Businesses rarely get a warning before disaster strikes, and disaster comes in many forms. They could be a cyberattack, an office fire, employee accidents, a natural disaster, like a flood, or a global pandemic. During disasters like these, both businesses and individuals might undergo huge losses. This is where a business continuity plan comes in.
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What Is A Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan is a plan that outlines how a business can keep up productivity during an emergency or disaster and then go back to normal when it is over. This is where the word “continuity” comes from. A business continuity plan details how your business can continue operating in the face of any disruption.
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Why Is Business Continuity Plan Important?
Well, whether your business is large or small, a business continuity plan is a must for three main reasons. First, with a business continuity plan in place, you avoid damage to life and property during a disaster. Second, the plan allows you to minimise or completely prevent the loss of any profits during a disruption. And third, having a concrete business continuity plan shows stakeholders that you are a proactive and efficient leader. In summary, the business continuity plan protects you and your employees, as well as the reputation of your business.
What Goes Into A Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan can be a complicated beast. It usually varies from business to business and should be created keeping your organisation’s needs in mind. Here are examples of what to include in your business continuity plan:
- Business policy
- Key roles and responsibilities
- Checklist of supplies and equipment
- Data backups
- Risk mitigation plan
- List of tasks required to maintain operations
- Strategies for maintaining operations in both short and long-term
- Continuity plan leaders or emergency response team
- Contact information of management and emergency response personnel
- Continuity plan maintenance protocol
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6 Steps To Creating A Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
As we have observed in the past few months, disaster often strikes without warning. In Nigeria, the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown has hurt many organisations and put others out of business. Most of us have learned that it’s best not to wait for an emergency before learning how to survive it.
Here are 6 steps to creating a basic BCP for your business.
1. Identify The Plan Objectives
The point in this first step is to figure out what you want to achieve with your BCP. Next, you want to set goals with this achievement in mind. These are the questions you want to answer at this stage:
- How detailed should my BCP be?
- What is the scope of the plan? The entire business or just one department?
- What are the outcomes of a successful plan?
- How do we keep track of progress?
- What is the budget for this plan?
You might be wondering how a budget comes in here. Actually, the budget covers training time, any time taken to research the BCP, materials, and so on.
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2. Put Together A Business Continuity Management Team
The business continuity management team leads and executes the BCP. Its size depends on the size of your business. If several departments make up your organisation, it’s smart to have a representative from each department as well as a manager supervising the team.
The job of the business continuity management (BCM) team is to identify the processes useful in creating an effective BCP. The team would also train extra team members in safety protocol if needed. Each member of this team will have a specific duty and is expected to be a first responder during an emergency. Of course, you will want to record all contact information of team members.
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3. Perform A Business Impact Analysis
Once the BCM team is formed, the next step is to understand all potential risks to your business should a disaster occur. These include all financial, physical, and operational risks as well as threats to your business reputation. This risk assessment is a business impact analysis (BIA).
In the BIA, the BCM team researches all potential risks and outlines how they could hurt your business. The BIA usually takes a while to complete. This is because outlining all the ways something can go wrong is complicated at best and very difficult at worst. This is even truer within a large organisation. However, it is completely doable.
The BIA should also make mention of core business operations i.e. which operations are most vulnerable to risk and which are most important for the business to keep flowing smoothly. This part of the analysis should consider as many scenarios as possible, at all levels. For example, it might consider what to expect if important personnel are absent during a random government audit. All of this will make it possible to choose the best plan when something goes wrong.
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4. Do A Gap Analysis
When the team has completed the impact analysis, you might be able to pick out gaps between the resources available to you and the resources still needed to handle an emergency. This is where the gap analysis comes in.
Gap analysis pinpoints what exactly a business needs to recover completely from a disaster and compares it to the resources it currently has. For example, it compares the number of fire extinguishers in the cafeteria to how many the cafeteria actually needs.
When the BCM team carries out this gap analysis, you finally understand what options and strategies are available for recovery. Also, it goes without saying that the analysis has to take the business’ budget into account.
When the team has completed this stage, you’ll be ready to explore and select the best recovery strategies.
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5. Make Plans To Maintain Operations
By this point, you have combined what you learned from the BIA and the gap analysis. You know what the threats to your business are and you know what resources are needed for your business to keep operating smoothly if these threats come about.
Plans for maintaining operations are going to focus on what to do to keep these important operations going, no matter what. You know what the risks are; you know what resources are needed to safeguard your business and recover from these threats – but how exactly do you use the resources?
This is probably the most detailed section of the business continuity plan. This section includes:
- Prevention Strategies. These strategies cover preventive actions your business ought to take before an emergency comes up. This could include arranging back up power/water supplies or setting up another way of communication and software for remote work. “If damage is done to your equipment, how will you continue to meet customer demand?” is another relevant question.
- Response Strategies. Disaster has struck. What are members of the BCM team to do in the event of this emergency? For example, who takes care of a fire evacuation procedure? Who contacts customers to let them know about delays? These strategies address these questions.
- Recovery Strategies. The emergency has been managed successfully. How does your business get back to normal? What is the waiting period before everything gets back on track?
All these concerns should be addressed in your BCP for every single disaster scenario listed in the BIA. A great way to be more efficient when creating your continuity plan is to improve any preventive/recovery strategies you already have in place.
6. Test Results And Make Improvements
We arrive at the final step of the process. At this point, the results of your BIA and all your preventive/recovery plans have been documented in your BCP. But you’re not through yet. It’s important to realise that all your results are based on speculation. No one can really predict the future or know beforehand exactly how a scenario is going to play out. As a result, there might be some weak spots in your BCP.
To locate these weak spots, it’s important to take your BCP for a test run. This can be done using drills (e.g. fire drills) or computer models. Any holes found in planning should be corrected before finalizing the BCP.
Even with that, a business continuity plan is never fully done. Risks might change with time and your objectives as a business-owner might change too. For this reason, it’s a great idea to keep testing and improving your plan as your business grows.
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What did you think of this guide? Let us know in the comments!
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