Business continuity management (BCM) or business continuity planning involves a thorough examination of your systems, processes, people and customers to determine the best course of action in the event of a severe disruption in your business operations.
Many elements must be accounted for, including the following:
- Communication with customers and vendors
- Dissemination of your plans and strategies internally
- Ensuring your supply chain
- Staffing in the event of an emergency
- Regular testing and training of staff
- Backup IT systems
Being prepared involves planning for as many crises as feasibly possible. Different events impact different parts of your organization.
The business continuity process consists of several key dimensions. You need to codify and create contingency plans for program administration as well as business and IT recovery.
Dimension 1: Assessment
The first step to creating a solid crisis plan is assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Business impact analysis and risk assessment help you gain useful insights into how your business functions.
Understand the threats and risks inherent in your operations. These tools can help you shape your plan.
Dimension 2: Business Recovery
A crisis impacts your ability to operate normally. Having strategies and plans to get back to work quickly is essential.
Create a business recovery plan for when something goes wrong. Use your risk analysis as a guide. Address the weaknesses you discover in creating these reports.
A good business recovery plan does the following:
- Identifies potential threats
- Covers vendors, suppliers, employees and customers
- Includes required equipment and technologies
- Contains a contingency plan
Performing critical actions on the fly can leave you vulnerable. A speedy recovery involves a complex web of employees on many different levels.
Dimension 3: IT Disaster Recovery
The vast majority, about 87%, of incidents that impact businesses are not related to a natural disaster. A growth in cybersecurity attacks suggests that many of these crises are a direct result of hacking. Even so, only 56% of enterprises in the United States have a disaster recovery plan.
IT disaster recovery revolves around strategies, plans and processes for securing and backing up data and networks. Laws often require companies, especially organizations involved in healthcare or education, to have plans for IT disaster recovery.
Dimension 4: Crisis Management
Crisis management details how organizations manage crisis events and the team assigned to deal with catastrophes. Multiple units may be responsible for different parts of your response.
Establish key stakeholders responsible for dealing with various events ranging from natural disasters to cybersecurity breaches to the death or incapacitation of an executive. Identify risks and specify well-planned ways to tackle them.
Crisis management begins with risk analysis. Your assessment needs to be strong to create the documentation and strategies to respond effectively.
The dimensions of business crisis management create a feedback loop. Assessments shape business and IT recovery plans, which in turn shape your crisis management strategy.
The process never ends. Instead, it improves as you establish key performance indicators and receive more information. Use feedback to your advantage.
It would be best if you planned for every contingency because this process impacts nearly every facet of your organization. Improper continuity planning can lead to many pitfalls. Among these are the inability to identify threats, lack of executive support, lack of organizational commitment and insufficient tools and technology.
1) Inability To Identify Threats
Companies that do not exhibit good transparency, accountability and responsibility often cannot detect threats that impact their organizations. Gathering the necessary information to thoroughly understand your business is not just good corporate governance but also effective risk management.
Ensure that your company can assess business processes and determine how a catastrophic event impacts them. Create the reports and communication that are necessary to define your company.
2) Lack of Executive Support
The best strategies can fail if not embraced from the top down. Preparing for business disruption requires a commitment of time and resources that your executives may not be prepared to part with.
Getting the management to buy into the business continuity process is a necessary hassle. Only 54% of companies give businesses the benefit of the doubt in a crisis.
Present your case thoroughly. Use the right tools to build a set of compelling information to sway everyone to your side.
3) Lack of Organizational Commitment
A corporation’s middle-management and process leaders are as crucial as executives. They must buy into your disaster recovery and crisis management strategies as well.
Nearly 61% of executives claim that their organizations do not fully buy into their BCM processes. These companies are at risk of responding in a disorganized and disjointed way during a crisis. This can prove fatal if the event is severely damaging.
Ensure compliance by checking that every stakeholder knows their role and importance in the process. Involve key members in the planning process. Seek input where necessary.
4) Lack of Tools and Technology
The world is awash in data. Business processes generate valuable information for understanding every aspect of your company.
Proper procedures for reporting and analysis are necessary. Businesses generate 7.5 septillion gigabytes of data. This makes it impossible to analyze your corporate data without the right tools and technology.
Use analytics and reporting to your advantage. Validate your theories and seek support in the information generated by your business.
A good business continuity program revolves around a solid team. While you can grow your team to reflect your organization’s size or complexity, the following vital positions must exist.
- Sponsor: The sponsor is responsible for the program. They are part of the senior management and are tasked with ensuring the quality of your strategies. They are responsible and accountable for the outcomes of your BCM program.
- Business Continuity Manager: The business continuity manager implements your strategies. They ensure accurate documentation and reporting, perform training and report directly to the sponsor.
- Assistant Business Continuity Manager: You cannot leave the success of your business continuity strategy to a single individual. Failing to have a backup can create a crisis of its own. The assistant business continuity manager reports directly to the business continuity manager and is well-versed in their superior’s duties and responsibilities.
- Administrative Assistant: The administrative assistant helps as needed. They can help in preparing reports and gathering key individuals.
- Data Analyst: As data becomes more prevalent, the data analyst helps you collect and understand the information related to your processes. A good data analyst performs gap analysis, prepares reports and augments your technologies with deep and useful insights.
You will want to consider five core areas during your business continuity team planning, including: the team structure, responsibility allocation, effective team communication, team absence contingency plan and the necessary systems to support your new team.
Keep in mind that you are not trying to rebuild a minimum viable product. You are restarting your working business processes as quickly as possible.
Good business continuity involves a thorough understanding of your processes. Start small and grow your understanding over time. Finding missing details at crucial moments can be devastating for your business.
You are accountable for every action and result. Make sure you are ready to take ownership of the processes you put in place.
Once you have put a strategy in place, you need to know that it works. After all, BCM involves a feedback loop.
Do not rest on your initial strategy; it’s vital to ensure your BCP is a living document. Test every theory. Running through scenarios or simulations from the top down can help to ensure that your entire organization is ready to tackle the challenges presented by a catastrophe.
Use the information you learn to improve your processes. Few processes remain the same over time. Include a process improvement plan in your strategy.
Developing a solid crisis management strategy can seem daunting. Luckily, your business produces a large amount of valuable data. Capturing and using this information is the key to survival.
Diligent offers solutions to track your corporate data and creates a dashboard to measure your company’s health. You can monitor potential risks and build your BCM process around these tools.
The business continuity process is not optional — despite several organizations questioning the advantages and disadvantages of business continuity planning, particularly when considering the time and fiscal resources required to strategize, implement and maintain the BCP. Yet, from a natural disaster to a cybersecurity attack to the death of a vital member of your organization, anything can happen. Being prepared for the unforeseen is a hallmark of good leadership and fiscally pays off in the long haul.
Diligent supports executives with the tools and insights that can aid in the BCM process. Our robust platform and dashboards give clients visibility into their organization’s processes and risk areas, and the power to respond effectively during crises.