A business continuity plan is a document and set of processes designed to help aid a business through a disaster situation, be that flood, fire, terrorism, or COVID-19. It contains instructions on backing up data, who to talk to or where to go in the event of an issue, how to maintain important supply chains and infrastructure, how to keep staff employed and productive as their situation changes, and everything else the organization needs to maintain operations in the face of a threat.
In short, a business continuity plan takes the guesswork and chaos out of a disaster situation because it ensures everyone and everything within the organization is as ready as possible for the threat.
Already you can begin to see how a tested, pandemic-related BCP would have helped many organizations through the coronavirus threat.
One of the major problems of COVID-19 was that it impacted people more than infrastructure. Many organizations around the world found their BCP focused too much on supply chains and operational infrastructure. However, COVID-19 disrupted people, which meant nobody was there to operate those processes any longer.
This resulted in businesses scrambling to set up remote working patch jobs to ensure that key staff could continue to work from home, or else they had to lay off employees whom they could no longer support.
Meanwhile, organizations that designed their BCP for a pandemic-type disaster had a plan in place for a mass shift to remote working, or else had at least taken the first footsteps on such a journey. They'd invested in technology such as cloud storage and conferencing to keep employees connected while remaining in their homes, and were able to quickly roll out new, temporary work setups to match the speed of the lockdowns.
There's no better time to create and test a BCP than right now. Demand is high for change, and no shareholder wants to repeat the disaster of COVID-19 should there be a new wave in future.
In addition, any disaster your business has suffered due to COVID-19 can be used as an opportunity - a benchmark that you can now measure against when designing an updated BCP. You know what you don't want to happen again.
1. Form a crisis management team
As we noted in our article "How to respond to a cyber breach", forming an incident response team is a core part of any business continuity plan - and it can save money. The 2019 IBM "Cost of a Data Breach" report discovered that an incident response team can reduce the cost of a cyber breach - one such disaster that your BCP should be prepared for - by an average USD $360,000, which is €330,500.
2. Conduct a business impact analysis
A business impact analysis (BIA) investigates each function of the business and determines the impact that function might have were it to suddenly cease. Typically this will be measured in cost, however a BIA can also look at impact on time, customer satisfaction, staff, and so on.
3. Put together a disaster recovery plan
A disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan are not the same thing. Indeed, the former is a part of the latter. While a BCP focuses on continuity of the entire organization, a disaster recovery plan details how leaders can restore important IT infrastructure and operations during or after a crisis. For example, understanding what technology is required to resume functions during a pandemic lockdown could be a feature of the disaster recovery plan.
4. Test everything
Testing is one component of business continuity planning that many organizations get wrong. Namely, because they don't do it. The world evolves and so too should your BCP. As you create your plan and at regular intervals thereafter, your crisis management team should run disaster simulations to ensure that the BCP is robust, effective and efficient. Like in any new plan, just because it works on paper doesn't mean it will stand up to real world challenges. A crisis simulation provides an opportunity to test the plan and involve key stakeholders.
Developing and maintaining a business continuity plan, especially in the face of disaster such as COVID-19, can be a long and complex process. At dig8ital, we understand how important it is to get this process right, and we're here to help. Contact one of our experts today for a free consultation and we'll work with you to figure out how your organization is performing right now, and where it needs to go.