Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Business Continuity Planning - The Essentials

clip_image002In previous posts introducing Business Continuity, we've looked at defining and documenting a Business Continuity Policy and Business Continuity Plans.

These are best considered as deliverables from an overall planning process.

Such a process can be all encompassing and expensive to undertake. However it may be possible to achieve an acceptable result by focusing on the essential elements only.

Where to Start

  • What is a crisis

Anything that interrupts your business - in particular anything which impacts your organisation's ability to generate or maintain revenue. Specifically this is any event that impacts the delivery of the organisation's products and services.

The first step is to consider how your business organisation might be effected .... establish a business case for Business Continuity.

  • Agree that your organisation is under threat

It's not all about air crashes, bombs and major floods. The key to effective business continuity management is recognising the more mundane and more likely threats to your business

“It won't happen to us”, “We will cope – we always do”, “We are too big to fail” and “We are not a terrorist target” , are frequent responses by businesses when questioned about their lack of preparedness. Others believe their insurance company will pay for everything. Most think they haven't got the time or money to prepare for something that will never happen. The catalogue of businesses that have failed following an incident suggests that these responses are based on false assumptions.

Whilst bombs, fires and floods capture the headlines almost 90% of business-threatening incidents are ‘quiet catastrophes which go unreported in the media but can have a devastating impact on an organisation’s ability to function. Many of the causes are outside of an organisation’s control and they are often at the mercy of the emergency services or suppliers who define the timescale of an interruption.

Examples:

  • A key supplier goes out of business
  • Access to premises disrupted by road works or other construction
  • The key IT system fails (or works but very slowly).

You can never know what will happen and when but you can take steps to keep critical business activity going.

You will probably not recover from an interruption as easily as you think you will but you can takes steps to minimise the impact.

There are inexpensive things you can do to mitigate the worst effects.

  • Assess the impact of interruptions

Interruptions damage your organisation's ability to deliver it's key products and services. An interruption may result in, for instance:

  • Production halted
  • Customers let down
  • Employees not suppliers not paid
  • Critical Information lost.

The impact for your organisation will be one or more of:

  • Loss of revenue from current business
  • Damage to reputation and future business
  • Increased costs (insurance)
  • Litigation - default on contracts.

Many organisation's do not recover from these situations .

Plan for Business Continuity

There are steps you can take to reduce the threats to your organisation and minimise the impact of any interruption.

  1. Understand your organisation - it's key products and services, the critical activities and business priorities
  2. Define the response needed to reduce risk and minimise interruption - what can you do quickly and what should be the overall strategy
  3. Implement the strategy - make the changes that will reduce risk and maintain continuity plans for critical activities in case of interruption
  4. Make business continuity management part of the "business as usual" activities of your organisation.

Business Continuity Planning Process

A map is available that provides a guide to creating your own Business Continuity Plan. As with the Policy and Business Continuity Plan maps, it may also be used as a template or checklist and exported to Word.

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The map is available at Biggerplate as the Business Continuity Planning Process map.

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