Business Continuity Planning: Five Key Success Factors to Consider
Reacting quickly to a disaster that threatens your business is critical. Being proactively prepared is ideal. This has never been more true than during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations that have robust Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) have been better prepared to respond to the multiple simultaneous threats that the virus poses such as health dangers to employees and customers, negative financial impacts, supply chain disruptions, limitations on production due to social distancing measures, and more.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not alone in being a multi-faceted threat to businesses. Natural disasters like hurricanes and area-wide flooding can also impact every aspect of a business’ operations, including the safety of employees, the ability of team members to get to work, financial strain on companies and drops in demand – all at the same time. These types of disasters challenge organizations in ways that pose very real threats to their ability to stay in business.
Organizations need to be proactive in preparing for potential threats and should take a comprehensive approach to preparedness. A Business Continuity Plan provides a holistic strategy for disaster preparedness that ensures organizations can minimize negative impacts on operations when a disaster hits. This strategic initiative is typically led by the executive leadership team with involvement from critical stakeholders across the organization. Under the umbrella of an overall Business Continuity Plan, organizations will have a series of detailed disaster response plans – each outlining tactical steps that should be taken following a disaster.
Here are five key success factors you should consider when developing your organization’s BCP:
Start with a Business Impact Analysis
Starting with a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) will enable your organization to quantify the potential costs of disruptions to key business functions in a way that is relevant across multiple kinds of disasters. That will allow your team to prioritize response needs in ways that serve as triage for where to surge human resources and other resources to exactly the issues that need them most. The BIA provides a blueprint for the kind of recovery activities that should be undertaken in response to a disaster. It also provides clear insights into how to proactively build resiliency into your business. By identifying these areas of most critical need, your organization can proactively build redundancy into those areas and more durable, flexible operational systems that can withstand future challenges.
Think Bigger than a Single Disaster
Using a single disaster as the starting point for your process often leads to tactical discussions that are narrow and reactive. The current COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of the limitations of that kind of planning, given how it’s multiple disasters happening simultaneously for businesses, ranging from health & safety challenges to economic and operational challenges. Instead, business continuity planning should look broadly at a range of potential disasters, examine the ways they collectively present threats to the business, and use that as a catalyst for the strategy.
Use a Cross-Organizational Approach
Another key to effective business continuity planning is to avoid having any one part of your organization carry the burden of the planning process. DRPs, for example, are often led by a single department that is tasked with the planning process. That can often be the IT department, which naturally looks at a disaster through the narrow lens of how to restore IT systems after a systems or power disruption. Or it may be the office management team, which naturally would focus on how to get office space operational again after flooding or a storm. The current pandemic shows the limitations of those kinds of department-driven planning processes. While COVID-19 did not cause the obvious types of damage that come to mind when thinking of a disaster, it has exposed gaps in planning. For example, IT needs reacting to an all-remote workforce and buildings exposed to vulnerabilities while sitting empty. By making business continuity planning a truly cross-organizational process led by the executive team, the plan will be far more comprehensive, encompassing all parts of an organization.
Establish Training and Testing Programs
Once a Business Continuity Plan is developed, the biggest danger is that it sits on a shelf and gathers dust. Organizations should make the BCP a living, breathing initiative by building training programs that bring the plan to life for employees, so they understand their role before a disaster hits. It is also ideal to put those plans to the test by conducting exercises where the organization implements the plan in a drill setting for certain disaster scenarios. These drills not only give employees experience implementing the plan, but also reveal areas where the BCP should be refined based on employee input and areas for improvement that come up during drills.
Prepare for the Next Disaster During the Current One
This may feel counter-intuitive because organizations experiencing a disaster are so focused on getting through the challenges they are seeing on that given day/week/month. But Business Continuity Planning shouldn’t wait until the current challenges subside. When organizations are actively responding to a challenge, including the current pandemic, smart people across the company are already thinking about many of the elements of a robust Business Continuity Plan. Questions they’re asking include:
- How do we create a more flexible work environment that can adapt to operational interruptions?
- How do we ensure supply chain efficacy through diversity of suppliers?
- How do we build financial resiliency?
- How do we keep our employees and customers safe?
Your smartest people are already problem-solving these issues. Building a BCP will harness that to ensure that you are even better prepared to survive the next challenges your business may face.
Business Continuity Planning gives organizations a proactive, comprehensive, strategic approach to ensuring they can survive major disasters. What are you doing to ensure your business survives the next disaster? Interstate Restoration has extensive experience working with companies across North America to build effective BCPs. Call us today to learn more about how to take the first steps in this process.