Ask any business owner how difficult it is to run a business and they will most probably indicate that it’s very complex. Learning the steps and dealing with an ever-changing customer environment and other matters which all have the potential to be catastrophic. May send a given business to the wall, simply because one or two factors weren’t well planned.
Furthermore, establishing steps or a pathway to planning for and establishing business continuity can be just as complex as the day to day management. In this article, we will look at a six-step process for establishing and implementing a business continuity management structure. Risk is a big part of any business, whether securing finance or employing the right people for the organisation. The scope of this article relates to those unexpected events generally associated with some type of emergency.
Step One – Embedding a risk culture.
Business continuity planning, like other business strategies, requires a systems and processes approach. Such management structures can in themselves be quite complex so a commitment from everyone from the CEO to the new recruit, is required to achieve effective implementation.
To some, it may seem like those responsible for risk management within an organisation could work on a plan that is well thought out and seems like it would be effective. The problems occur when such plans don’t include strategies to involve and empower everyone within an organization to be involved.
Some will have greater involvement than others, but mentorship and facilitation managers, play a large role in implementing systems and processes. They may use face to face conversation or implement training programs with outcomes that emphasize the importance of risk. Embedding a risk mitigation culture may take time but if managed correctly it may have a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line.
Step Two – Starting with risk determination.
Those businesses that have completed an emergency management plan and provided the emergency control organisation with resources and training. Have already probably achieved significant identification of risk in relation to emergencies. In reality, it would be problematic and a waste of resources and time to put emphasis on risks that were classified as low to moderate.
Establishing the context will help to establish concerns relating to business continuity and associated business objectives. Considering both external and internal risk factors which could create uncertainty and give rise to further risk. In short, the context revolves around those potential circumstances relating to the management of disruption related risk.
This is where the identification of risks associated with the emergency management plan can be used to help analyse disruptive factors and their level of impact on a given business.
Step Three – Determination of Business Impact Analysis.
Disruption can be minor or major and include critical business assets like people, data, buildings, equipment, critical inventory and suppliers. One example could be a mail centre – where data forms a large part of the operation – therefore contingencies like offsite backups may help to overcome disruption relating to fire. Of course, there may be some challenges in terms of recovery but without offsite backup, the business may potentially not be able to recover from losing all data in a fire.
Imagine a baker who supplied important clients all around the capital city. The impact and snowballing effect of a simple power outage, greater than 24 hours could be devastating to many businesses, not just the bakery. A business continuity plan may include a backup generator which would lessen the impact substantially. A well-managed process could include financial input from others to help ensure the supply of goods.
When analyzing risk there is a need to identify specific reliance on critical operational, financial and technological outcomes. Furthermore, leading to an ability to adequately determine priorities.
Step 4 – Developing Systems and Processes.
Contingency plans allow businesses to respond quickly to a given event in an optimal and effective manner. The general overall management will include methods of stabilizing the situation, which may include specialists like emergency services. Allowing the business to continue to carry out critical functions of the business and put the situation on a pathway to recovery.
Business Continuity planners must be realistic about the processes being put in place. Where organisational capability I.e. finances and equipment. Are firstly suitable to be part of the contingency and secondly don’t cause implementation issues and adverse impact on positive outcomes.
The purpose of the plan will always be to aid with decision making at critical times. State a clear objective, organisational priorities and provide detail quickly where it may in other circumstances be hard to obtain.
Responding to non-routine events by members of the management team may have some challenges but if the plan is fit for purpose. In other words specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-framed. All with aligned strategies that can work in parallel with each other and one not adversely impacting the other.
We previously spoke about the stabilization of and event. This could include the preservation of life in the worst-case scenario to stopping unnecessary expenditure at the other end of the spectrum. If the resulting impact of a plan to make the event worse then Business Continuity Planning step where probably fragmented and didn’t involve critical stakeholders. Also if plans are to continue to be viable then they must have the ability to anticipate future increases in capability and resources to lessen the impact of disruption.
Step 5 – Implementing the Business Continuity Plan.
If all stakeholders have in some form been part of the ongoing process then the implementation should be relatively easy. Communicating the objectives, strategies and even some of the finer details. I.e. specific tasking of workgroups. This will work to lessen the impact of disruptive events on the business.
Respected leaders can provide training and mentorship to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of their role in such plans. It is said that within 30 days of participating in a training course. If no other support or mentoring is provided then there is a real possibility that up to 75% of the information will be lost. Over longer periods of time, the loss is far greater. So training and mentoring is vital to the implementation of a business continuity plan.
Step 6 – Monitoring and review.
Conducting testing via scenarios will help to further develop the plan. Brainstorming sessions where everyone is encouraged to participate can achieve great results. When an event does occur the opportunity for review is significant. It can also be helpful to use the plan for small events to allow employees/stakeholders to become familiar with the plan. I.e. If a firefighter uses the same command and control structure whilst fighting a rubbish bin fire as compared with a factory fire. When the factory fire does occur they will be better prepared to deal with it.
The above business continuity steps are just a brief overview of the steps to effective implementation of such a plan. The key outcome of these steps will be the involvement of all key stakeholders. It would be very difficult to identify the required outcomes without this stakeholder inclusion.