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What is a Business Continuity Plan?
A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is the process involved in creating a reliable system that aids in prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company. Such a plan ensures that personnel and assets are protected and yet functional in the event of an unforeseen disaster. The BCP is generally mapped out in advance, making it an important part of any organization’s Risk Management Strategy.
These risks may include – natural disasters, fire outbreak, pandemic or even a Cyber-attack. An effective Business Plan ensures that the organization does not face excessive loss or downtime even during an unforeseen crisis.
Creating an effective Business continuity plan
There are five steps you can follow to build a reliable Business Continuity Plan. These steps are:
1.Identify the scope of the plan and set goals
In the event of a disaster an organization should be equipped to deal with the situation by having in place a tried and tested Business Continuity Plan. Questions such as – How detailed should the plan be? What departments will the plan cover? What are the outcomes of a successful plan? – Should be asked and answered in the plan.
Your BCP should cover any preparation time or research hours that you or your personnel might need to get the emergency systems in place. It is not enough to just create a Business Continuity Plan, you also need to train personnel to implement the plan in case of an emergency to ensure continuity.
2.Identify Key Business Areas & Critical Functions
The best way to determine key business areas is by looking at the functions that hurt your company the most if they were not functioning. This damage could be in the form of loss of revenue or harm to your reputation.
A good Business Continuity Plan would further classify these functions as low, medium, or high priority based on their impact. Defining the key business areas gives organizations the ability to cut down on non-essential services and focus on the primary business functions and keep them functional.
3.Conduct a Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
A Business Impact Analysis determines the kind of impact any potential interruption would have on each aspect of your business. As a core function of Disaster Recovery Planning, a BIA details impact scenarios for every level of disaster and makes it easier to choose the most logical and realistic plan keeping in mind the risks. This helps in prioritizing all resources.
4.Create Plan to Maintain Operations
The most important step of your business continuity plan is ensuring essential operations remain functional or resume in an acceptable short period in the event of a crisis. Your plan should include prevention, response and recovery strategies that personnel can follow.
Every department should be asked to provide a functional response strategy to get their systems restored. This strategy should include evacuation procedures along with strategies to reduce downtime. It is also important to determine what you will communicate to customers when your company might be facing downtime. This plan should essentially map out a timeline along with the steps required to mitigate the issues and get your systems up and running.
5.Review and Improve the BCP
The final step to any plan is implementation. This does not mean waiting for a disaster to test your plan. For a Business Continuity Plan to be effective, both employees and department heads should know how to implement the plan through each phase of prevention, response, and recovery. This process requires training personnel along with testing each step of the plan. This ensures that none of your employees panic, which would worsen the situation.
This also helps identify any errors or incorrect judgments made during the planning phase. These oversights can be noted down and addressed by updating the Business Continuity plans and strategy, thus ensuring that your plan remains effective in case of an actual emergency. While nothing can give you 100% coverage, regular testing and training will help keep your Business Continuity Plans as effective as possible while still being easy to implement.
Making sure your Business Continuity Plan serves you over a long period of time
Business Continuity Plans are meant to improvise along with the growing and evolving business. The initial testing and implementation of a BCP is a time-consuming effort. However, once the initial hurdle is crossed that does not mean your task is over.
Every organization goes through personnel changes and advances in its technology. With enough time even the best BCP can grow stale and unusable in an emergency. As technology advances and people come and go, your BCP should evolve and adapt as well. Key personnel should be brought together annually to review the BCP and update and modify it as required, to ensure that your BCP serves you over a long period of time.