In this article, we’ll look at 10 of the most important business continuity planning steps to follow when creating a new continuity plan.
Having a good continuity plan can make a big difference in an organization’s ability to respond effectively to disasters and business disruptions – so it pays to take the time to get it right.
However, not every business is familiar with the process of business continuity planning, so we’ll break down the most essential actions to take when designing a new plan.
10 Business Continuity Planning Steps to Streamline Productivity
Use these steps – along with a good business continuity plan template – to speed up the creation of a continuity or disaster recovery plan.
1. Assess potential business risks
Business risks can include:
- Natural disaster
- Interruptions to IT services, such as those caused by cyber attacks or hardware failure
- Power outages
- Supply chain disruptions
- Workplace accidents
Any of these can disrupt normal business operations, which is why it is important to assess multiple scenarios and potential risks. Those that pose the greatest threat should be prioritized and continuity plans should be developed that address them.
2. Analyze the impacts that those disruptions would have on the business
Every disruption or disaster will have a different impact on the organization’s ability to operate.
A business impact analysis will predict how each disruption will impact an organization’s operations and finances.
That information, in turn, can be used to establish recovery goals, objectives, and timelines.
3. Outline a series of response plans
A single disruption or disaster may call for several response plans.
For instance, if a fire compromises the workplace, responses may include:
- An emergency response plan, designed to keep workers safe by evacuating them from the worksite
- A crisis communications plan, which will dictate how and when to communicate to different audiences
- An IT disaster recovery plan, aimed at restoring IT functions that were interrupted during the fire
- A business continuity plan, which would outline activities aimed at maintaining continuous business operations
The aforementioned risk assessments and impact analyses will help when determining exactly how to respond to a given scenario.
4. Create an activation procedure
The actual continuity plan should begin with an activation procedure.
The relevant business continuity team member will begin by contacting the rest of the team, then other relevant parties, such as business leaders, customers, and government agencies.
This will then lead into the subsequent stages of the plan, the most important of which is the protection of key business functions.
5. Define actions required to maintain continuous business operations
To maintain continuous operations, it is important to protect and preserve the most critical business functions.
The most important functions to protect include:
- The customer experience
- Employee productivity
- IT assets and services
If any of these are interrupted, then an organization’s ability to deliver value to its customers will be compromised and losses will mount very quickly.
6. Define restoration and recovery activities
Once the most critical business functions have been protected and maintained, the continuity plan will aim to restore any other functions that have been interrupted.
For example, if an office was damaged by a fire, the organization may choose to relocate its workforce or have them work remotely. These measures can ensure that employees remain productive, but these measures are likely only temporary – it is necessary to restore normal operations as soon as possible.
In some cases, these activities may be carried out in a separate plan, such as an IT disaster recovery plan.
If the procedures are unique to this continuity plan alone, however, it would make the most sense to include them here.
7. Establish training and exercises
A business continuity plan will often involve a unique set of activities that are completely new to those employees who have been assigned to the business continuity team.
Training employees will, on the one hand, ensure that they can execute the plan effectively.
On the other hand, performing drills and exercises allows business continuity managers to actually put the plan to the test. This will help identify potential issues and determine whether the proposed course of action is feasible or not.
8. Assign roles and responsibilities
The business continuity team will be tasked with implementing this plan.
This team will have its own management structure and each team member will be assigned specific duties and responsibilities.
All of the team’s contact details, as well as the team’s management structure, should be included within the plan.
9. Implement and evaluate the program
If the continuity plan is ever implemented, evaluate the plan’s performance after completion.
This performance evaluation can easily be accomplished through status reports, employee surveys, time logs, and any other relevant data sources.
All of that should then be compiled and analyzed to determine what went right and what could use improving.
10. Regularly update the plan
Obsolete information – such as old contact details or old software procedures – can cost valuable time and money if it is not updated before the plan is implemented.
To prevent this type of problem, continuity managers should periodically review and update the plan, then record those changes in the plan’s change log.
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