Preparation means your organization is ready to take on whatever challenges come your way, whether they are welcomed opportunities for growth, or greater times of uncertainty and setbacks encountered on a global scale. As our world deals with the impact of the COVID-19 health emergency, many organizations are struggling to figure out how to deal with the impacts that restrictions and closures are having on their business, as well as downturns in the larger, economical climate. Creating and implementing a business continuity plan, will help your organization be prepared to face hardships if, and when, they arise.
Functionally, a business continuity plan serves as a type of prevention to possible dangers, as well as a “plan B” for business operations in the wake of a catastrophic event such as a natural disaster, an economic crash, a global pandemic, or even negative publicity. The goal is to develop strategies that can be applied in any situation to continue business operations and minimize losses. With careful consideration of all aspects of your business and a thorough evaluation of potential risks, your business continuity plan will help your organization operate in times of uncertainty.
Building a Business Continuity Plan – Where to Start
A good business continuity plan looks at the business from all angles, considering not only the company’s strengths they can leverage on, but also identifying potential weaknesses. What processes does your company already have set in place to continue operations in crisis-mode? These could be anything from VPN capabilities to set up remote workers and back-up generators for massive power outages, to cyber security safeguards or backups to protect your data. As you list your strengths, look for opportunities to improve. What areas in your organization need to be fortified to protect potential vulnerabilities? These could be anything from establishing guidelines for remote workers and building a framework for how they can be successful, to implementing stronger security protocols for critical software, or evaluating options for alternate site locations or plant access and safety.
As you outline your focus areas, start formulating a business continuity plan of how to handle each of these situations, if the need arises. Focus on what steps you can take now to prepare for a potential threat, as well as the plan of action to respond if the threat materializes. Keep your organization’s fundamental values and priorities top of mind, such as:
- What actions will keep your business operating or restart it quickly
- How to keep your employees safe
- Continued adherence with regulatory and compliance mandates
- Supporting customers and shareholders
- How to reduce the risk of financial loses
- Protecting vital company information
- Upholding your reputation for continued public trust
Utilize the resources available to make the process easier. Tools from government agencies, such as FEMA’s business continuity planning template, can make the process of planning less daunting.
A Plan in Action – Testing Your Business Continuity Plan
In order to create a well thought-out, actionable plan, testing must be done to ensure the plan is feasible and logical on and off paper. Establish a business continuity team who is responsible for carrying out the plan and challenge them to put their plan into action. Assess tools created within your business continuity plan, such as security software, to evaluate effectiveness or if practical in your industry, schedule a mock run-through of certain scenarios, such as power outages or spills, to really put the plan to the test.
During testing, discuss with your business continuity team the training needs they identified for themselves, as well as the larger organization. Discuss areas of the plan that need to be improved upon and don’t be afraid to take some things back to the drawing board. The importance of a business continuity plan in preventing insurmountable damages to an organization, warrant the time, attention, and careful testing needed to create an effective plan.
Preparation is the best tool for success. With audit and compliance tracking software, such as Gensuite’s Reg Tracker tool, you can stay up to date on regulations within your industry to revise your business continuity plan as needed, in order to maintain effectiveness in the event it must be implemented.