Your business is only as strong as its weakest link. That’s why it’s vital to mitigate the risk of disruptions. It can be anything from a natural disaster or cyber-attack to human error—even a simple accident that causes downtime for your entire facility.
What is Business Continuity?
Business continuity is a set of procedures and policies designed to ensure that an organization can continue to operate in the event of a disaster. It’s critical for organizations to have a plan in place because these plans are essential for maintaining business operations, protecting your company from unexpected downtime, and preventing financial loss. An effective business continuity plan ensures that your business will continue operating during and after a disruption, regardless of what it may be—a cyber-attack, fire, flood, or other natural disaster.
Business continuity plans are typically constructed by considering all aspects of an organization, including its structure, technology systems used by employees (e.g., email servers), supply chain logistics (e.g., food delivery), employee training requirements, etc. These plans require great attention to detail and could be overwhelming for small businesses, but these are the general steps to follow when creating a business continuity plan:
Step 1 – Identify Critical Business Functions
To implement a business continuity plan, you must first identify the critical business functions necessary for your organization’s survival. To do this, you must create a list of all the key functions and processes that must be performed daily. Some examples of these types of functions include:
Accounting & Finance
Marketing & Communications
Step 2 – Conduct a Risk Assessment/Risk Management
Next, you’ll need to conduct a risk assessment/risk management. This step is crucial because it’s the foundation of your business continuity plan (BCP). The goal is to prioritize risks based on their severity, probability, and impact.
Identify Risks: When conducting your risk assessment, it’s crucial that you identify all possible risks. Don’t be limited by what you think might happen—you want all possible scenarios considered so they can be addressed in your BCP. Identifying these risks could include natural disasters, cyberattacks, or even human error by employees or customers (e.g., if someone forgets their keys).
Assess Risks: Once all risks are identified and categorized, it’s time to assess them further by prioritizing them based on severity, probability, and impact for each potential scenario. This will help determine which actions should be taken should something go wrong at any given time across different departments within your company structure or supply chain network (if applicable).
Step 3 – Establish Recovery Priorities
Before you can begin to plan out how to recover your business, you need to identify what needs to be recovered. This is where recovery priorities come in.
Recovery priorities should be based on the criticality of the business function being performed and its importance for your company’s bottom line. For example, suppose your company has an internal social media presence through which it communicates with customers and other interested parties. In that case, that function might have a higher priority than its website or email server.
Recovery priorities are also important when it comes to data. Suppose confidential customer information is stored on your networked storage device and fails catastrophically during an outage. In that case, this will significantly impact both revenue loss and brand reputation damage.
Step 4 – Develop Recovery Plans
You’ve developed your business continuity plan and are ready to move on to the next step of developing Recovery Plans. These instructions will help you recover from a disaster or other disruptive events, such as an earthquake or fire. Your backup and disaster recovery plan should be specific to each critical business function.
The following should be included in each Recovery Plan:
The steps required for recovering from a disaster (for example: “Immediately shut down all computers in use by customers and employees when the earthquake occurs”)
The procedures for recovering from the disaster (for example: “After shutting down all computers, call IT support at extension 1234 and ask them to assist with restarting services once power is restored and testing has been completed)
The person(s) responsible for implementing the plan (for example: “IT Support Team Lead”).
Step 5 – Test and Review Plans
As you’re finalizing your business continuity plan, you should be testing and reviewing it regularly. Testing will help ensure that the plan is up-to-date with the latest changes in technology and business processes and that all employees know about the plan and are trained on how to execute it.
Step 6 – Implement and Maintain the Program
Implementation of the BCP is the final step in the process. The BCP must be implemented to ensure that it is effective. An effective business continuity plan will include regular maintenance and continuous improvement activities and a periodic review of its processes and procedures to ensure they remain current with changing circumstances, technology, and human resources.
What does your BCP for 2023 look like?
Implementing a business continuity plan can be challenging, but it is essential to remember that it’s worth the effort. You want to ensure that your business can operate despite an unexpected event. By following these steps and contacting us to find a customizable business continuity plan, you will be well on your way to having a solid program in place!