In the world of business, forward planning is essential. Whether it’s develop a future tech strategy that considers your growth trajectory, or financial planning that accounts for economic downturns, looking to the future and planning accordingly is vital to business success.
One goal of strategic planning is improved business resilience. From cyber-attacks and hardware failure to natural disasters and theft, organisations of all sizes face a myriad of potential threats that could threaten service delivery, data integrity and even their financial survival. A Business Continuity Plan will help your business mitigate against and ultimate overcome these disruptive events. In this short blog series we’ll explain the concept of business continuity planning, help you understand why continuity plan is an indispensable insurance policy for your business, and how to go about creating one.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document or series of documents, that sets out detail instructions defining how your business will respond to different types of disruptive events.
Commonly formatted in the style of a checklist, a BCP sets out, in order of importance, the actions that your team should perform following a disruptive event to limit the spread of damage and restore operational normality in the quickest feasible time. It’s important to prepare for the every conceivable eventuality, and consider the business domains and infrastructure that might be afflicted, including customer service structures, your IT systems, internal processes or frontline service delivery.
Disruptive events can take many forms, but some of the most common include:
· IT downtime
· Cyber Attacks
· Data breaches caused by user error or malicious insiders
· Supply Chain disruption
· Criminal or accidental damage (Vandalism, arson, robbery, workplace accidents, lost or stolen devices…)
· Natural Occurrences (Flooding, wildfire damage, storm damage…)
Your first reaction to the list above might be: ‘Can’t I claim on my insurance to overcome such disasters?’ In some instances, yes, your insurance will help your recoup immediate material losses, but it won’t be useful in mending reputational damage or convincing lost customers to return to your organisation.
The purpose of a business continuity plan extends further than ensuring business survival, it’s also about loss mitigation. This means keeping your business functional, as productive as possible and ultimately as profitable as is feasible, throughout and following the period of disruption. Achieving these aims will keep your customers happy and help to safeguard your reputation as a dependable and resilient organisation. Let’s consider some of the key business benefits a business continuity plan can offer.
A business continuity plan fulfils a risk management function. It considers the full spectrum of threats your business faces and prioritises the most pressing and likely, before setting out measures designed to reduce the risk associated with each. A well-crafted continuity plan will assuage the fears of shareholders and convince them that your organisation has the resilience needed to overcome future adversity.
Immediately after a business disaster, your customers, partners and suppliers are likely to give you a degree of leeway. After all, no organisation is truly immune from operational disruption. As time goes by however, they’ll expect you to get back on your feet and resume the level of service they’re accustomed to in a reasonably quick timeframe. If an occurrence like hardware failure decimates your service delivery for days, customers could quickly lose faith, and the incident could cause reputational damage that lingers long after the event.
A business continuity plan should be designed to reinstate compromised business functions as quickly as possible, and thus maintain your reputation as a reliable, professional organisation.
Preserve trust-based relationships
In many industries, business-client relationships are highly trust-based. In any industry where you’re dealing in data of the most sensitive, intimate or personal kind, customers naturally expect the most vigorous safeguards to be instituted to safeguard their information. This also means having a continuity plan that considers client interests and offers additional protections to sensitive or confidential data.
Following a data breach for example you may be legally required to notify data subjects. This may lead some to query the procedures you took after the event to limit their data to further exposure. If you don’t have a robust continuity plan that considers how to mitigate a data breach, your customers may feel unconvinced that you took the necessary precautions to defend their data, and this may lead to an irretrievable loss of trust.
Sometimes disruptive events don’t completely derail service delivery, but instead threaten to compromise the quality of the product or service being delivered. A good business continuity plan will be mindful of this, and seek to restore infrastructure or functionality that is critical to quality assurance in the quickest possible time.
Customers, particular long-term customers, are masters when it comes to detecting operational hiccups. A high-quality business continuity plan will detail the procedure for replacing/reinstating affected business components as quickly as possible, including personnel, IT hardware, utilities and software, ensuring the quality of your end product is maintained.
We’ve talked about how service disruption might be perceived by those outside your business, but it’s also vital to consider the immediate implications disruption might have on revenue streams. According to a 2014 report by Gartner, a single minute of network downtime was found to cost firms an average of $5600.
Whether IT is integral to your service delivery or it performs more of a supporting role, there is no doubt that disruption can have profound immediate effects on revenue and profitability. Your ability to onboard new clients might be affected, your marketing efforts might be suspended or your sales team may be inhibited from reaching out to new prospects: downtime can affect your bottom line in countless ways.
A business continuity plan will help restore revenue-critical business functions to full capacity as fast as possible, quickly returning your business to profitability following disruption.
In the following article we’ll present a simple framework for creating a business continuity plan. We’ll discuss the key information the plan should contain and the basic form it should take.