Why a Business Continuity Plan is More Vital Than Ever

October 12, 2021 | Article

A critical component of any organization’s survival is business continuity planning. In an age of increased cyberattacks, weather-related events and remote working, businesses need to have plans in place to ensure that they can continue running, even in the face of unexpected challenges. The only way to be prepared and have the agility to respond to situations is through a business continuity plan.

What Is a Business Continuity Plan?

Business continuity planning is the process of creating steps and systems for the prevention, recovery and ongoing execution of your organization during times of threat or disaster. This plan addresses how you’ll maintain business functions in the event of a major disruption, such as a pandemic or crippling supply chain disruption.

How to Prepare Your Business Continuity Plan

Identify Potential Risk Areas

What threats are most likely to impact your business? Focus on developing plans to address your areas of highest risk, including, but not limited to, the natural disasters that are common in your area. Remember that unexpected cyberattacks and previously unimaginable happenings, such as a pandemic can be just as damaging to your business.

Unexpected disruptions can threaten your business security.

Outline the Trickle-Down Effect

Each risk comes with its own set of outcomes and challenges. For example, a flood or natural disaster may keep you from receiving your inventory shipments. The “trickle-down” effect would be an inability to fulfill orders. Alternatively, a ransomware attack would likely not deter your ability to fulfill, but it may affect your processing or access to documents and tools.

Think through each possible worst-case scenario and outline the cause and effect. How would this affect the continuity of your daily operations? What steps can you take to ensure that, even if you cannot fulfill an order, you can still make sales?

Document and Communicate

Starting with your areas of highest risk, document your continuity plan. First, focus on your core business functions: your ability to earn revenue, serve customers and manage your supply chain. Prioritize high-impact processes, and look for potential disruptions to productivity, compliance, revenue and reputation.

If you cannot receive or fulfill shipments, but you still have the ability to process orders, can you establish an emergency dropship plan with your key suppliers? Planning ahead allows for a smoother process should you ever need to use it.

Outline your emergency strategy and communicate it both internally and externally. It’s a good idea to have your communication plan outlined and templated in advance so your team is not scrambling to write last-minute notices to customers and suppliers. For internal communication, call or text “trees” are an efficient way to get the message out to your team in the case of a weather-related office closure or emergency.

Prepare Your Technology

A key component of any disaster recovery plan is your tech and tools; these are also the pieces most commonly overlooked. While it is important to focus on how to regain day-to-day operations, you need to remember that most day-to-day functions now involve access to software and databases. Your platforms and systems are a key tool. Running your business in the cloud is an effective way to prepare for the unexpected.

A major benefit to cloud-based tools is the ability to access key information anytime from anywhere. Collaboration tools like Microsoft Office 365 make meeting from afar a breeze. Cloud storage keeps all your key data easily accessible when going to the office is out of the question. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions like Azure allow for built-in security and easy management of your IT environment in the cloud.

Critical Area to Consider

Of course, the cloud is not the only option. Regardless of where your data is stored, your network and IT need extra care in the case of a business disruption. Here are a few areas to keep in mind, especially if you’re running in a more traditional environment.

Technology and Disaster Recovery Planning

Our world is interconnected. Most organizations are reliant on technology in their daily, even hourly, operations. Including a disaster recovery plan for your technology is critical.

When it comes to your technology preparedness:

  • Backups alone are not enough. Backing up your data is great, but if that’s your sole source of IT business continuity planning, you’ll be disappointed when it’s time to recover. In the case of a true disaster or data breach, you need an operational environment to continue running your business. Raw data backups will hardly do the trick.

