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All businesses face unexpected risks, from power outages to cyber attacks. Even unanticipated weather events can threaten the smooth running of your organisation. But you aren’t powerless to protect your business against risk, even if it seems to come out of nowhere.
Smart business owners put plans in place for even the most unlikely worst-case scenarios. This is what is known as a business continuity plan, and it could be one of the best things you can do to safeguard the future of your company.
Read on to find out why business continuity planning is so important, plus tips to help you get started putting an effective plan in place for incident handling and recovery.
What is a business continuity plan?
A business continuity plan is all about preparing for the unexpected. It involves imagining a range of different risks and scenarios, and how your business would cope if the worst should happen.
It can cover a wide range of situations, such as fires, floods, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, cyber attacks, power cuts, accidents and other disruptions to usual service. It’s all about asking ‘what if?’.
Once you’ve assessed the risks, you can start putting simple yet effective measures in place to mitigate the damage such an event would cause. For example:
Diverting phone calls to an outsourced centre if communications networks go down.
Regularly backing up vital systems data, just in case of a cyber attack or power outage.
Storing important documents in fire-proof facilities.
Putting funds aside every month as a contingency, just in case a client or customer doesn’t pay on time or the business faces a financial crisis.
What is the purpose of the business continuity plan?
Too many businesses fail to consider the impact of a disaster until it’s far too late. They assume their staff can cope, or that insurance will cover any losses. In many cases, companies find it difficult to dedicate enough time and resources to business continuity planning.
But it is absolutely critical for companies of all sizes to have a robust business continuity plan in place. It could even make the difference between your company thriving or failing. In fact, a 2017 study by Invenio IT found that an enormous 90% of businesses without a continuity plan fail following a major disaster.
A carefully thought-out business continuity plan can:
Safeguard the interest of key stakeholders
Protect your company’s reputation and improve customer service
Ensure that the most important functions, services and systems for your core operations remain up and running
Help staff to know their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency
Back up key data
Help your business recover from unexpected incidents as quickly as possible.
The measures such a plan outlines will make your business more resilient and able to withstand whatever the future may bring. You can’t predict unexpected events – that’s what makes them so dangerous. What you can do, however, is take a proactive approach to shield your business from the worst effects of these events.
How to create a business continuity plan
Business continuity planning all starts with assessing risk. Set aside dedicated time to look closely at the areas where your business would be most vulnerable to certain types of risk. You’ll need to ask yourself a lot of questions and be brutally honest with the answers. For example:
How long would it take to get your systems back up and running after a power outage, and how much would that cost you?
How much damage would the failure of your customer service phone lines cause to your brand image and reputation?
What effect would data loss have on the running of your business?
To help you develop your business continuity plan, it’s useful to break it down into manageable steps. This process starts with choosing some key goals you want to achieve.
Identify the purpose of the plan
While a business continuity plan can deliver multiple benefits at once, it can’t necessarily do everything at once. For it to be the most effective, you’ll need to determine your priorities and set a scope for the plan.
At this stage, you’ll need to make an assessment of your company’s biggest vulnerabilities, and the most urgent or damaging risks it faces. There’s quite a bit of research to be done, looking into potential losses if a worst-case scenario should happen.
This insight should help you pinpoint key areas of vulnerability, and these will be the focus of your plan. You’ll be able to set some targets, and put a plan in place to achieve them.
Identify critical business functions
At the core of your business continuity plan will be identifying your most critical business functions. These are the parts of your business that are absolutely essential to keep operations running. For example, this could be production facilities if you’re in manufacturing, or IT infrastructure if you’re a web design firm.
Focus on the value-creating functions of your business, while also looking at the potential impact of the loss of these functions.
This loss could be financial, reputational, legal or even regulatory. For example, you could be fined for compromising customer data, face a breach of contract claim from a supplier due to a late payment or lose sales because your website has gone down.
It’s also important to identify key people, along with dependencies between the different business functions within the company.
Decide on acceptable downtime for each critical function
A key part of continuity planning is mitigation. Your plan won’t necessarily be able to stop a disaster from happening, but it can limit the impact on your business. It’s all about effective incident management and damage control.
For each of the critical business functions you’ve identified, decide and set a limit for acceptable downtime. This is the target your plan needs to achieve, and the only way to know if it’s successful (or realistic) is through testing – rather than waiting for disaster to strike.
Outline plan to maintain key operations
The next step is to put your emergency plan in place. How will you keep essential operations running while you deal with a major or disruptive event? This part of the plan will outline the roles and responsibilities of staff, along with the actions that will be initiated for each potential scenario.
For this step, it’s a good idea to include:
A list of key personnel and their roles
The location of data backups and backup sites
A communication plan, including making the continuity plan available to key personnel
Contact information for emergency responders (including IT recovery support).
How can CALLCARE help?
Business continuity planning is a team effort, so you don’t have to face it alone. In fact, an important part of the process is identifying partners who can help in an emergency.
This is why it’s helpful to work with specialists like CALLCARE, who provide a range of emergency services to ensure 24/7 business continuity in the face of disaster.
These services include telephone disaster recovery, so at least your phone communications will continue running smoothly even if you’re facing a tough cleanup operation. This can aid the recovery effort, ensuring that all parts of the business can communicate effectively with each other – as well as outside partners, clients and customers.
Posted by Gemma Harding
As Head of Client Services, Gemma is an expert in the customer service industry. With over 20 years of experience in the call handling process she will guide your organisation to an improved customer service strategy. Hobbies include all thing equestrian.