A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document outlining the vital information a company needs to continue operating during an unexpected event. It describes the potential effect of disasters and the policies to respond to them for a quick resumption of normal operations.
Having a strong BCP ensures that your business operations don’t suffer in the event of a disaster.
While an insurance policy will cover the financial effects of a disaster, such as hurricanes, fires, and contagious diseases, it won’t protect the damage to your market share or reputation. Indeed, you are likely to lose customers to the competition when crises cause delays or failure to provide products and services.
These are the key reasons you should have a business continuity plan, a guide for your employees to handle the process of informing your customers about the disaster. The BCP also stipulates the process of reinstating business processes back to normal.
In addition to preserving the confidence and trust of your company’s shareholders and employees, the business continuity plan can assist your business in meeting legal obligations.
In this article, you will learn how to build a business continuity plan, what to include in it, and how to use it.
Let’s get into the details.
Table of Content
- What is a business continuity plan?
- The difference between business continuity and disaster recovery (DR) plan
- What is included in a business continuity plan?
- What are the steps in the business continuity planning process?
- How do you create an effective business continuity plan?
- 1. Identify the plan’s goals and objectives
- 2. Select the business continuity team
- 3. Undertake a business impact analysis (BIA)
- 4. Determine critical functions and key business areas
- 5. Identify pain points
- 6. Design a plan to maintain business operations
- 7. Design a training and testing protocol
- 8. Create a monitoring program and quality assurance
What is a business continuity plan?
Business continuity is a plan of action, ensuring that your business continues to operate when a disaster occurs.
The concept is borrowed from business continuity management, which refers to advanced preparation and planning in order for the company to quickly resume operations after a disaster.
It also entails identifying potential risks, such as cyber-attacks, fires, and floods. Businesses manage potential crises before they happen. They do so by designing business continuity plans.
BCPs allow managers and owners to proactively understand the threats and weaknesses to their business in times of crisis. They ensure company leaders can take quick and efficient measures against business disruption.
The difference between business continuity and disaster recovery (DR) plan
A BCP and a disaster recovery plan (DRP) are closely linked as they support the organization’s ability to continue operations after an adverse event.
But how does a BCP differ from a dr plan?
The DRP is reactive as it outlines how the business recovers from a disruptive event. A disaster recovery plan entails restoring essential support systems, such as the IT infrastructure and operations, after a crisis.
A BCP, on the other hand, is a proactive strategy as it covers how to resume normal business operations before, during, and after an emergency. It focuses on continuity across the entire organization, unlike in specific departments, for the organization to maintain its financial viability.
Indeed, the dr plan is only a part of the business continuity plan.
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What is included in a business continuity plan?
Business continuity plans can vary in complexity across businesses. You can still modify them to suit your organization’s needs. BCPs can include the following elements:
- Policy information: They contain guides, which are critical to the running of your business. They have IT processes for the smooth operations of the organization.
- Strategy/emergency response and management: They have tactics your business needs to complete its daily activities while ensuring normal operations.
- Initial data: They contain contact information of all important people in the organization.
- Step-by-step response procedures: guidelines on how to use the plan.
- Flow chart diagrams and checklists.
- Facilities: Disaster recovery sites should the primary site be destroyed
- Glossary of terms in the BCP.
- Schedule for adjusting, testing, and updating the BCP.
What are the steps in the business continuity planning process?
Every business should create a business continuity plan to protect itself from reputation damage, loss of customers, and loss of profits.
The anatomy of a business continuity plan should have possible threats, the procedures to protect against disasters, and the employees in charge of each process.
As you create the BCP, remember to keep it simple and easy to implement, but to still document every section as it needs to be shared across your company.
It should be well organized for readers to understand the risk assessments, response procedures, and recovery processes.
How do you create an effective business continuity plan?
1. Identify the plan’s goals and objectives
When designing a BCP, you should identify its objectives and create a budget. You should include the training materials and training hours, among other resources required to develop the plan.
You should then outline the plan’s details, expected outcomes, departments to cover, and the milestones to track.
2. Select the business continuity team
Choose the incident command and task-oriented teams and their duties.
Command and control teams include the crisis management personnel, the BCP facilitation, and the recovery management teams. They ensure that all resources required in executing a perfect business continuity plan are in place.
