Planning for business continuity is largely good business practice and common sense. However, once you get into the detail, it can get a little more complicated. Having a defined planning process to follow can provide clarity and make it less likely that you will miss something important. If you are new to business continuity planning, use these 10 tips to help you establish an effective Business Continuity Plan:
Identify all your critical business processes. This can be done by listing cross functional processes but is often easier to tackle by looking at individual departments. Identifying the business functions you are protecting, makes it easier to apply a methodical approach to the threats that are posed to them and to implement the appropriate plans.
Keep in mind the seven ‘P’s that you need to keep your business operational: providers, performance, processes, people, premises, profile (your brand) and preparation.
Pay attention to past incidents such as issues with suppliers. Gather intelligence so you understand what factors may cause a supply chain disruption such as working conditions, natural disasters, and political unrest.
Carry out a risk assessment and assess and vulnerabilities and weak points. Also, conduct risk assessments of your key supplier capabilities to determine vulnerabilities throughout your whole supply chain.
Make sure you document your plans. Senior management in many companies feel that they would know what to do if there was a continuity issue, but writing it down clarifies thinking and allows the plans to be assessed and improved over time. Assess your critical suppliers to make sure their business continuity plans fit with your objectives and are defined within your contract.
Planning communications is vital. Make sure your business continuity plans are communicated to key staff and your suppliers. They can also be shared with other key stakeholders, such as customers and auditors, to boost their confidence in your ability to maintain business as usual. This is particularly important for small businesses who service larger customers in regulated sectors.
Test your plans at least annually. You could also include suppliers in your test schedule. Remember to test them not only in scenarios where there may be a physical risk, such as fire and natural disaster, but people risks such as supply chain issues and boardroom departures.
Always expect the unexpected. Lean and efficient supply chains and focussed preferred supplier lists can make good economic sense. However, unexpected events can have a significant impact on the operations and reputation of businesses. Having multiple suppliers may save your business in the long run.
Make sure your continuity plans are flexible and are reviewed frequently so that they evolve as the business grows. If your plans look the same as they did 10 years ago, then it’s unlikely they will meet current requirements. Be sure to learn from your internal audits, tests, management reviews and even from incidents themselves.
Don’t just participate in box-ticking exercise. Plans that don’t reflect the organisation’s strategy and objectives can lack credibility and are unlikely to succeed in the long-term. Make sure your plans allow you to get back up and running in a way that aligns with your organisation’s objectives.