, and enlisting third-parties, like an MSP, for assistance. 

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Business Continuity Strategy

An effective Business Continuity Strategy means understanding all operational, financial, and physical risks that your organization may encounter. These risks can be identified through a Business Impact Analysis that will help to identify specific risks and threats to:

  • Operations
  • Financial performance
  • Organizational reputation
  • Employees of the organization
  • Supply chains

A Business Impact Analysis is a fantastic technique used for risk identification and evaluation. Once an organization has created a list of potential risks, they then need to analyze how these risks could affect operations and to what extent.

Business Impact Analyses are complex and detailed. They will help organizations to identify:

  • Essential business procedures
  • Collaboration among stakeholders
  • Supply chain dependencies
  • Minimum time required for recovery
  • Minimum staff need to support critical operations

Once the Business Impact Analysis is complete, there will be discrepancies between the resources available and the resources that are needed. 

A gap analysis is the next step in this process. It identifies an organization’s recovery requirements compared to its current resources. It also discloses recovery options and strategies. Once this gap analysis is concluded, the organization can finalize how to put recovery strategies in place.

Recovery Teams

The organization’s recovery team applies and executes the Business Continuity Plan. The composition of this team depends on the size of the organization and how the plan is expected to be executed. The recovery team should include a manager, assistant manager, and/or supervisor from each department in an ideal scenario.

This team will prepare the criteria for the project, train team members, and identify ways to streamline the execution of the plan. 

Recovery Procedures 

Once an organization understands the risks that it faces, it is able to react and recover effectively with a good Business Continuity Plan in place. This is crucial for Business Recovery after an unexpected disruptive event. 

Some typical concerns that Business Continuity Plans address are:

  • How do we maintain operations in the event of equipment failure?
  • How do we continue to meet the demand for products and services in the event of a cyber-attack?
  • If our location is inaccessible due to a disruptive event, can we continue operations at a different location or work remotely?
  • How do we safely evacuate staff and conduct a roll call in the event of an emergency?
  • Do we have provision to get all departments operational after a disruptive event so that we can remain profitable?

Solutions to these concerns are typically detailed in the Business Continuity Plan. For each disruptive event scenario in the Business Impact Analysis, there will be a detailed guide on recovery procedures. 

Accurate floor plans and building information are critical elements of Business Continuity Planning. This material must be shared with local emergency personnel if they ever need access to the organization’s building during an emergency. 

It is also wise for organizations to invest in a data collection service and asset mapping software. These will both be helpful in the event of a disaster or disruptive event.

For more in-depth info regarding Disaster Recovery, check out our resource.

The Bottom Line

Disruptive events can lead to a loss in revenue and higher costs for organizations. Business Continuity Plans benefit organizations as they help prepare for unexpected disruptive events. This enables business operations to continue during and after the disruptive event. 

Having a good plan in place leads to a stronger foundation on which a business can maintain its reputation, image, and revenue.

Make sure to review and update your plan annually or whenever you make major changes. The most important things are to effectively plan for all types of disruptions, choose a strong recovery team, and always be prepared!

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