A Business Continuity Plan In Four steps
Developing growth strategy plans is essential for any business. Avoiding business losses is just as important. That’s why having a business continuity plan must be considered a priority. And a good continuity plan will keep your business running during emergencies, limiting your losses.
Depending on your size, you might also refer to such a document as a disaster recovery plan, or DR plan. Or perhaps you have several versions of department recovery plans, if you’re a larger business that is. No matter the name or terminology, your business needs to have systems in place for dealing with a crisis.
Here’s how you can create your own business continuity plan in four steps:
1. What’s the Impact to your business?
The first step is “impact analysis”. Start by listing all the processes involved when delivering products or services to your customers. Next, list the resources needed to enable those processes to run efficiently. This includes employees, business partners, office buildings, IT infrastructure, even office supplies.
Now that you know what’s needed for you to do business, consider losing one or two of these processes to a crisis. What’s the impact? If a hard disk on a server failed and you lost a week’s worth of work, would your business still be able to deliver? If a fire destroyed your computer systems, how long could you function without them?
To answer these questions, you need to know how long your business could operate if an emergency knocked out your resources. That timeframe is known as “maximum tolerable period of disruption” or MTPOD. It’s the time you have to either fix an issue or find an alternative solution. If your business can’t recover in time, you’ll likely fail to deliver products or services to your customers in the manner you agreed to. That last point is why you should also address any legal liabilities or similar, when documenting your impact analysis.
2. Recovery Plans.
After learning your MTPOD, you can now set a timeframe for recovery, known as the recovery time objective (RTO). Your business RTO allows you to start writing recovery plans for any or all the departments or teams that make up your business.
Your recovery plan needs to list all the tasks required to address a crisis. Each task is then assigned to a specific person. For example, in a power failure, who’s task is it to call the electricity provider? Who checks the UPS, or the backup generator? And who is assigned the task of keeping your business stakeholders up to date with what’s happening? Keep in mind that one person could be assigned several tasks in such a scenario. Once they complete one, they can move on to the next.
If your business is larger, with numerous departments and employees, make sure that your plans outline the chain of command in an emergency. It’s also a smart idea to cross-train employees in your emergency tasks, so that multiple staff can perform multiple tasks. This reduces the effects of holidays or absenteeism.
But what if you can’t implement your primary recovery plan because of unforeseen details or circumstances? This is why you’ll need to create a set of backup recovery plans. These plans assign tasks to different people, or perform the tasks in a different order. These secondary plans could even involve an alternate location in the event your office is unusable.
3. Your Battle Box
Battle boxes contain anything your business needs in the event of an emergency. Your essential documentation such as your business continuity plan, and those for departments or senior managers. Include key pieces of information about your company’s IT infrastructure, such as product serial numbers. Because communication during a crisis is vitally important, make sure to include the contact information for all your employees and outside partners.
Battle boxes can also contain practical items too, such as torches or spare mobile phones. Maybe even a spare laptop with wireless capability. For small companies, a single battle box should be fine. But if your company is larger, consider one for each department.
4. Practice and refine.
Remember that practice makes perfect. Running crisis simulations helps you determine if your business continuity plan will work. Larger businesses might want to consider including employees so they can get a feel for what an emergency would have them do. This could also help them be less likely to panic in an actual crisis.
Some of the bigger businesses in this world take practicing to the next level. Amazon, AT&T, Google, and Netflix often surprise their emergency response teams by performing crisis simulations without any warning.
Many companies hire experts to monitor or review crisis scenario testing. These experts record what happens and analyse the results, offering suggestions on how to improve.
And these professionals can help you develop your business continuity plan. You can also call us on 1300 799 165 for further help with your continuity plans.