Businesses rarely get advanced notice that disaster is about to strike.
That was certainly the case in March of this year. Within a matter of weeks, many businesses were forced to close their doors, send employees to work from home, address employee health concerns and deal with disruptions in the supply chain.
During “typical” disruptions, such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and cyberattacks, a business continuity plan comes into play.
But few business continuity plans were designed with a global pandemic in mind. In our recent State-of-the-Business survey, 66% of businesses said they had a business continuity plan in place before the COVID-19 pandemic, but 76% of those businesses said their plan did not apply to the challenges they faced as a result of the pandemic.
Business Continuity Planning Overview
A business continuity plan is a series of protocols designed to ensure that business operations can continue during a disruptive event. It typically covers processes for communicating with employees and clients, recovering lost data, repairing failed systems or technologies and quickly resuming functions.
Many businesses have a disaster recovery plan and therefore believe they’re equipped for business continuity. However, disaster recovery plans largely focus on restoring IT infrastructure after a crisis, and they typically don’t address areas such as human resources, sales and marketing and customer relations. Disaster recovery is critical, but it’s just one component of a complete business continuity plan.
Whether the pandemic convinced you to implement a business continuity plan or your current plan needs an update, we’ve outlined a checklist of things to consider for your business continuity plan that can help.
A Business Continuity Plan Checklist
Every business is unique, so every business continuity plan will address the specific people, processes and technologies that are essential to the organization. Still, the following measures should be addressed in your business continuity and disaster recovery plan.
- Assess business processes. Start with an assessment of your business’s operations and determine which processes are vulnerable in the event of a disaster. This helps you set the scope of your plan and identify the departments and staff members who need to be involved.
- Conduct a business impact analysis. What physical, financial and operational risks would your company face if a significant disruption were to occur? Create a list of threats such as damage to the company’s reputation, loss of sales, regulatory fines, etc. Whenever possible, quantify these risks with a cost.
- Create prevention strategies. Detail any preventative measures that can be taken before a disruptive event occurs. This may include identifying remote working solutions and ensuring critical data is on the cloud.
- Identify critical equipment. Identify the equipment necessary to sustain business operations, such as generators, laptops, servers, cell phones, personal protection equipment, facilities, specialized machinery or equipment, emergency medical supplies and more. Determine whether you can have that equipment at hand or access it quickly from a vendor.
- Access crucial data. Resuming business operations requires access to essential data, so you must know where and how that data is stored.
- Communicate with employees. The organization’s leaders must communicate with employees and be transparent about the current risks and plans. Identify who will be responsible for messaging, who will be in charge of reaching out to employees and how the organization will contact staff members during different scenarios (email, phone, video conferencing, social media, etc.). Regular, transparent communications build trust and motivate employees to remain productive.
- Communicate with clients and customers. Address how you will distribute information to and collect information from clients during and following a disaster. In some cases, your customers and clients may be facing the same disruption event. How will you focus on recovering your own operations while also dealing with higher volumes of calls, emails, and client needs? It’s crucial to maintain open lines of communication and keep customers apprised of any impacts on product or service delivery.
- Provide ongoing training and conduct annual reviews. Once your business continuity plan is complete, make sure all employees have the training they need to carry out the plan. Training should include a basic overview of procedures, as well as exercises to test them out. At least annually, review your plan to ensure it is still aligned with your current people, processes, and technologies.
Measure and Adapt Your Business Continuity Plan
If you don’t yet have a business continuity plan, now is the time to put one in place. If you already have a plan, the COVID-19 pandemic offered an opportunity to put it to the test. Reflect on how your company responded to the current situation, and start thinking proactively about how you can be better prepared for future uncertainties.
Creating and maintaining a business continuity plan is no small feat, but the process will ensure your organization is safer today and ready for any future disruptions or disasters that may occur.
If reviewing this business continuity plan checklist leaves you questioning what your next move should be, Warren Averett’s trusted advisors can help. Contact your Warren Averett advisor today for guidance on the business continuity and disaster recovery planning process, or ask a member of the team to reach out to you.