If something can go wrong, Murphy’s Law warns, it will.
While that may be an overly cynical worldview, there is no dispute that running a business is a risky endeavor, and there are layers upon layers of things that can go wrong. Identifying the most likely what-ifs and planning how to manage them if the wheels come off is Smart Business 101.
Having a business continuity plan in place can get your company’s back on solid ground quickly after a disruptive event—a cyberattack, the unexpected departure of a key player, destructive weather, and the like—turned risk into reality.
The most important thing about contingency plans is don’t wait until things start coming unraveled to throw one together. They tried that on the Titanic. It didn’t work.
This article will explore sustainable continuance as well as key considerations for developing a quality business continuity plan. Let’s dive in!
- What Are Your Continuity Plan Objectives?
Identifying the goals of a continuity plan is phase one of assembling a sound strategy for recovering as quickly as possible from a setback. Questions to think about in this stage include:
- What does your company need to continue operating in an emergency?
- How much downtime can your company tolerate?
- What are your critical functions and processes?
Answering these questions will help you create a plan that meets your company’s specific needs.
- What Are Your Business’ What-ifs?
A risk assessment helps identify areas where things can go wrong and how much damage can result, which is the foundation of developing strategies to keep your business running in the event of an emergency.
There are many different ways to perform a risk assessment. One approach is to brainstorm potential risks with your team. Another option is to review past incidents and identify what could have been done differently to prevent them.
The risk assessment exercise should also evaluate event probabilities. Create a matrix with different levels of severity (low, medium, high) and probability (rare, unlikely, possible, and probable). This will help you prioritize which risks should be addressed first in your business continuity plan.
Don’t forget to periodically review and update your risk assessment as your business grows and changes. By being proactive about identifying risks, you can ensure that your business is prepared for anything that comes its way.
- Who Will Run Things When Things Go Wrong?
A continuity plan is only as good as the team that will execute it when needed. This team should be responsible for keeping the plan up-to-date and implementing it in the event of an interruption.
There are a few key characteristics to look for when assembling your business continuity team:
Can this team be available at a moment’s notice, 24/7?
Does this team have the knowledge and experience necessary to execute the plan?
Is this team willing and able to take on this critical responsibility?
Does this team believe in the importance of the business continuity plan and are they committed to making it work?
Once you’ve identified a group of individuals who meet these criteria, it’s time to start putting together your business continuity plan.
- How Does It All Go Together?
After you’ve gathered all of the necessary information and created a solid foundation for your plan, it’s time to publish your comprehensive business continuity plan.
It should cover all aspects of your business operations during a disruption, including evacuation and head-count assembly plans to ensure employee safety, communication protocols, data backup and recovery procedures, and anything else that is essential to keeping your business up and running during an emergency such as key person insurance.
- Test and review your plan regularly
It’s not enough to just have a business continuity plan—you need to test and review it regularly to make sure it’s up to date and relevant. The following are some tips for doing just that:
- Test regularly
Table-top test your elements of your continuity plan at least quarterly to ensure it accounts for any changes in the business or its operations.
- Make it realistic
The best way to test your plan is to make it as realistic as possible. That means simulating a real-life disaster situation and seeing how your employees would respond. If that sounds like a fire drill, that’s because that’s what it is.
- Do a post-drill debrief
After each test, get feedback from everyone involved. This will help you identify any areas that need improvement.
- Update as needed
Be sure to update your plan regularly, based on the feedback you receive and any changes in your business (e.g., new locations, new technology, etc.).
All businesses, large or small, should have a continuity plan in place to ensure they can weather any storm. By following the tips laid out in this article, you can create a comprehensive continuity plan for your business that will help you keep things running smoothly even when chaos strikes.
Do you have a continuity plan for your business? Let us know!