What is it all about?
Disasters occur every so often and take us by surprise. It’s during these times that businesses should act fast to ensure critical services continue to be offered to customers. Not only is continuity of the business in the short term important, but if the scenario is not dealt with properly, the business may not be able to recover and operate into the future.
Business continuity and disaster recovery planning allows a business to be prepared for interruptions. The BCP sets out a plan of action in the event of a disaster or interruption and how the organisation will continue to work through the challenge and recover from it.
Why is it important?
It’s important to note that this affects all businesses.
Some businesses prepare a Business Continuity Plan, or BCP, for the sake of ticking a box. It sits on a shelf collecting dust and, when the time comes for its use, no one even knows where it is or that the business even had one.
It’s one of those things that we say we will get to eventually or we may only need once in a lifetime, so we’ll take our chances.
We live in a world where anything can happen, suddenly with no warning. This year has been a crazy one with bushfires, followed by a global pandemic that left our streets empty for weeks and months on end. Eight months down the line and we still haven’t fully recovered from the impacts of this pandemic and will likely be a long time before things return to normal. That is if they ever do.
Only when faced with these types of challenges do we then wish we had something in place to help us get through.
Where do we start?
A BCP focuses on identifying the critical infrastructure, information and resources a business needs for survival. It helps an organisation to prioritise what functions are of strategic importance.
- Identify what the business-critical functions are:
- HR needs to process payroll
- Sales and marketing need the CRM to generate business, and
- Processes that run in the background are also imperative, such as routine system back-ups.
- Identify what infrastructure, data and resources support these.
- Analyse how the business is exposed to threats and identify what controls are in place to mitigate these. For instance, what would we do if an earthquake hit us? Do we have access to a separate site, often referred to as cold, warm or hot sites depending on the time needed to get operations running again? We would operate from here in the interim. Using what-if scenarios help us to think about what exactly we need to respond to the challenge.
- Develop a Business Continuity Policy. That is, the business’s approach to developing and maintaining an effective framework for business continuity and disaster recovery.
- Develop a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan. This combines all the above into a central plan to prepare for events, and outlines what exactly needs to be done during these events. It also provides information and steps to recovering from the disaster.
- Make your staff aware of the BCP.
- Test the BCP.
What is critical to ensuring the success of a BCP?
Remember that operations of a business are not static and are constantly evolving as our business’s grow or pivot to maintain a competitive advantage.
Preparation of a BCP doesn’t stop at the completion of a document. It is living and needs to be reviewed and updated regularly and tested to make sure it works and is still relevant.
- Awareness: everyone has a role to play and they need to be aware of what that is. Be sure to let staff know how to access the BCP.
- Testing: a BCP needs to be tested regularly, but how? Successful implementation of a BCP hinges on seeing how it works and learning from our mistakes. This often involves a simulation of an event with key stakeholders. You could present a situation to your executive team at their next meeting and see how they would deal with it as a real situation. How would they roll the BCP out to manage the simulated event? If part of your strategy is to have an off-site location up and running within four hours of an event, practically do it and see how it goes. As they say, practice makes perfect.
Perhaps the events of 2020 serve as a timely reminder of how important a plan of action is to tackle the obstacles life throws our way. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start preparing for life’s next interruption. Use this year’s events as a motivation to be prepared for what’s to come. Get in touch with your William Buck advisor for assistance in developing your Business Continuity Plan today.