Back to Basics: What is Business Continuity Planning and Why is it so Important?

Business Continuity Planning is the cornerstone of an established, enduring business. Put simply, a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) aims to see your business losing as little as possible during a crisis. A BCP focuses on maintaining key operations during a crisis in order to allow as much of the business to continue operating where possible. A disruption or crisis can derail your business’ day-to-day activities, and experiencing a sudden, unexpected event without having any plans in place can leave you in the dark and not knowing where to start. Disruptions to daily operations could include anything from natural disasters to IT disruptions, or power outages to medical emergencies. BCPs can be used to mitigate the impacts of both minor and major disruptions, with the response dependent on the kind of crisis the business is facing. Below are three key steps required for Business Continuity Planning:

Step 1 – Identify Critical Functions
To begin the Business Continuity Planning process, a crucial question must be asked: What are the key areas of the business and what are their critical functions? A business’ critical functions are imperative for ensuring that at least some business operations can continue during a disruption. Generally, restoring critical functions is a time sensitive task, with some critical functions needing to be restored within moments. For example, if a food store that sells all refrigerated goods experiences a power outage, a critical function would be the operation of the fridges. Without power to the refrigerators, all the goods available for sale could be lost as they could spoil if the power outage endures, and therefore, restoring power for the refrigerators specifically would need to be done as soon as possible. A prolonged power outage would result in all the goods on the premises being thrown out, resulting in a huge loss for the business. It is important to highlight these critical functions and to distinguish them from other functions that will not halt operations if they are out of order. Essentially, critical functions are keeping the lights on. Once identified, we move onto considering the departmental dependencies that may impact other business functions.
Step 2 – Link Interdepartmental Dependencies  
While having just one area of a business and one of its key functions being disrupted during a crisis might seem not too dire, the impact of a crisis can sometimes be exasperated by the impact that one disruption to operations can have on other departments within a business. For example, if an IT disruption occurs and results in the rostering and timesheet systems going offline, HR would be unable to access them. This would have a flow on effect to the accounts payable staff who, even if not directly impacted by the IT disruption, would not be able to check payroll against the timesheets. These kinds of dependencies exist between many areas of a business, and they must be highlighted to ensure that a BCP will cover all bases and all potential flow-on effects from a disruption.

Step 3 – Identify Maximum Available Outages (MAO) 

The Maximum Available Outage (or Maximum Tolerable Outage) refers to the maximum amount of time that a certain service or operation can be out of order before it becomes detrimental to the interests of stakeholders and the longevity of the business. For example, the cold food products from the earlier example may be able to survive for 60 minutes without refrigeration before there is a chance that they may be spoiled and cause food poisoning if consumed. Therefore, the MAO for the refrigerator’s power would be 60 minutes, and if not restored within this time, the food will have to be thrown out, and the entire day’s potential profit will be lost. Giving key functions a MAO timeframe allows your business to prioritize these key functions, and work on restoring those that will interfere the most with business operations if left disrupted.

After the plan is complete: test it! 

A BCP may look great on paper, but conducting test activations and analyzing the plan’s effectiveness is crucial to ensuring that the BCP is tweaked and refined and that the continuous improvement cycle is conducted. The BCP exists to give your business a clear procedure to follow during a disruption, and making alterations to the plan during a crisis is the last thing you want to be focusing on. For a BCP to be a reliable resource, it involves more than just ‘adequate’ preparation, and refining it before a crisis occurs is crucial to its success.
Why is Business Continuity Planning crucial to your business’ success?
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Organizations tend to focus on returning to ‘business as usual’ after a disruption when, in reality, to be fully prepared for what the future may throw at you, the focus needs to shift to preparing for ‘business as unusual’. The world is full of uncertainties, and the world of business is not immune to major disruptions and crises. Recovering from an emergency or crisis can be an extremely long, difficult and expensive process, but having a plan in place that focuses on restoring and maintaining as many operations as possible could mean the difference between your business continuing to thrive in the future, and shutting down indefinitely.

Be prepared for anything. Contact us at Resilient Services today and see how our knowledgeable team can help make your business stronger, smarter and more secure. 

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