Putting together a robust business continuity plan means that your business is more likely to be able to react confidently and quickly in the event of disruption. This can help you to keep customer dissatisfaction at bay, give your team confidence and reduce recovery timescales. In order to achieve this, every business continuity plan needs to incorporate five key elements.
1. Risks and potential business impact
Any business continuity plan worth its salt will be based on a business impact analysis, which identifies potential risks and vulnerabilities both within and outside the business. These risks could be anything from flooding or a major IT disruption to a failure from an important supplier. By knowing what you could potentially face, you can begin to take steps to prevent or mitigate the risk.
A strong plan will also use the output of your business impact analysis to reveal the possible consequences of disruption on your business. This will enable you to anticipate its cost, the effect it could have on essential business functions and the time needed to recover.
2. Planning an effective response
Once you have an awareness of the types of risks and threats your business may be vulnerable to, you can begin to form an effective plan.
A comprehensive business continuity plan will take each risk identified in the business impact analysis and develop an appropriate response strategy to either minimise it or prevent it altogether. These detailed plans will describe the action needed and outline who needs to be involved to implement it. Timescales and resources, such as laptops, alternative warehouse space and mobile phones, should also be laid out to ensure a quick and relevant response.
3. Roles and responsibilities
In order for a crisis or disruption to be met confidently, the key people in your business need to know their roles and responsibilities. A business continuity plan will therefore document which key personnel need to be involved in the response to the disruption. This will typically be more senior staff members, but this depends on your business and the type of risk you are dealing with.
Once these people have been identified, their roles and actions need to be clearly defined so that they can react quickly and efficiently. The resources they need following a disruption should also be clearly stated so that they can be prioritised ahead of the rest of the team. For instance, if a remote office needs to be set up following a disruption, critical personnel will need to be prioritised when it comes to allocating resources such as laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
Clear communication is vital during business disruptions. Effective communication across your business can reassure team members and give them confidence that the organisation is taking effective steps to respond and recover. Outside of your company, good communication is also necessary in order to liaise with suppliers and customers and minimise dissatisfaction.
To prepare for this, a business continuity plan will normally include a list of key contacts as well as templated press releases and social media posts. Having these in place in advance can speed up communication in a crisis and ensure that both your staff and external contacts are kept up to speed. In larger organisations, it may be necessary to have a separate communication plan that provides a comprehensive approach to communication during a crisis.
5. Testing and training
Business continuity plans are not just theoretical – they need to be robust enough to be put into action. In order to check this, the final key component of a business continuity plan is testing and exercising.
Realistic scenarios can be used to test the plan and your team’s response. By doing so, you can identify room for improvement and take action to improve the plan before a disruption occurs. Testing and exercising business continuity plans also helps to ensure that key personnel understand the plan and their role in it. This means that the company can respond quickly and efficiently when a disruption occurs.
Raising awareness of the business continuity plan among your wider staff will also help them to understand their role in responding to disruptions. Many companies run regular awareness training sessions and include business continuity as a key topic during new staff inductions. This training can then improve the resilience of the company overall.
Building your own business continuity plan
An internationally recognised mark of best practice, ISO 22301 will enable you to implement, maintain and improve a business continuity management system, which will support your business before, during and after disruption.
To find out more, visit our dedicated webpage for ISO 22301.
You can also get in touch on 0333 259 0445 or by emailing [email protected].