Building and maintaining business continuity plans
If your company got hit unexpectedly by a disruption of services, would you be able to manage it smoothly? Preparing for surprise calamities begins with a business continuity plan, a guiding document that contains contingency procedures for restoring your operations swiftly. Consider these suggestions for formulating such a plan.
Conduct a risk assessment
A risk assessment can help identify the pain points in your company—areas that are particularly vulnerable to a disruption or critical to the successful running of your company, as well as areas that are better protected. Ask for feedback from both managers and employees of each department about strengths and weaknesses. Knowing the risk level of each department will help you allocate resources proportionate to the threat level, instead of throwing finite resources across your company equally and indiscriminately.
Make data protection a priority
Data is the lifeblood of most organizations and should be given priority in continuity planning. If you do not have it in place already, you should store your data in more than one location—such as on your on-site servers, in an offsite facility, and in the Cloud—and back it up regularly. Also, have a designated IT crew that is responsible for any tech-related matters in the aftermath of disruptions.
Have a priority communication plan
Staying on top of the disruption in terms of communications should be another part of your continuity plan. To that end, prepare and maintain a list of your most important clients, accounts, vendors and suppliers. Notify them of the disruption, steps being taken to address the problem, and when operations are expected to resume. As part of the plan, have a pre-written notice ready, with space for the pertinent details. Sending your own notices lets you control the flow of information rather than outside media sources and demonstrates transparency to your top accounts.
Organize and put your plan in writing
Your written continuity plan should be organized with a step-by-step plan for every department. You should establish a clear chain of command and key employees should know what they are responsible for, the order of things to be done, and a timeframe for accomplishing their responsibilities. Passwords and access codes should also be recorded for easy reference, although you may want to put some type of security layer in place so as not to expose them completely.
Test and update the plan
Schedule regular tests of your plan. For example, you might close for an afternoon to conduct a company-wide mock disruption. A more modest but suitably effective alternative is to gather your key players together and do a table read of the plan aloud to see whether there is any confusion. Make additions, changes or deletions to the plan accordingly—then schedule another dry run. Establish a team to oversee any updates.
It is more than likely that a significant disruption will impact most companies eventually. An organized, evaluated business continuity plan can go a long way toward helping you recover quickly and meet customer expectations.
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