A streamlined business continuity planning process can save time and money, lightening the workload for continuity managers and business leaders alike.
Of course, a lighter workload shouldn’t be the only reason for implementing a streamlined planning process.
More efficient planning will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the plans themselves, enhancing the actual outcomes of those response efforts.
Below, we’ll explore a 5-part planning process that can serve as an introduction to business continuity planning, while also streamlining the planning process and improving plan outcomes.
A 5-Step Business Continuity Planning Process
This planning process outlines the major steps that should be followed when developing a new business continuity plan from scratch.
1. Assessment and analysis
The very first step is for risk managers to assess potential risks that can impact an organization.
Among others, these disruptions can include:
- Natural disasters
- Workplace accidents
- Supply chain disruptions
- Power outages
Once risk managers have outlined these potential risks, they should be prioritized by their potential threat level.
Also, it is worth noting that an organization will face a great many risks that fall outside the scope of business continuity management. For example, economic disruptions and digital disruptions can certainly threaten an organization’s operations. These types of risks, however, should be dealt with by other means.
After these risks have been assessed, a business impact analysis can predict the actual impact that these types of disruptions would have on the organization.
This analysis will measure all of the variables that can influence the overall impact of the disruption, such as timing and duration.
The information obtained from that analysis will then be used to develop continuity strategies.
2. Strategy development
A strategy is a particular approach to mitigating the impacts of a disruption.
Here are a few examples of strategies that can be implemented as part of a business continuity effort:
- Remote working. Remote working is one way to maintain employee productivity, even when they cannot work on-site at a business. This was a useful – even necessary – strategy during the COVID-19 outbreak, when organizations around the globe were forced to initiate telecommuting policies.
- Relocation. Relocation is another strategy that can allow employees to remain productive if a worksite is compromised. For example, if the organization’s main office is compromised due to a fire or a natural disaster, then the workforce can relocate to another office in order to remain productive.
- IT recovery software. Any type of IT failure can destroy data and severely disrupt an organization’s normal operations. The right backup software can restore lost data quickly and efficiently, minimizing service disruptions and enabling an organization to continue its operations unabated.
Strategies should be tailored to fit the disruption, as well as the needs and the capabilities of the organization. This strategic direction can then be codified into an actual plan of action.
The plan of action should consist of steps such as:
- Plan activation. To activate the plan, one member of the continuity team will contact other team members, business leaders, and any other relevant parties. Or, in the case of an emergency, the plan may begin with an emergency response, such as the evacuation of the building. Once this series of actions has been completed, organizations can move into subsequent plan activities.
- Protection of key business functions. One of the most vital functions of a business continuity plan is to protect key business activities. The customer experience and product delivery, for instance, should be protected at all costs – losses to those areas will cause significant long-term damage to the organization.
- Restoration and recovery. After the most important functions have been protected, continuity teams can begin restoring lost assets and operations. For example, if the continuity strategy revolved around workforce relocation, then the restoration strategy would begin by returning the workforce to the main worksite.
- Evaluation. A plan’s performance should be evaluated once completed. That evaluation will then be used to inform future continuity plan designs, assess the actual impacts of the disruption, and so forth.
Each stage of the plan should include specific goals, a timeline, as well as the roles and responsibilities of continuity team members.
To ensure the smooth management of the plan, it is also important to pay close attention to the logistical – or managerial and administrative – details of the plan.
Here are other items that should be included in the business continuity plan:
- Contact information for relevant parties, such as the business continuity team and customers
- Important forms and documents
- Process flowcharts
- Expense logs and time logs
Every business continuity document should contain everything necessary to implement and manage the plan as easily as possible. If employees must reference outside material, then they will be less efficient and more likely to make mistakes.
Testing the plan should go hand-in-hand with employee training.
By conducting simulations and drills, business continuity managers will be able to test the viability of the plan, identify potential problems, and initiate dialogue with employees.
In other words, test runs can prevent problems before they start – and, at the same time, testing can reinforce the training and improve employee performance when the time comes to actually implement the plan.