Every business should have a business continuity plan. Your continuity plan is a roadmap that will allow you to continue operating after a disruptive event, and help you to get back to normal trading operations as quickly as possible.
Planning for The Unexpected
A disruptive event is anything which affects the day to day operations of your business. That could be fire, theft, a natural disaster, or the loss of a senior member of staff. You cannot plan for every unexpected event, after all, the very definition of unexpected means that it’s something that takes you by surprise. However, what you can do is prepare for the disruptions that concern you the most, and have a general plan which will serve you well in other situations.
Knowledge is Everything
The most important thing in your business continuity plan is knowledge. As long as people within your organization know what to do, and who to contact, you will be in a good position to survive most disruptions:
- Start with a list of possible threats, along with an assessment of the risk that each threat poses to your business.
- Next, make a list of vulnerable assets within your organization. Possible vulnerabilities include stock, your premises, tools, machinery and even your data.
- Implement backup solutions for those vulnerable assets. That could be off-site or cloud storage backups for your data, a secondary line for your Internet connection, and spare tools stored off-site (or an agreement with your insurance provider to supply spares in the event of a breakdown).
- Make a list of all key personnel within your organization, and people who can fill-in for them in an emergency. Include work, home, mobile and email contact details for all of these people. Nominate some senior employees who will be in charge of contacting all of these people in an emergency.
- Identify which positions within your organization are suitable for telecommuting. At the earliest opportunity, set up the required infrastructure to allow these people to work remotely, and train your staff so that they know how to use your VPN. Consider encouraging some employees to work from home on a regular basis, so that your team is used to the challenges of dealing with remote workers.
- Make an emergency kit containing a list of critical vendors, contractors and service providers, as well as other important contacts such as local authorities, emergency services and utility companies. Keep copies of this list in both physical and electronic form.
- Decide on a contingency location, which will be your primary working location during periods when your office is unavailable. This could be a hotel, a rented meeting space, or even one of your contractor’s offices. Make sure everyone knows where this location is.
Armed with the above information, your company should be able to handle any emergency. The key to solid business continuity is communication. When something goes wrong, your senior employees can use the lists you have made available to them to contact team leaders and other key personnel, who can then filter information down to their subordinates. Everyone should know where to go (or how to work from home), and you will have all of the information you need to arrange replacement equipment, contact suppliers, and inform clients about what’s going on.
Of course, this kind of continuity planning only works if your employees know that the plan exists, and know how to find the information that you have put together for them. Be sure to keep your plan up to date, and regularly re-evaluate the risks and responses detailed in it.
This guide has been provided by business continuity advisors Maintel, who provide complete voice and data solutions for businesses.