Planning for the Worst: Why Your Business Needs a Continuity Plan
The coronavirus pandemic has brought many businesses to a screeching halt, highlighting some of the vulnerabilities that modern businesses face. If your business does not already have one, it is important to consider drafting and implementing a business continuity plan to be prepared for the next crisis or emergency.
What is a business continuity plan?
A business continuity plan is an invaluable asset for any business, large or small. Most business continuity plans have three main components:
- Risk assessment;
- Risk avoidance; and
- Crisis planning and management.
A business continuity plan should assess the types of risks that may negatively impact your business. While a global pandemic may be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, more foreseeable risks include natural disasters, information technology (IT) interruptions, and public relations scandals.
Once you have identified the risks targeting your business, the business continuity plan should assess the potential impact of those risks on your business: Will your physical locations need to close? How will information be communicated to your employees? Do you need to release a statement to the media? These are just a few of the many questions that a business continuity plan should address.
Once the risks have been thoroughly assessed, the continuity plan should go a step further by outlining how your business can avoid those risks. This section of the plan may include specialized training for your employees on how to avoid potential risks.
Next, a business continuity plan should contain detailed crisis planning and management in the event that an emergency or crisis actually occurs. The plan should identify point-of-contact crisis leaders and lay out a detailed plan of how your business will effectively respond to the emergency or crisis. Ultimately, the goal is to resume normal operations during the crisis. If that is not possible, then the goal should be to resume normal operations as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.
What should a business continuity plan contain?
While each business continuity plan will differ depending on each individual organization, there are a few principal contents that each plan should contain:
- Identify critical functions and infrastructure: What can your business absolutely not operate without? Once you identify those critical functions and infrastructure, you will be able to identify potential risks for those specific areas.
- Identify a point-of-contact and hierarchy of leaders to respond to a potential crisis: Communication is key during times of crisis. It’s important to have a clear and organized hierarchy of communication and leaders during an emergency.
- Create a plan to respond to a crisis at each stage: What are the first steps to respond? How will operations resume? Answering these questions ahead of time will better prepare your business for an actual emergency.
- Plan for a debriefing: It’s important to debrief after a crisis to learn what did and did not go according to plan. Debriefing allows you to better prepare for the next emergency.
What are the benefits of having a business continuity plan?
In a word: time. During a crisis or emergency, every second matters. With a business continuity plan, your business will be better equipped to timely respond to the emergency, adapt to new obstacles, and resume normal operations. Without a plan, there may be confusion about who is responsible for leading the crisis response effort, what steps to take in response to the crisis, and what should and should not be communicated among your workers and to the public. A business continuity plan forces you to consider these difficult issues in a stable, low-pressure environment before an actual emergency takes place. In this sense, a business continuity plan is an invaluable road map to help you and your business navigate difficult times.