If the past couple of years has taught us anything, it’s that life likes to present challenges. First, we had coronavirus and the changes to our way of life. Then the invasion of Ukraine. Both challenge our view of European stability and just how much we take for granted.
Whilst we don’t want to minimise either of those, or indeed, sensationalise them, there are lessons to be learned.
In particular, lessons we can learn that provide a tangible benefit to running a business.
Namely, business continuity.
World events highlight the need to be prepared for anything. Yet there are also smaller, yet equally disruptive events that require mitigation.
A fire, flood, building damage, power cut, communications failure or even a software failure in building entry-pass authentication.
All things that could happen anywhere, at any time.
Which is why now is the perfect time to highlight a simple 7 point business continuity plan any small or medium sized business can implement.
A business continuity plan is designed to provide the blueprint your business needs to remain productive during a situation.
That situation could be anything from fire to flood and the plan must take into account as many potential situations as possible.
A plan that doesn’t have to cost much or require too much effort but that could genuinely help if the unexpected happens.
A good business continuity (BC) plan should include:
- Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
- A communications strategy
- Backup plan
- Ensuring productivity during disaster
- Coordinating with customers and suppliers
- Staff training and education
The business continuity plan
The first step is to actually create a business continuity plan. That means assessing what your business needs to protect productivity, to safeguard data, operations and staff.
The plan should include:
- Who to contact in the event of a situation (customers, suppliers, vendors, authorities)
- Who is responsible for each step of the plan
- How to manage the situation – Move location, switch to backup systems, pause production
- Steps to take to safeguard systems and data
- Precautionary measures to protect staff
The exact contents of any business continuity plan will differ depending on the size of the business and the industry you’re in, but those are the basics.
Business Impact Analysis
Business continuity planning involves a little more analysis. It should include Business Impact Analysis (BIA), specific recovery strategies, recovery procedures, workarounds for different scenarios and plans for restoring your primary operations.
Again, the specifics of any business continuity plan will depend on your industry, size, number of staff and exposure to different situations.
As long as your BIA takes into account the various causes and effects of various situations and provides mitigation, you should be able to use readily-available tools for planning.
Devising a communications strategy
Communication is key in any situation. Your first priority should be communicating with staff, then customers and suppliers.
Assign responsibilities to staff for communicating to customers, vendors, authorities and anyone else you need to inform.
Don’t be tempted to keep a situation secret like many businesses seems to want to do.
Clear, honest communication is a far more powerful force for good than trying to hide it.
Data security is vital. You don’t need us to tell you this, but you need your business continuity plan to cover it in great detail.
Backups also form part of disaster recovery but should also be considered for business continuity.
Consider what data is essential to back up and whether your current backup solution will work or whether you need an additional one.
Cloud backups can work alongside existing onsite or physical solutions to provide essential flexibility during a situation.
Not only does it keep data safe, the data will also be accessible from your business continuity location too.
Ensuring productivity during a situation depends entirely on your business.
For some, it will just be a matter of accessing cloud desktops from a new location and continuing to work as normal.
For others it will involve alternative manufacturing or operating premises, spare equipment or the ability to move equipment alongside staff.
Either way, take a long hard look at how you’re operating and plan to take whatever steps are required to ensure your productivity during a situation.
Coordinating with customers and suppliers
We already covered communicating with customers, vendors and suppliers, but you also have to consider how a situation might impact them as well as you.
Consider everything from deliveries, customer meetings and site visits to your phone greeting and IVR messages.
Not all businesses will need to plan for coordination like this, but if you’re one of them, consider an average day and how not being on site could impact how you work.
Staff training and education
Staff training and education should not be overlooked in business continuity planning.
Staff need to know what to do, what to take, what to leave and where to go. They also need to know how to log into cloud backups, remote or cloud desktops.
If required to work from home, they need to know any VPN access details, how to access databases and necessary apps and log into VoIP or unified communications systems.
Once all the planning and preparation is complete, testing is essential.
Set up regular tests and simulate a typical situation that might befall you in your location or for your type of business.
Make sure everyone knows it’s a drill but ensure you make the tests as realistic as possible.
After all, just like any form of insurance, you need to know any shortcomings before your business depends on it!
If you would like some help with your Business Continuity Plan, just give our friendly team a call.