What is a business continuity plan?
Business continuity planning (BCP) is the process of creating a system that can help to prevent, and recover from, threats to your business. These plans focus on ensuring that employees and assets are protected as much as possible in the event of a crisis.
There are many threats to take into consideration when planning your business continuity strategy.
In fact, every element of your business operation that relies on technology is a threat. From strikes to natural disasters to the power cuts in which the UK is starting to see more than its fair share, there are many things that could impact your business. It’s your job to make sure that you and your business are as prepared as possible for these eventualities.
If you’re looking to start your business continuity plan or adapt the one you already have, we aim to provide you with all the information you need to make your life easier.
Whether you happen to be a small shop owner or a huge company with several branches, this guide will help you design a plan that reflects your current needs and helps to provide an accurate overview of what your business looks like as a whole.
The importance of BCP
A BCP isn’t something you just decide to implement when you have the chance.
The best time to start planning for the unlikely, but inevitable, is now! After all, your business’ continued growth can’t happen if you don’t have any idea of what your company looks like or how to continue running it should an emergency occur.
This document is designed to be a useful tool for businesses in case an incident occurs, so start by gathering as much information as possible about your company and its operations. Remember, the more comprehensive your plan, the better equipped you are to deal with your business’ planning in case an emergency strikes.
The specific threats to your business’ operations depend on your location, lines of business, and more. However, there are a few general threats that affect every business. You need to plan for the following risks:
Natural Disasters: These are risks that will occur naturally. Earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, for example, are all causes that can have a disruptive effect on your business operations. The aftermath of a natural disaster can be long-lasting, and you need to plan not only for the short-term losses, but long-term implications as well. Examples of natural disasters include floods, earthquakes, forest fires, etc.
Accidents: Every business is susceptible to accidents. In the event of an accident that requires repair, how will your business be sustainable in the short term? When people have questions, who will answer them? How will business operations continue in your business? These are all concerns that should be addressed in your BCP.
Manmade Disasters: These risks encompass manmade threats, including terrorist attacks, to your business. Any terroristic situations should be avoided and prevented, but if they do occur, you need to have a BCP in place to handle the fallout and make sure your business can stay afloat through the worst of times.
Fires: No home or business is safe from a fire. A warehouse fire can cause huge financial losses, as well as irreplaceable damage, and this needs to be considered in your plan. The containment and recovery phases are crucial to the implementation of most BCPs.
Integrating a BCP in your business
As discussed, BCPs are crucial for every business, large and small. Furthermore, it’s essential to make sure that both your employees and the people you do business with know what your business continuity plan is.
Although not every employee will need to know every aspect of the BCP, you’ll need a written version of your BCP that is available to all the employees in the company. If your company works externally with clients, you must share it with all the concerned people. Similarly, you can share portions of your internal BCP in a different format, presented to the customers. This ensures that you are always prepared for different situations.
The main reason why your BCP should be provided to all employees and potential clients is to ensure that they are provided the tools necessary to respond to such a situation. They can be an efficient part of your emergency services, and they often need to be aware of the procedures that you have carried out for every type of emergency.
Additionally, it is necessary to reach third party experts such as insurance representatives and other contractors, so that they can provide the necessary support required by the business continuity plan. A BCP often relies on the contribution of such external parties to ensure its successful execution.
Steps to plan your BCP
- Develop a holistic view of your business
The main purpose of a business continuity plan is to develop a holistic view of your business. In order to do so, you will need to examine all aspects of your own business.
In your BCP, you will need to be prepared for all types of threats, including natural disasters and manmade threats, as well as the effects that will follow. A BCP looks at your business as a whole, and not in parts of operations. Specifically, it should examine different functions such as human resources, technology, finance, and environmental operations.
Every single function of your business needs to be looked at in your BCP. The more comprehensive your plan, the safer and more secure your business can be in the aftermath of an emergency. You want to make sure every avenue is explored in case of an emergency.
The best method to do this is to create a flow diagram. This will include every aspect of your business and how they connect to each other. For example, if you are a business that relies on technology for its operations, this would include the network and application servers, as well as cloud servers. Also, you will need to include an IT department that is responsible for maintaining and securing them.
