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How to Create an Effective Business Continuity Plan

Business continuity planning is an essential tool for any business in the event of a disaster. It provides you with enough lead time to ensure that your organization can continue operations without interruption, even if something goes wrong from day one when disasters strike unexpectedly.

Have you ever thought about what would happen if a flood occurred in your facility or had to make last-minute arrangements when a hurricane disrupted your monthly schedule? Or perhaps even worse, have you ever had to address stakeholders after a cybersecurity attack? Unplanned catastrophes can shake or even destroy your business operations. Interruptions in your business can happen at the drop of a hat. It seems near impossible to plan for something like this, but creating a business continuity plan can help you prepare for protection and stability during times of uncertainty.

What Is Business Continuity?

Business continuity is the ability of an organization to maintain its operations in an emergency. Business continuity plans are an essential component of any organization. Not only do they provide a way to keep the company running after disasters strike, but unforeseen circumstances can also quickly turn chaotic without one. A business interruption can have a devastating effect on the future of any company. An unplanned interruption consists of anything that takes you out of your usual routine. This can include anything from natural disasters, cyberattacks, human error, or insider threats.

It should be no surprise that a business needs strategic foresight to be prepared for disruptions. Planning and outlining should account for a business’s processes, assets, human resources, business partners, and more. A successful business continuity strategy involves identifying all key stakeholders within your business community so that you can address any needs before taking action.

Unlike a disaster recovery plan, which focuses mainly on restoring an IT infrastructure and operations after a crisis, business continuity planning encompasses the entire organization. A disaster recovery plan is just one part of a complete business continuity plan. Another crucial part of a business continuity plan is a business impact analysis. A business impact analysis helps you evaluate whether your company is prepared for losing essential functions, like payroll or accounting. It also identifies potential risks associated with outsourcing non-core activities in a business continuity plan so they can be considered before making this decision.

Why Business Continuity Planning Matters

Providing a clear blueprint for what an organization should do in a crisis eliminates confusion when mishaps occur. 

Business continuity planning is about more than just business operations. Having a plan for emergencies can keep the lights on and give you a better chance at meeting all of your commitments, from customers’ needs down to employees’ jobs.

More importantly, your business continuity plan supports:

  • Communication between employees and customers
  • Workflow operations essential to business activity
  • Customer service response, especially if you are a service provider
  • Business security, keeping your data and information secured wherever you and your team find yourself working
  • The flow of information and documents

How to Start Your Business Continuity Plan

If you don’t have a business continuity plan in place, start by assessing the vulnerabilities in each area of your business. Determine what would happen with lost business processes, how much they’d cost you per day, week, or month in losses. This can help you prioritize which areas should be addressed first in the event of a disaster.

Next, develop a plan. This involves six general steps:

  1. Identify the scope of the plan.
  2. Consider key business areas (listed below).
  3. Recognize critical functions.
  4. Distinguish dependencies between various business areas and functions.
  5. Determine acceptable downtime for each critical function.
  6. Create a plan to maintain operations.

A standard business continuity planning tool is a checklist that includes supplies and equipment, the location of data backups, and backup sites, where it’s available for those who need it most to keep going during an emergency.

Then, interview key employees who have worked through a similar situation successfully. People generally like to share “war stories” and the steps they took that saved their day, plus this information can be valuable when drafting your plan. Consider these experiences carefully before you create a plan.

Finally, think about the critical areas of your business that could be affected and incorporate each one into your plan. This allows your organization to prepare for any misfortune, from interrupted processes to security issues.

Key Areas of Your Business to Consider While Planning

  • Strategy: Objects that are related to the method by which a business completes day-to-day activities while ensuring continuous operations
  • Organization: Objects that are related to the structure, skills, communications, and responsibilities of its employees
  • Applications and data: Objects that are related to the software necessary to enable business operations, as well as the method to provide high availability that is used to implement that software
  • Processes: Objects that are related to the critical business process necessary to run the business, as well as the IT processes used to ensure smooth operations
  • Technology: Objects that are related to the systems, network, and industry-specific technology necessary to enable continuous operations and backups for applications and data
  • Facilities: Objects that are related to providing a disaster recovery site if the primary site is destroyed

Remember that when catastrophes strike, the best way to recover with endurance is by making sure everyone in your organization is prepared and knows the best way to respond. Not only does this eliminate chaos, but it organizes the processes to ensure a swift recovery for your business. Reach out to our team at Merritt Business Solutions to learn how we can help you plan for the unexpected by contacting us here!

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