Having a comprehensive business continuity plan (BCP) in place will help ensure that your business doesn’t suffer any downtime in the event of a disaster, which may include natural disasters, such as floods, fire, weather-related events, and cyberattacks.
If you’re not prepared, these disasters can have catastrophic consequences on your business, including loss of productivity, loss of revenue, as well as damage to your reputation and your relationships with your customers.
A business continuity plan describes all the risks that can affect normal operations. Business continuity planning is important because it helps ensure that your employees and your assets are protected and your company can continue operating no matter what disasters you may face. However, a BCP is different than a disaster recovery plan, which centers around the recovery of your IT systems after a disaster.
The Business Continuity Checklist
The following checklist will help your organization streamline its business continuity planning efforts.
Establish a Team
You should assemble a cross-functional team to handle your company’s emergency preparedness efforts. Select a few managers/employees or a team that already exists to handle the project. It’s a good idea to assign one individual to head up the team and then delegate a specific role/responsibility to each of the team members. The number of team members will depend on the nature of your company and the size of your business operations.
A typical BCP team consists of:
- BCP executive or senior manager: the major liaison between the BCP committee and the top management.
- Information officer: ensures the smooth flow of information and is responsible for accessing and retrieving the data needed for the BCP.
- Program coordinator/team leader: handles implementing and monitoring the budget of the BCP, develops BCP policies, and coordinates the activities of the BCP, including quality assurance and staffing and training of BCP team members.
- Representatives from each business unit or division of your organization: offer input and pertinent information and help analyze BCP data.
Conduct a Business Impact Analysis
The business impact analysis identifies each business impact caused by the disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses information to determine recovery strategies and priorities. It’s important to first restore the business functions or processes with the highest potential operational and financial impacts.
Conducting a business impact analysis is critical because the results will be used for business continuity planning. The business impact analysis will enable the team members to predict or forecast the potential impacts or consequences of a disaster on business functions.
Strategizing and Planning
The team members will use the results of the business impact analysis to develop response and recovery strategies and plans to address the impacts of the disruption and then present those strategies and plans in detail. In this phase, team members will offer details and cost estimates about how the company plans to mitigate threats and risks and recover from a disaster.
Isolate/Back Up Important Data
Some data is so critical that your company wouldn’t survive if it were lost. You should prioritize the data that is most crucial to your business continuity and keep login credentials, financial records, and other corporate vital records and data where you can easily access it during recovery.
A good data backup plan should entail creating copies and a hard copy of anything you can’t replace. If you’re hit with a disaster, an effective backup strategy can ensure that you don’t suffer any downtime.
Develop the Business Continuity Plan
This includes writing your business continuity plan. Typically, this will be a first draft, since the next steps involve testing the recovery plans and strategies, making adjustments, and retesting until you can finalize the plan. Since business continuity planning is an ongoing process, you have to test your plan frequently and update/change it when necessary.
Implementation, Training, and Testing
This is where your company will implement its mitigation and prevention strategies. This includes communicating the business continuity plan to all the people in the organization, letting them know their parts in the BCP, and training them on their roles in the event of natural disasters or cyberattacks. You should also let your external stakeholders know about your business continuity plan.
At this point, you will also test your emergency response and recovery strategies, mainly by requiring employees to participate in drills and various exercises. This testing will enable your business continuity team to determine if its BCP will be effective. You should periodically conduct this testing and evaluation to account for the ever-changing nature of business.
Adjustments and Improvements
The team members may need to adjust/improve the business continuity plan if:
- They determine that the strategies are not effective.
- Some roles and responsibilities need to be clarified.
- There’s a change in the members and the roles of the business continuity team.
- There have been changes in the business, including opening a new branch, relocating operations, adding new equipment, and adding new technologies or systems that changed critical business processes.
You should evaluate your mitigation and prevention strategies periodically, which means you may have to make adjustments to those strategies. Consequently, you may also need to rewrite your business continuity plan to reflect these adjustments.