Ensuring Safety through business continuity – The Importance of having a Business Continuity Plan
“Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.” A wise proverb with particularly profound meaning in the business world. Successful organisations look to the future with both optimism and a necessary amount of caution, hoping for prosperity while putting plans in place that will enable them to weather any storm. It’s never easy to envisage a business- critical catastrophe, but it is vital to make preparations for such an eventuality so that you’re able to rebound and quickly resume service delivery. These preparations can be usefully titled “Business Continuity Plans.”
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) are sets of pre-established protocols, formulated to enable a business to quickly recover from any kind of disruptive event. Often presented in the form of an itemised checklist, a BCP will set out a range of measures designed to minimise further disruption and enable speedy execution of the recovery process. A disruptive event could be human-initiated or natural in origin, and the ensuing disruption could be partial or total in its extent: affecting your entire business operation, aspects of service delivery, or back-office processes. It’s impossible to predict what form the disruption could take, so it’s essential to have continuity plans in place which safeguard as many business functions as possible.
For convenience we’ll refer to disruptive occurrences as “crises.” Some of the most common business crises include:
Data breaches, including user-initiated leaks and cyber-attacks.
Supply chain disruption
Accidental or criminal damage, including theft, vandalism, fires and robberies.
An act of nature, such as a storm damage or flooding.
IT outages – hardware/software failure or third-party service interruption.
Looking at the list above your first instinct might be: “My insurance will cover most of that, won’t it?” Insurance only goes so far. It may cover the cost of replacing material assets, but it won’t be able to protect your business’s reputation following a period of disrupted service. Such reputational damage could linger long after the event, and affect your revenue in the subsequent months or even years.
It’s important to remember that business continuity isn’t solely about ensuring business survival in the face of an existential threat: it’s also about reducing the impact of disruptive events. By minimising the effects of a crisis on your operational capacity you’ll be able to maintain a high standard of service delivery, keep your customers satisfied and ultimately keep your revenue channels open.
Let’s now take a look at some of the key advantages business continuity planning can offer.
Sadly, it’s not always possible to preclude a business crisis. Sometimes situations arise that are completely outside of your control, and all you can do is minimise further damage. That’s largely the scope of business continuity planning: taking an unfortunate set of circumstances and implementing a course of action that will make the most of the bad situation. A BCP should include sets of actions designed to prevent small disruptive events snowballing into a more serious crisis.
In the immediate aftermath of a business crisis, your clients will probably be empathetic. However, at some stage, they will expect you to recover and offer them the same level of service they’ve grown accustomed to. If a crisis sees your business hamstrung for days on end, your clients and partners may start to lose faith, and a repeat occurrence may even result in loss of custom. Having an effective business continuity plan means you’ll be able to reinstate lost services and fully resume service delivery in double quick time. You’ll quickly restore confidence in your business and prove that you’re a dependable partner.
In certain industries, business relationships are highly trust-based. Without a sound continuity plan on standby, a disruptive event could damage that trust, possibly irreparably.
A good example scenario is a data breach. Under the GDPR, it is incumbent on organisations that suffer breaches to make data subjects aware that their personal information may have been compromised. If this happens, it will only be natural for your customers to enquire about the steps you’ve taken to protect their data. The absence of proper business continuity planning in such a scenario, may leave customers feeling as though you’ve been loose and careless with their information, and they may decide to move their business elsewhere.
Sometimes disruptive events only impact specific business domains or singular aspects of your end product. A comprehensive BCP will ensure that every system, utility and business department features built in redundancies designed to take over when disruption strikes. The ability to transition seamlessly to backup solutions will ensure your customers enjoy uninterrupted service of the standard they expect, preserving your reputation as a business that can be relied upon.
A 2014 study by Gartner calculated that a minute of downtime costs the average global firm $5600. For SMEs this figure will of course be much lower, but not inconsiderable. Whether your IT systems play a fundamental role in your customer offering, or simply a supporting one, there is no doubt that IT disruption can have a significant impact on short-term revenues. A carefully crafted continuity plan will aim to reinstate corrupted, damaged or faulty IT systems as quickly as possible, allowing you to get back in the driving seat of your business and keep profit margins in the green.
In the following article we examine the process of constructing a business continuity plan, considering the information it should contain and the basic form it should take.
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