Serving your customers at all times is a fundamental element of any successful business, and you know you can’t just rely on coming up with a quick “Plan B” in the event of a sudden financial crisis or natural disaster. You know you need to have a business continuity plan in place to respond or repair the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible. But knowing this is one thing, creating and implementing the plan is another big task.
So, what are the steps you need to take to put together a business continuity plan? Here are six key elements of getting one started:
1. Outline all Company Assets
Having a documented outlook of the operations and financials of the organization will help you to respond quickly without scrambling to try and figure out what you have and the costs associated. Get a clear understanding of what you need to protect, define its value, and provide protection instructions for each asset.
2. Define Downtime
Once you know your assets, now you need to establish a realistic timeframe that you can live without having access to them. Document how quickly the company must be back up and running at normal capacity. There are two items of concern:
- Recovery Time: Time it will take to recover lost data and restore necessary tools.
- Recovery Point: The point when the business cannot afford to lose data to get back up and running.
After you identify these items, create a timeline of efforts to do within the recovery time to prevent reaching the recovery point.
3. Identify Key Personnel
Develop a communications plan that identifies all significant roles in disaster recovery – both externally and internally, as well as who is leading each area of communications for the business.
4. Document Potential Solution Options and Directions
Although it is impossible to predict what type of situation may arise, it is important to establish some guidelines for the most common emergencies. Also identify any off-site locations, connectivity plans, and storage.
5. Draft the Sample Business Continuity Plan
After you have identified your costs, assets, personnel, and directions, it is now time to put all documentation together into a sample business continuity plan you can begin to test for effectiveness.
6. Train/Test/Revise/Test Again
Organize training events and execute each part of the continuity plan to identify where potential holes or problems may reside, documenting the efforts to ensure you can accurately analyze any weak areas. Then, revise the plan and repeat to ensure effectiveness. Additional testing helps to create awareness and readiness for execution in the event of a real disaster. Regular tests should be conducted in the case of system or operational changes.
Implementing business continuity management involves the assessment of the leadership, current staff, company resources, and procedures. Although you may never need to use the plan you create, the process of developing and implementing one not only safeguards the business but also helps identify other weaknesses and potential improvements throughout the organization.