The task-oriented teams include the media and public relations, legal, internal and external business communication, information technology, cybersecurity, and operations teams.
Remember to include the first responders’ contacts, titles, and specific duties.
3. Undertake a business impact analysis (BIA)
A business impact analysis (BIA) predicts the effect of a potential disaster on the business functions and processes. It collects information necessary to design recovery strategies.
The BIA document should cover the core operations of your business and critical areas that could affect business continuity. It should also indicate all the resources your business needs to keep the essential departments operational during a crisis.
The plan should include forecasts and predictions to help your recovery team identify scenarios for every disaster level. The BIA should then be tested for potential loopholes and modified and updated accordingly.
You can use operational and financial impacts worksheets to capture all the recovery priorities and strategies.
The worksheets should summarize the operational and financial effects arising from the loss of business processes and functions. They should also indicate the time when disruptions to a function or process would affect the business.
4. Determine critical functions and key business areas
Identify the core needs of your business and determine the most critical processes, which can cause the greatest damage to your company.
Review every business function and classify it into high, medium, or low risk. To understand the most critical functions, you can use these questions:
- What business goals does this function support?
- How many sections or departments will this aspect affect?
- What is the frequency of the occurrence of this aspect?
- Which other business aspects depend on this function during normal business operations?
- What would be the revenue loss should this function be interrupted?
- Are there legal effects associated with this function?
- Does this function affect my business market share or publicity?
As you prepare a business continuity plan, it is also essential to consider moving your core operations to an offsite location. You could also make arrangements for support teams to work remotely.
5. Identify pain points
You should identify any issues that could arise from implementing the BCP. Monitor critical functions or departments to determine the tolerable downtime.
Using a rating system can work even better as it would enable you to understand the business functions to allocate resources at a given time.
6. Design a plan to maintain business operations
As a business owner and manager, you should have a detailed plan on how to keep your business running. You should also analyze the BCP to understand the recovery potential and improvement plan.
How can you ensure that your business is ready to stay afloat during and after a crisis?
- Prevention strategies
Outline all the steps your business should take in the event a disaster occurs.
You could mitigate risks by installing generators or other backup utilities at your facilities. You can also establish alternative communication networks or remote work arrangements for critical staff.
- Response strategies
When preparing a business continuity plan, don’t forget to equip your team with an emergency response manual.
This plan should document the responsibilities of each BCP member in the event of a disaster.
For instance, during a fire outbreak, you should document the safety protocols and procedures, such as employee and customer evacuation, and how the company should communicate to the media.
- Recovery strategies
Your objective is to resume business operations as soon as possible.
To do this successfully, you should have a recovery plan identifying specific managers to oversee it.
The stakeholders, such as data centers, in charge of implementing the plan, should know the right time or intervals for activation.
7. Design a training and testing protocol
How can you use a business continuity plan in your organization?
Well, you can start by distributing and training your employees about it.
When ready, the business continuity plan should be distributed to the business continuity team and leadership. The business continuity team leader should also maintain a master copy of the document.
You should then distribute print copies of the BCP across the emergency operations center (EOC). You should also have the EOC members retain copies of the plan to enable them to review roles quickly, understand their tasks and responsibilities, and reference recovery details once the team is activated.
You can have all departments undergo basic training or conduct in-depth exercises to test procedures and employee preparedness.
For instance, you can conduct drill exercises to understand employee comprehension and readiness.
You should also address miscommunication by addressing employee concerns internally. It is important to instruct employees to refrain from sharing information about your company’s business continuity plans on social media.
When conducting training and testing, keep in mind that the exercises should have clear objectives, should be easy to understand, and should have a post-exercise evaluation.
8. Create a monitoring program and quality assurance
As your organization grows, so should you modify and update your business continuity plan.
You can adopt a quality assurance strategy, allowing all departments to keep up with the standard business continuity procedures and processes.
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Business continuity plans are essential as they outline how your organization should respond to disasters for a quick resumption of normal operations.
Any business is prone to disasters, such as fires, communication breakdowns, floods, and even contagious diseases like the coronavirus.
To ensure that your business does not suffer reputation damage, loss of customers, and loss of profits, you should understand what elements to include in a BCP to make it effective. You should also know the critical steps to follow in the planning process.
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