With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) now wreaking havoc on economies, there’s no telling when another such disaster will happen—just six months ago, no one was even considering the pandemic. A carefully thought-out business continuity and disaster recovery plan is therefore crucial to ensure operational stability in trying times. Learn how to create an effective business continuity plan that will help your company become more resilient and get through any crisis.
What Is a Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan is a set of defined procedures put into action in response to threats in the environment in which a company operates. The procedures consist of prevention and recovery measures designed to curb potential business instability during adverse circumstances.
Proper crisis management significantly decreases losses caused by various threats while helping organizations quickly bounce back when those threats are resolved.
A business continuity plan includes:
Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
A BIA measures the scope of financial consequences caused by an unplanned and severe disruption to business operations.
Disaster Recovery Plan (DR)
A DRP outlines how to secure and restore technology systems responsible for crucial business functions.
How to Create an Effective Business Continuity Plan?
Step One: Identifying Key Business Processes
The first step in creating an effective business continuity plan is identifying the most important business processes along with their vulnerabilities. Next, determine any potential business losses in case those processes are out of operation for a specified amount of time (say, a day, a week, and two weeks). Think of this as your business impact analysis.
Step Two: Recognizing Dependencies
Narrow down dependencies between various critical functions and outline a set of actions to be taken when any one of them is down. The goal is to set up a defined list of procedures that will help your company maintain operations when one or many core processes become unavailable.
Step Three: Crafting a Disaster Recovery Plan
In case of a cyberattack or other situation where your IT becomes unavailable, your company needs to have clear procedures on what to do to resume operations as soon as possible while minimizing the negative consequences of the disruption.
First, determine the location of data backups and whether your IT solution vendor provides automated backup solutions. What about data availability during disaster situations? Downtime caused by data unavailability can average 16.2 days—backup in an independent location drastically reduces this time. Contact your IT vendors for detailed information on disaster recovery practices that come with the solution they provide.
There are strict regulations all over the globe imposed on companies that handle consumer data, e.g., data breach notification laws. So make sure to address any contingency and cover all the ground. Having a dedicated incident response team can significantly reduce the cost of a data breach.
How to Effectively Implement a Business Continuity Plan
Designing a solid and well-rounded business continuity plan is only half the success. To ensure all actions outlined within work seamlessly when there is a crisis, you should also do the following steps:
There’s a big difference between having a plan and knowing it’ll work. That’s why you should organize regular test drills to see how specific procedures from your business continuity plan behave in action when a catastrophe strikes. When inventing crisis scenarios, try to come up with situations with an aggressive edge to them. This will allow you to thoroughly test the plan against worst-case scenarios.
Every key employee should have a clearly assigned role and a set of responsibilities during an incident. Explicit knowledge of who does what will help mount a swift disaster response while keeping chaos at bay.
Review and Update
Regular reviews and updates of the business continuity plan ensure that technological changes and staffing changes your company undergoes don’t interfere with the successful implementation of the procedures. There should also be a person responsible for the ownership of the plan. At the same time, they should perform regular maintenance and notify employees about changes introduced.
Inform All Employees
All employees should know where the plan is and how to access it. Similarly, every regular employee should know what their part is in the plan. This cinches adequate and timely reaction and helps minimize potential damages. Explain how and when the plan will go into action. All employees should understand the steps outlined in the BCP.
Create a Business Continuity Plan to Retain Market Position
Whether it’s a natural disaster or a cyberattack, extreme situations happen. By having the means to respond and recover quickly from an adverse circumstance, companies can retain their market positions with the capacity to return to normal operations without delays.
Disaster planning, backed by regular tests and company-relevant data, will help prepare your organization to respond to a variety of extreme conditions. A comprehensive business continuity plan can significantly minimize potential financial, legal, reputational, and regulatory losses.