A business continuity plan template can help organizations minimize the effects of disruptions.
Disruptions can be large or small, but, regardless of the scale, they often cost money. IT hardware failure, natural disasters, supply chain problems, and many other events can interfere with an organization’s ability to deliver value to its customers.
If these types of disruptions aren’t handled appropriately, then costs can mount and profit margins can shrink. In worst case scenarios, disruptions can even overwhelm and sink a business.
Minimizing these risks should therefore be a priority – and the best way to do that is by developing a business continuity plan.
What Is a Business Continuity Plan Template and Why Does It Matter?
A business continuity plan is just what it sounds like: a plan to maintain continuous business operations in the face of emergencies, crises, or other business disruptions.
These plans provide a course of action that businesses can follow in order to stay resilient and operational.
There are several reasons why a template can prove useful in this situation:
- Templates streamline workflows and make it easier to design continuity plans
- In the event of an unforeseen problem, templates can be used to create continuity plans quickly
- Organizations that want to create several continuity plans can build several from the same template
Below, we’ll explore a very straightforward process that can serve as the basis for any number of continuity plans.
How to Design a Business Continuity Plan Template in 4 Steps
There are four basic steps to creating any business continuity plan, according to the US Department of Homeland Security.
1. Assess risks, threats, and impacts
First and foremost, organizations should conduct a business impact analysis to determine how different types of disruptive changes will impact the organization.
For instance, disruptions to the supply chain could have impacts that include:
- Lost income
- Increased expenses
- Customer defection
- Decreased organizational performance
Naturally, each type of disruption will have different effects. A data breach, for example, will present a certain set of consequences, while a natural disaster might present completely different challenges.
When developing scenarios for business disruption, it is also useful to gauge the duration and timing of disruptions, as well as how timing and duration will affect the organization. For example, for a retail business, events that occur during the holiday season would likely have a larger impact than events that occur during other times of the year.
2. Identify essential business functions needed to maintain operations
Once potential business impacts have been assessed, organizations should identify the business functions that are most critical to maintaining operations.
Three areas to focus on include:
- The customer experience. The emphasis should not only be on the successful delivery of goods and services, but also on the customer’s actual experience. After all, customer expectations and needs will not change during times of disruption – as always, it is important to maintain a consistent, unified customer experience.
- Employee productivity and the employee experience. To stay productive, employees’ needs must also be met. As much as possible, it is also important to minimize negative impacts to the workforce. Any negative effects felt by workers, after all, can affect their productivity and performance, which will then affect organizational performance and the customer experience.
- IT assets and infrastructure. Digital technology and IT assets are the engine of the modern enterprise. Service outages, IT problems, or other technology-related issues can have an immediate and dramatic impact on business operations. Disaster mitigation, preparedness, and recovery plans, therefore, should be incorporated into any business continuity plan template. Digital skills training, upskilling, and digital adoption efforts can also be useful ways to help prepare organizations for potential risks and disruptions.
Since the modern enterprise is a digital-first organization, interruptions to any of these business functions can have a significant impact on the organization’s overall performance.
3. Create a business continuity plan to manage disruption
A business continuity plan should include:
- A list of team members, their responsibilities, and their contact information
- The results of the business impact assessments
- Objectives for the recovery of targeted business activities
- Procedures, processes, resource requirements, and logistics for the implementation of those recovery strategies
- Incident management procedures
- Training and testing details
- Review and maintenance
Also, it is a good idea to include links to related policies and procedures, such as emergency response plans and employee assistance plans.
4. Conduct training and testing exercises
Business continuity teams should be trained on the material, in proportion to their level of responsibility.
Team leaders, for instance, should receive the most training, since they will be the ones actually managing and leading their own teams.
In addition to training, test runs should be performed to assess readiness and skill levels. Performing exercises can also help to engage team members, spur dialogue, and identify any potential issues or concerns with the plan.
Periodic training and testing can ensure that the material remains fresh and relevant – a necessity, since there is no way of knowing when a business disruption might occur.