A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is essential for any company, no matter the size. As we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, no organisation is impervious from potential disaster. Additionally, according to a Capterra survey, less than half (49%) of Australian SMEs said they had a business continuity plan before the crisis.
For the most part, disasters are unpredictable, and their consequences incalculable. A contingency plan, along with the right business continuity software, helps businesses prepare and move forward in the face of any catastrophe.
Different types of disasters require different actions, so your business continuity plan should include a robust Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) that covers a wide range of potential scenarios. However, most of the BCP will be composed of strategies and actions that are broad and generic enough to take on any kind of problem.
In this article, we’ll show you the necessary steps to build a business continuity plan for your company, so you can continue operating in the event of a disaster.
Putting a team together for your business continuity plan
Before you begin to start putting together the plan, you need to begin assembling a team within your business. The IT department plays a crucial role when it comes to maintaining business continuity in the event of disasters, but they aren’t the only ones who should be involved.
Sales, human resources, and even company management also need to have a structured plan for potential disasters. You will need a suite of IT tools to put the plan into practice, but these will be of no use if you overlook the “human” side of disaster planning.
For example, in the case of the novel coronavirus, many companies were forced to manage remote teams overnight. Without a BCP in hand, human resources departments, as well as managers in the most diverse areas, had to develop a plan and put it into action practically at the same time.
Pandemics can be rare, but cybersecurity attacks or continuous system crashes are far more common. The business continuity plan works as insurance to prevent situations like these.
Follow these steps to make a business continuity plan
Developing a business continuity plan does not have to be complex, but it does need to be comprehensive. After all, you already know the company’s internal processes and you should have no difficulty in defining how they should adapt in the event of disasters. It’s also important to rely on business continuity software, and your colleagues will need to know what their role is within the plan.
1. Define the purpose of the plan
The first step in developing a BCP is to define the objective. Without knowing where you want to go, you’ll get nowhere. Start by defining your goals so you have something to work toward.
As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the BCP is the same for any organisation: To have a plan that will allow you to maintain activities in the face of a disaster. However, the scope of the plan varies according to the sector and the size of the company, since these factors will determine the extent of the preparation required. Describe the purpose of the plan at the beginning of preparation, but come back to review it after the remaining steps are complete.
2. Identify the main areas of the business involved in disaster planning
There are areas of the company that do not need to factor into the BCN, either because they are not vital or because they are already structured in a way that a catastrophe will not affect their activities. So it’s up to you to determine which segments of the business need a continuity plan.
The IT department features in virtually all business continuity plans, simply because it is vital to the functionality of many segments of your business, given the digital nature of most businesses today.
The human resources department is also an important part of the team, but their involvement will depend on the structure of the company and how large the business is.
As your plan progresses, communication with all employees will be paramount. You can use team communication software to inform workers about all necessary actions in a time of crisis. If your HR team is using a robust human resources system, it will be easier to roll out and monitor changes that affect people’s roles, compensation, and working style.
If you are not sure about all the areas that should be covered by the BCP, speak to the managers of each department. They’ll help you identify what their teams would need in any of the possible contingencies you’ve mapped out.
3. Identify critical activities
The next step is to outline the critical activities that need to be maintained in the event of a crisis. The objective is to ensure the company’s activity is not severely affected in the future.
Again, at this stage, it is crucial to have the participation of managers from the participating departments. The managers should work together to find areas where their needs may overlap. Any issues that affect more than one department should rise to the top of your priority list.
4. Determine acceptable downtime for each critical activity
The purpose of a BCP is not to prevent any issues from happening, but to mitigate the impact of issues when the unexpected occurs. To do this, you must determine the acceptable downtime for each critical activity.
You’ll also want to prioritise the business activities depending on how critical they are. More vital aspects of your business should take priority.
5. Create an action and disaster recovery plan
Now is time to create the action and disaster recovery plan. In other words, you must dictate how the BCP will be put into action.
The action plan summarises the business continuity plan in practical terms. In this step, review your business continuity software options and select the one that best fits the BCP you’ve made so far.
The action plan should also include the people who will lead and participate in each section of the plan, and a timeline for rolling out the plan. Set up checkpoints throughout the plan, so you can easily track how you’re progressing when the time comes. If possible, do a simulation before a real case occurs.
Your plan is ready
The BCP is like insurance that you never want to use. Yet, it offers companies peace of mind: They’d know how to respond in case of a disaster.
If you have followed all the steps, you’ll be ready to execute your plan at a moment’s notice.