Business continuity is one subject that not a lot of people know a lot about. This is largely because there isn’t a curriculum that presents a comprehensive outline on how to deal with disaster. This month, we’re going to share some continuity strategies that work, regardless of the situation, to get your business coordinated and back up and running fast following an unfortunate situation.
You’d think the answer to this question is pretty simple, right? You need a business continuity plan so that when some horrible thing happens, that all the people that depend on your business aren’t victims of your lack of preparedness. Having to shutter your business is never a happy time, so if something were to happen that puts that option squarely on the table, having a plan in place that will allow your business regain solid footing is only practical.
It’s easy to talk about the things that you need to do to protect your business, but no matter how big your business is on the surface, once you realize how many people it affects, how many people have come to depend on it, and how many considerations are needed to keep everything in order in the face of an operational interruption, you realize you need a plan.
The business continuity plan is exactly that. It is a strategy that takes into account all the parts of a business, and makes contingencies for them all. Successful businesses manage risks better than less successful businesses, and a business continuity plan is put in place to manage all the potential risks that could jeopardize your business’ sustainability.
In order to properly strategize a continuity plan, you’ll first have to ascertain what scenarios you would need one for. Of course there are the ones you first consider: Disaster. When people think of disaster they typically think of fire, flood, tornado, and the like; but, what needs to be understood is that any situation that could cause an interruption to regular operations needs to have a continuity strategy.
That’s not to say that a little Internet downtime that you’ll inevitably receive from your ISP needs to have a BC strategy tied to it, but any meaningful operational downtime could be incredibly costly, so having a plan to proactively avoid risky problems puts your business in a position to avoid those events.
The first thing you have to identify the risks you have. Risk is the number one variable you need to know to establish a useful business continuity strategy. Establishing what your business’ most prominent risks are, and what effect they will have on your business can lead you to understanding where to start.
For example, if your business is in a flood zone, you can be fairly sure that one of the biggest risks to your sustained operational effectiveness will certainly be flood. Since you know that flood is something you have to ward against, your business continuity strategy will be to set your business up to be able to sustain itself even if you are inundated with flood waters.
Some risks you are going to run into are inherent in the course of doing business, but some risks; and, often some of the worst ones, are specific to the situations your business will get into. This leads us to our second tip. We suggest that you give some thought to how to most effectively, and affordably, address the risks you’ve identified.
Oftentimes the answers are common sense, but sometimes resolutions can be difficult to come across unless you play the scenario out. Let’s use the flood in a flood-zone example again. If you know you may run the risk of a flood inundating your place of business, you will want to run through scenarios to ascertain which strategy would be the most effective against a flood.
Once you’ve role played the entire situation, you should be pretty familiar with some of the steps you will have to take if that particular risk were to become a problem. Something as simple as not having a good idea of you organization’s power needs could make periods of downtime into major revenue-losing situations. Communication will hasten things along, but only if they are effective.
That brings us to our third tip: contacts and communications. When creating an effective business continuity plan, you need to ensure that people understand their responsibilities for when things go sideways, and that the people that are in charge of this portion of the business continuity plan, have the resources they need in order to complete those responsibilities.
For example, if you are dealing with a potential flood, you will need to make determinations proactively. You will need the contact information of your disaster recovery officers, your vendors, or anyone else on your supply chain that will be affected by a flood that hinders your business’ ability to operate normally.
The fourth tip we’d suggest is to outline a minimum acceptable downtime for each critical function of your business. Chances are if you’re going so far as to develop a comprehensive business continuity strategy, you have already established that data is a big part of your sustained success and have developed a disaster recovery strategy. A DR strategy will surely identify how to keep the systems critical to your business’ operations safe; and, hopefully, if it’s done right, up and running properly.
Business continuity planning is all about staying proactive to ensure that your business can get through anything. If you would like some help with any of the four tips we shared, or any other part of a general business continuity plan, reach out to MERIT Solutions ’s business IT experts today at (757) 420-5150.