From the flow diagram, you can begin to create strategic considerations. These will include what to do during different types of emergency events, as well as the roles and responsibilities required for it to be carried out by your employees.
- Identify all critical aspects of your business
After creating a holistic look at your business, you need to examine each individual business area. This will include your strategic, financial, and operational areas, including customer service, technical support, management, and so on.
When all areas of your business are taken into consideration, you can determine all the assets that are key to the success of your business. Your BCP needs to include a description of each asset, and what its purpose is to your company. The more detailed it is the better, so keep note of the company’s key asset functions, location, and any value-adding initiatives.
- Create a flow diagram of your entire business
Once you have established what your business looks like both as a whole and individually, it’s time to create a flow diagram. This is vital for your business continuity planning because it allows you to plan for the multiple scenarios that may occur in the event of an emergency.
- Identify the threats to your business
A threat is simply an event or occurrence that can negatively impact the smooth and effective operations of your business. They include manmade threats, natural threats, and accidental threats.
It is important to examine all these threats, and their possible outcomes, because they may play a role in your business strategy. For example, natural disasters such as earthquakes and ice storms may cause a physical interruption in your operations. Alternatively, manmade threats such as a fire or an act of vandalism may cause market interruption.
As a result, it is important to examine the importance of the business functions in achieving the company’s goals. Threats in each function can be different. Some functions are more vital than others. For example, the IT department is more vital to the operations of the business than Customer Service. This is simply because the IT department has more influence on the operations of the business.
The threats will be according to the entire functioning of the business. This includes the nature, location, and possible impact on the process and vision of the business.
- Examine and interpret the risks
After examining the possible threats and their effects, you will need to examine and interpret the risks that they cause to the business. The risks can be determined by your choices and decisions such as business processes, infrastructure, and technology. As a result, the risks will be different according to various operational functions.
It’s also crucial to examine the rewards of your business. This would include the benefits, both big and small, that the business is able to give their public as a result of their operations. The rewards will include the customer service your business provides as well as a certain product or service that it offers.
- Conduct a detailed risk analysis
Once you have examined the risks, you can then conduct a detailed risk analysis. It is vital at all times to examine a risk, and to understand its impact on the business. Furthermore, it is important to conduct a risk assessment after an examination. This will ensure that the business capabilities are evaluated in the event of an emergency.
The risk analysis process involves identifying organizational objectives, which will include all direct and indirect threats present in the business. Furthermore, it involves the examination of the organization capabilities. This will include its innate potential to mitigate the risks and its ability to prepare for the threats.
- Develop an approach to handling the risks
Once identified, each risk will require a different approach to handling it. These approaches will include mitigating or reducing the risk and developing solutions to handle it.
It is crucial to develop several solutions to the risks, instead of just one single approach. You need to ensure that all threats and risks are covered so that your business remains safe and secure.
- Implementing a business continuity plan
After a risk analysis and the implementation of solutions, you can then determine where there are weaknesses. This includes gaps and shortfalls in the solution before the actual implementation. It is vital to ensure that you have enough of a plan in effect, as well as enough time, to ensure the continual running of your business.
The BCP should be updated at least annually to ensure that the plans remain relevant and effective. This includes the processes, policies, services, and information systems that are crucial to your business continuity.
- An ongoing maintenance and validation
In every ongoing business, there needs to be an ongoing maintenance and validation process for the BCP. This validation process will include an examination of the existing threats and risks, as well as a comparison of the risk today to the risk tomorrow. You need to understand the changes to the threats, risks, and the business that it will have, as well as the actions that need to be taken to handle them.
You also need to make sure that your plan is prepared for any eventuality. Furthermore, you need to examine all processes, services, and infrastructure in your business, to ensure that they are developed and constructed properly.
With an excellent business continuity plan, your business can remain resilient in the face of any situation. A BCP will help your business get back on its feet after a natural disaster, or repair itself after a manmade threat.
A business continuity plan is imperative to any business, regardless of its size or location. Once you have completed your business continuity plan, you can then ensure that it is easily accessible and up to date. This will ensure that the business can operate smoothly in times of crisis.