We don’t always get advance notice that a crisis is about to start. Even with ample heads-up, you still need a business continuity plan to avoid a major disruption to your business.
To allow your company the best chance at surviving during a disaster, you need to produce a modern, accessible plan. Once finished, you should distribute it among all personnel responsible for managing your company. Business owners who don’t enact an up-to-date plan don’t just take longer to recover from a crisis – sometimes, they’re out of business for good. If you want to avoid these consequences, keep reading to learn how to create a suitable business continuity plan for your team.
What is business continuity?
Business continuity (BC) plans allow you to preserve critical business functions and quickly resume them during a disruptive shutdown. This might include a fire, weather damage, or sudden loss of equipment. A proper business continuity plan details guidelines and delegations that your company will follow in the event of such a disruption. Primarily, it covers business processes, assets, and human resources.
Many people think a disaster recovery (DR) plan is the same as a business continuity plan, but a DR plan focuses mainly on restoring your I.T. infrastructure after a disaster. It’s effectively just a single component of a complete business continuity plan. A full-fledged BC plan considers the needs of your entire company, not just the technology.
To start, are you able to coordinate between your company’s HR, sales, and management departments? Communication is key to saving your bottom line during a crisis. For instance, if your company’s headquarters are vandalized, how quickly can you replace the lost equipment? Outside of a disaster – if your HQ is anticipating major construction, do your employees have access to a remote work setup? Answers to questions like these are your first step toward a comprehensive BC plan.
Why your business needs to plan ahead
Whether you operate a small start-up or a large enterprise company, you constantly need to find ways to stay competitive. It’s crucial to hold onto existing customers while increasing your market share. In fact, there’s no better time to re-examine your business’s marketing outreach than right after an adverse event.
Since managing I.T. is vital for most companies, there are plenty of disaster recovery options your I.T. company can access. But how do you prepare the rest of your business for a long-term shutdown? In many cases, your company’s future relies on the efficiency of your disaster preparedness. Your ability to handle a crisis decisively can have tremendous long-term benefits for your company’s reputation, market share, and employee morale.
Build a comprehensive business continuity plan
If your organization doesn’t already have a BC plan available, begin by assessing your business processes, determining weak points, and recognizing possible losses if this routine were to drastically change.
Then, you’ll want to craft your plan. We recommend breaking it down to the following five steps:
- Identify the scope of the plan.
- Examine key business areas.
- Map critical functions.
- Determine acceptable downtime for each critical function.
- Form a plan to maintain operations.
Your best recurring BC planning tool is a complete checklist. It should include supplies, equipment, the location of data backups, and backup sites, how to access the plan, who should see it, and contact information for everyone involved.
As you form your plan, you might want to meet with key personnel who have experience in disaster recovery. Their engagement could prove crucial in producing the best possible version of your BC plan.
Test key business continuity factors
Testing your plan is the only way to genuinely know if it holds up. An actual disaster is your ultimate test to understand if your plan works, but that doesn’t mean you can’t run a simulation beforehand.
You should always extensively test a BC plan to bring in all staff and procedures involved. Be credible but tough – in a disaster scenario, communication is your first line of defense in rolling out your solutions. This is the only way to improve. Also, ensure that your objectives are SMART compatible: specific, measurable, attainable, time-sensitive. Reviewing the bare minimum will only lead to a weak or muddled execution, which invalidates all of your hard work.
The average company tests its business continuity plan biannually. The schedule depends on your industry and staff, of course, as well as any logistical changes since the previous simulation. Throughout each portion of business continuity plan drills, include new collaborators and staff. “Fresh eyes” are more likely to realize information gaps or confusing processes that other practiced staff could overlook.
Review and revise your plan constantly
A great deal of effort goes into producing and initially running a BC plan. Once that job is done, some companies allow the plan languish in obscurity while returning to daily workflow. It’s important to prioritize, just don’t let your finished BC plan fade from your workforce’s consciousness. Technology is always changing and turnover is inevitable, so you may have to sit down with senior management to revise your plan after major business transformations – even positive changes like a new customer base or a merger. After all, if your organization can’t adapt to a welcome change, how can you ever expect to respond to a disaster?
Prior to the revision, survey different areas of your staff for their thoughts and expectations. Be transparent across all departments, even branch locations and remote staff if applicable. If you’ve had the misfortune of facing a disaster previously, be sure to factor in any lessons learned. Once complete, store copies of your plan physically and/or digitally in a place that’s easy for your staff to reach. Facilitated accessibility could save precious valuable in responding to a crisis.
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About Cinch I.T.
Since 2004, Cinch I.T. has been providing customer-focused I.T. support for businesses of all sizes. Every element of its support is designed to provide not only the best I.T. solutions, but also the fastest and friendliest network and computer support in the industry. Cinch is one of the nation’s fastest-growing I.T. franchises with 7 locations and counting. To learn more, visit cinchit.com. For more information about franchise opportunities, visit cinchfranchise.com.