Businesses can rarely predict a crisis before it happens. But companies can and should prepare for as many scenarios as possible, in order to minimize damage if and when a disaster—or even a minor disruption to business—occurs. Those companies that fail to prepare are often the hardest hit, in the event of a natural disaster or adversity caused by human error and/or malicious intent.
The key to preparedness is developing a business continuity plan (BCP) that clearly delineates what a company will do in the event of a crisis.
A well-crafted BCP “identifies how your organization will monitor incidents that may cause a business disruption,” notes Availity, a health care information technology firm. This plan itemizes functions “which, when not performed within a specified period of time, would suspend or terminate business operations” or threaten “the health and safety of employees and clients.”
Why Your Company Needs a BCP
Aside from the obvious wisdom of being prepared for a calamitous event, there are several compelling reasons why having a documented BCP benefits your organization:
Enhanced operational efficiency. Any type of business disruption has the potential to up-end established processes and throw the organization into confusion. With a BCP in place, everyone involved—from CEO or business owner to front-line staff—has a clearer understanding of how operations are working now, and what measures to keep things running smooth if and when a crisis occurs.
Stronger stakeholder involvement. The BCP can be shared with key players or explained in a summary document. This will reassure shareholders and partners that careful planning has been conducted and strategies are in place to address potentially damaging events. The result is a stronger relationship with key stakeholders, who might otherwise be concerned by a lack of advanced planning.
Builds public trust with the organization. A company isn’t obliged to share details of its BCP with the public, but it can trumpet the fact that maintaining operations after a crisis or disaster is a top priority. As with shareholders, this can assure customers that, for example, the information they have shared with the company remains protected no matter what happens.
Tips for developing a BCP
To put a business continuity plan together, first identify the plan’s objectives. Generally, these include:
- Employee well-being. Make sure systems are in place for protection of your most important asset—employees. Their physical safety, as well as that of customers, vendors, and anyone else affected by a business disruption, should be the top priority.
- Recovery of data. Ensure that sensitive customer and proprietary information stored in your company’s servers is protected in the event of a potentially devastating natural disaster—or, equally important, to guard against hacking or other forms of cybercriminal activity.
- Consistent communications. No BCP is complete without detailed guidelines regarding accurate and timely distribution of information after a crisis occurs. This encompasses contact with employees, customers, vendors, public safety officials (as needed), and any other relevant third parties.
As part of the development process, keep these additional tips in mind:
- Draw up internal plans. Every department should create an internal plan addressing activities and processes needed to minimize disruption to business. These internal documents can be folded into the broader, organizational plan.
- Create leadership roles. Select individuals to be responsible for key crisis functions (communications, logistics, data protection, accessibility, etc.). These individuals will form the business continuity team that oversees actions, when needed.
- Train employees. Teach employees about how to respond to a crisis through all-staff meetings, interdepartmental presentations, and scenario-based emergency exercises. While it’s impossible to predict every potential crisis, the better prepared your employees are, the less confusion and damage will occur later.
- Plan emergency drills. After the BCP is established, plan for annual emergency drills or simulations that involve everyone in the organization. This can prove immeasurably helpful if and when people are called upon to respond to a genuine crisis.
Planning for business continuity isn’t a luxury you can afford to neglect. The key is having a plan that’s ready for immediate implementation if and when disaster strikes.
If you’d like help creating the right (and strategic) business continuity plan for your organization, reach out to TAB for assistance. As a TAB member, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of how other business leaders prepare for disruption or related issues in the event of a disaster or emergency.