I think many of us never thought we would be talking too much about Business Continuity Planning (“BCP”), but recent events push this topic to the forefront of discussions. And we all see more clearly its importance: business continuity planning is critical to maintaining operations in the event of an emergency or an abrupt change.
Whether it is a natural disaster, a flood/fire, a pandemic, a data security beach, an economic crisis, or something else, we, as leaders of our companies, need to ensure our organizations are prepared for and ready to adjust to key changes.
A business continuity plan (“BCP”) is the plan of action your company will take if/when an unexpected situation occurs. A well-defined BCP better ensures your organization is positioned to mobilize in case of a disruption and limit the negative impact to your staff, stakeholders, customers, and profits.
While there are many frameworks for developing your BCP, the simplest model includes just four simple steps, as described briefly.*
Step 1: ANALYZE Risks and Assess Business Impact: Pull the right people into the room to hash out what events should be considered and who should own the response plan for each. HR may want to discuss how to mobilize staff if the office is not accessible. Your finance leaders may want to ensure supplier and staff payments in the event of a temporary revenue shortage. Your cross-functional team must identify risks, the potential negative impact/priority of each, and the likelihood of events so that the teams can develop effective response plans to ensure continued business operations.
Step 2: DESIGN Strategies & Tactics for Recovery: Recognizing the issue is the easy part: finding creative solutions/responses to mitigate the issues is the fun part. Should you equip some of all of the teams to conduct business remotely? Should you consider a fail-over facility, in case of fire? Do you have some security issues that you should safeguard? At the close of this step, you know your key risks and priorities, what options you may want to enable an effective BCP, and where changes must be made so that your company is ready in the event of negative, future events.
Step 3: IMPLEMENT Business Continuity Plans: Some of your BCP responses may already be in place and so no changes are necessary. Other responses may require some time and investment to deploy changes, may require new policies and new employee training, etc. One of the most important elements of a successful BCP is your communication strategy – and knowing who and how you will communicate to your employees, your customers, and your impacted partners and suppliers when unusual events occur.
4. VALIDATE (the plan) and Test, Train and maintain: The plan is ready! Now you can test it. The plans should be tested at least annually so that you can quickly address any gaps and make necessary changes as necessary. The test may or may not be announced. It may be run during normal business hours or evenings/weekends to ensure things work as planned. And because business dynamics, systems and players change, the plan should be reviewed annually to ensure you are working the most effective BCP plan available to you.
At CIM, we want to see all of our customers, partners and suppliers excel - in both normal times and in disruptive times too. We hope you found the information in this article helpful. We too are working to refine our own BCP plans to ensure we are always here for you – and we look forward to working with you – in good times, normal times, and the disruptive times too.
President and CEO, CIM
* The simplify BCP framework provided here is suitable for many small-medium organizations and may not be of sufficient for your organization. Management should develop business continuity plans with aligned detail in relation to the entity’s size and complexity. There are many good resources online - and consulting firms too - to aide companies in the development of your BCP plans.