Have you ever wondered what happens to a business in the event of a flood, earthquake, or fire? What happens when offices are damaged, files are lost, and personnel are not able to work to their full potential? Does the business just dissolve? Do operations continue? If yes, then what kind of operations can be conducted in an earthquake-torn or flood-ravaged business office? This is when business continuity planning comes into play.

What is business continuity planning?

A business continuity plan is a logistical plan that, when put in place, can help businesses to restore interrupted business services. Business continuity planning is enacted in the face of a disaster that partially or completely interrupts operations. It is a business’ ability to ensure that core functions/operations continue and are not impacted by an unplanned event that takes critical systems offline.

What are the advantages of business continuity planning?

A business continuity plan is a business’ saving grace in times of an unplanned event. When everything else seems to be lost, a business continuity plan can:

  • Keep your business trading after the incident.
  • Recover operations and get the business back on track quickly after interruptions.
  • Reduce the costs associated with disruption.
  • Mitigate risks and exposure.
  • Safeguard the company’s reputation.
  • Save lives in case of a dangerous event.
  • Comply with regulatory and legal requirements.
  • Give people confidence in the business.

What are the steps in business continuity planning?

To make coping with a crisis easier, businesses ensure they have a business continuity plan in place. The goal of business continuity planning is to ensure that infrastructure and general operations are not negatively impacted during an event. Here are the steps involved in creating a successful business continuity plan:

Step 1: Risk evaluation and control

The first step of business continuity planning is to assess your business’ risks and exposures. The continuity plan must include everything that could affect the infrastructure of your business. Assess the potential impact that different types of events can have on your business. Think of as many scenarios – and what kind of negative impact each of these scenarios can have.

Of all the various disruption scenarios that you and your team can think of, determine which of these scenarios are most likely to happen. Assess the telecommunication recovery operations and the communication plans in the case of a disaster. Prioritize the various scenarios and develop a roadmap.

Step 2: Business impact analysis (BIA)

The second step is to collect information on the following:

  • Recovery assumptions, Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTO).
  • Internal and external dependencies.
  • Critical business processes and workflows; supporting production applications.
  • Critical staff (backups, primary and secondary contacts, skillsets)
  • Future plans that might impact recovery.
  • Special circumstances.

Step 3: Business continuity plan development

Get permission and obtain executive sign-off of the BIA that was created in the previous step. The findings and results of the Risk Assessment and the BIA must be understood so that a thorough and actionable plan can be created. Break down the entire task of business continuity planning into department, division and site-level plans. Review all these plans with the respective stakeholders, finalize, and distribute these plans.

Step 4: Business continuity strategy and plan development

Creating a recovery time plan (step 2) is critical. However, what’s more important is validating and ensuring that the recovery times stated in the plans are doable and can meet the objectives that are stated in the BIA. They should be easily accessible to the staff – especially when disaster strikes.

In the development phase, it is important to get the ideas and perspectives of all the staff of various departments, and then see where their inputs can be incorporated. Once the plan is developed, a committee or management must go through every part of the plan – right down to the minutest of details; and then if everything is alright, sign-off on the plan.

Step 5: Plan testing and maintenance

The final step to creating a business continuity plan is to test the plan. Testing is the only way to find out if your plan is doable. The plan should be tested and maintained on a regular basis. Any changes that happen within the company must be taken into consideration and updated in the plan. Here are some steps for testing and maintenance:

  • Conduct regular tabletop and simulation exercises to make doubly sure that all stakeholders are comfortable with the steps of the plan.
  • Execute biannual reviews.
  • Perform annual BIAs.

While these steps refer to creating business continuity planning for any organization, it’s important to create a business continuity plan that is designed and structured specifically for your business.

Whether you operate a small or a large business, creating a business continuity plan will ensure you continue competing with your competitors, even in the face of adversity. While your IT department can be relied on to ensure the safety of IT infrastructure, it is up to you to ensure that the rest of your business functions continue to run just like any other day at the workplace.

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