    Problems, mistakes and errors are all par for the course when building and testing a recovery environment. Test ahead so your recovery will run smoothly at the time of a disruption —particularly if you fall victim to a hack or ransomware attack.
  • Leverage useful technologies. Virtualization can be a great tool to utilize in your disaster recovery planning. It creates a virtual environment that can remain separate from your physical environment. If your data is stored only in an on-premises server room, your data is vulnerable in the event of a server failure, fire or flood. Point-in-time backups and replication are made easy with some of today’s leading virtualization tools. It is highly recommended that you store some content virtually in the cloud to allow for quick recovery time following such an event.
  • Look outside your office. Using a shared data center can offload some of the logistics and costs associated with your business’s data storage and recovery. These shared location services provide businesses with space, power, security and connectivity. You provide your own servers and software while leveraging outside resources for the rest. This is great for flexibility, but it does require management and maintenance from your own IT department.
  • Test and retest often. Test your network and IT environment recovery process. Create an IT checklist including your infrastructure, applications and business processes for recovery.

    Test at least annually. No one wants to be in the midst of a disaster situation and not know how to restore their environment. Regular refreshers and tests will ensure your process and tech are up to snuff with the needs of your business. Avoid costly downtime by preparing ahead, training your staff and testing at a regular cadence.

Fraud Prevention and Cybersecurity Threats

Data breaches are an ever-present threat to organizations. Even in the wake of disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic, cybersecurity concerns need to be top of mind. Cybersecurity is an organization-wide issue. Education from the top down helps prevent cybersecurity threats, which is why outlining cybersecurity and threat mitigation measures is critical to your business continuity plan. Ensuring you have a system in place to handle such threats and immediately react to them will enable you to get back to business as usual.

Key Considerations:

  • Is your incident response plan and regulatory compliance up to date?
  • Will you rely on internal IT staff for business continuity and recovery during an incident?
  • Should you use a third party to manage the incident response? If so, are they properly trained and qualified for forensic investigations? This will help your organization prepare for any future litigation that may arise.
  • What are your regular responses to events that pose a potential threat to your organization?
  • Do you need insurance to cover your organization financially in the event of a loss?

Business Interruption Insurance can help you manage your risk and reduce your potential for losses during disruptions.

Learn More

The Value of Your Business

Business valuations are independent appraisals of the worth of your company and its potential sale price. Having your organization appraised early and often will help you understand your current financial well-being and assist with plans for the future of your business.

When a business-compromising event occurs, the value of your business is inevitably altered. Ensuring you have an accurate picture of the value of your business ahead of time, as well as monitoring its worth throughout the business threat, will help you understand how to come back from a potential loss.

Another critical way to help restore the value of your business is through the use of data. Business leaders can use their data to survive and thrive during times of economic uncertainty. Utilizing your organization’s data can drive lean performance and provide actionable takeaways for your business, including:

  • Understanding new trends
  • Analyzing customer demands
  • Tracking product lines
  • Managing your supply chain
  • Reducing operational waste
  • Enabling informed decision making during tight times

Human Resources Policies and Procedures

It’s important to remember that your employees are affected by a disaster or threat to your organization, too. Ensure your human resources department is in the loop of your business continuity plan.

Key HR Considerations:

  • Do you have a policy for working remotely? If so, do you have the proper rules in place to mitigate risk associated with remote access?
  • If a cyberthreat or fraud affects your organization, do you have the proper action steps in place to deal with the guilty party?
  • How do you communicate with your employees about their health and well-being in the midst of a threat to your business and their livelihood?

Make sure you think through how a triggering event will affect the people within your organization. After all, they will be on the frontline to help you return to normal business procedures once the threat or disaster has ended.

Why a Business Continuity Plan Matters

Could your business survive and operate as “business as usual” in the face of a disaster? Be it the next devastating hurricane, a new wave of wildfires, an earthquake, supply chain disruption or a pandemic, business threats are real and can come in many forms at any time.

No one likes to think about threats to their livelihood or their company’s well-being, yet having a plan in place to deal with these threats is a critical component to the longevity and success of your business.

As you work on your business continuity planning for the long term, your business plans and modeling are an integral part of this effort.

Here’s how to include people, processes and technology into the next stage of digital transformation.

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