Bearing the ability to push through any ripples that unexpected disaster throws at your business is no longer a privilege. It’s a necessity, considering the risks modern businesses face. While the global economy reels from the impact of a global pandemic, surplus uncertainty caused by the growing cybersecurity threats should give business managers enough reason to rethink their strategic response to disaster.
The thing is, resilience and continuity are two sides of the same coin; both go hand in hand in ensuring business operations go on regardless of the circumstance. In this post, we take a closer look at business continuity as a vital strategy for ensuring your business persists through thick and thin and bounces stronger from disaster.
- Business continuity is a strategic process, of identifying the potential threats to an organization and defining the extent of the potential impact to the business if these threats were to come to be.
- Business continuity planning is more than just creating backups for when things go wrong. Different organizations have different needs. In this sense, business continuity planning is not a one-size-fits-all. Management should consider the company’s assets, processes, and supply chain partners, among other factors when creating a business continuity strategy.
- Business continuity and resilience are built upon three main pillars, i.e. risk assessment, testing and evaluation, and strategic planning. Management should be able to provide sufficient coverage for major disruptive events, such as natural disasters, massive cyberattacks, and other potential risks in the Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Recovery Plan.
- Continuous testing and improvement of existing business continuity plans remain crucial for businesses anticipating uncertainty.
A business continuity plan lays out the roadmap to a swift, efficient, and cost-effective response, should a major disruptive event befall mission-critical objectives.
Understanding Business Continuity Planning
Business continuity planning is a holistic process addressing the necessary steps to be taken in the event a major disruption interferes with critical business operations. As with any plan/strategy, a business continuity plan takes special interest in certain factors, including the following:
- Comprehensive risk and impact analysis – Business leaders should weigh the risks and impact poised by disruptive events. A comprehensive impact analysis separates mission-critical from non-essential tasks and assigns a threat level to different risk categories.
- Strategies for disaster recovery – It comes as no surprise that downtime is costly for businesses in the modern era. Quick recovery means continuous services will be made available to customers regardless of the disruptive event.
- Defined roles and responsibilities – In the face of a disaster, more confusion about everyone’s roles only adds salt to the wound. The last thing on your mind at this point should be re-assigning duties to be performed, and tasks to be fulfilled – all that should be communicated long before the disaster.
- Periodic testing, monitoring, and evaluation – Technology evolves by the day, bringing with it new challenges that may pose significant threats to the business. Test your business continuity plan for its efficiency and effectiveness in deployment.
Eventually, it is not a matter of if disaster will strike but when. Quickly responding to disasters makes a solid foundation for a resilient business.
Importance of Resilience in Business
The importance of resilience in business transcends into stopping disruption, preventing, or avoiding disaster altogether. It’s the ability to withstand and bounce back from adversity, whether it’s a financial downturn, a natural disaster, or a global pandemic.
89% of business leaders consider resilience a strategic priority, says PwC, a renowned professional services network. Across the board, resilience bolsters the organization’s ability to deploy a coordinated response to emerging situations.
A fundamental importance of business resilience is the ability to sustain operations in the midst of a crisis, a quality that takes businesses a step closer to long-term success. Companies with a solid plan in place to address issues and adapt to emergent situations are better equipped to serve their customers.
It is worth pointing out, however, that deploying a successful resilience strategy may come short of expectations due to factors such as misaligned business priorities, skills shortage, and a shortage of time and resources. As a managed service provider in Washington DC, we help our clients understand their status, anticipate future crises, and build effective business continuity solutions for the long road ahead.
Steps in Developing a Continuity Plan
There exists strategic value behind a well-structured business continuity plan. For starters, your business continuity plan reassures your proactive stance against emerging IT issues. Rather than wait to deal with the consequences, businesses deploy measures to counter IT issues as they develop.
A well-coordinated business continuity plan starts with the following steps:
1. Identifying Potential Internal and External Threats and Risks
To build up resilience in your business, you’ll first need to pinpoint potential threats and risks that could disrupt your operations. This isn’t a simple task; the process requires a comprehensive and strategic analysis of both internal and external factors.
Internally, scrutinize your processes, personnel, and technologies. Here are some questions to set your analysis in the right direction:
- Are there vulnerabilities in your IT ecosystem and network that could lead to data breaches?
- Do you rely heavily on a single supplier, making you vulnerable to supply chain disruptions?
Your employees, too, pose potential risks, with human error, susceptibility to phishing, and intentional sabotage topping the list. It’s crucial to assess how your staff could inadvertently, or otherwise, cause disruption.
Externally, you must examine the wider environment. This includes macroeconomic factors, political instability, or environmental disasters that could impact your business. In most cases, these are factors out of your reach.
In identifying these threats, you’re preparing for any eventuality. You’re also laying the groundwork for confident, informed decision-making regarding what to include in your business continuity plan.
2. Implementing Your Continuity Plan
A strategic deployment of your continuity plan takes two main fronts:
- Communication – Share your plan with all stakeholders. Business managers should have the ability to showcase their capability in resolving IT issues fast and efficiently, putting to rest any doubts expressed by stakeholders.
- Training for employees – Educate your team about their roles in the plan. Confusion in various roles and employees can shatter your business continuity efforts, in the event that a real disaster strikes. It is always a good practice to offer training and support to employees – get management on board the plan for a more coordinated response across the organization.
Communicating your plan keeps everyone on the same page when disaster actually strikes. Periodic training for your team gives them the knowledge and confidence to perform their roles efficiently.
3. Test and Modify Your Plan
While you’ve diligently crafted your continuity plan and taken steps to implement it, ensuring its effectiveness requires thorough testing and ongoing modification. Just like a disaster drill, running simulations of potential threats will help you identify weak spots in your plan. You can then make necessary adjustments to further strengthen your defenses against uncertainty.
What many business leaders tend to forget at this point is the inevitable changes that they should undertake to further shield the business against disaster. Remember, your business continuity plan isn’t set in stone – new changes in the business processes mandate evolution. You might introduce new technologies or revise outdated processes – all of which could impact your plan’s effectiveness.
Building a resilient business takes time and effort; it is an error-prone process requiring input from all stakeholders. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be as challenging for small business managers. At Welsh Consulting, we help corporate clients prepare for future uncertainty equipped with the right expertise to handle IT issues as they emerge.
Get in touch with us today and let us know how we can help!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Some Real-World Examples of Successful Business Continuity Planning?
Some real-life examples of business continuity in action include the Delta Airlines incident of April 2017, where natural circumstances forced the cancellation of over 4000 flights. Other instances include the Hurricane Sandy event, which forced the disruption of Verizon and NYSE. With pre-planning, the affected businesses were restored in a relatively short period of time.
Does the Size of a Business Affect the Complexity of Its Continuity Plan?
The size of your business does affect the complexity of its continuity plan. Larger businesses typically have more moving parts, requiring more detailed planning to ensure all aspects continue running smoothly during disruptions. Smaller businesses can survive on less detailed continuity plans that scale as they grow.
How Frequently Should a Business Continuity Plan Be Updated or Revised?
You should update your business continuity plan regularly, at least bi-annually. A significant change in operations, personnel, and business environment signals a required change in business continuity.
What are the Costs Associated With Developing and Implementing a Business Continuity Plan?
Some direct costs associated with developing and implementing a business continuity plan include staff training, technology investments, consulting services, and investments in physical facilities for disaster recovery.
Can a Business Continuity Plan Help in Attracting Potential Investors or Clients?
A business continuity plan can attract potential investors or clients. It shows you’re prepared for unforeseen events, which increases confidence in your business’s stability and long-term viability.