Nobody likes to think that a crisis or emergency might happen. But if and when it does, it could have a major effect on your business. While you can’t predict the future, you can prepare for the worst. It’s why having a business continuity management plan is key to the long-term success of any organization.
And to devise a strong plan to handle and stop a crisis, you must identify what’s important in such a situation, and how to recover as quickly and strongly as possible.
What is Business Continuity Management?
Before you try to determine if you have the right operational processes in place, you have to understand what “business continuity” truly means, and what “business continuity management” is.
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The International Organization for Standardization defines business continuity as the capability of an organization to continue delivering its products or providing its services at acceptable predefined levels following a disruptive incident.
The Business Continuity Institute describes it more colloquially: “It is about taking responsibility for your business and enabling it to stay on course whatever storms it is forced to weather. It is about ‘keeping calm and carrying on.’”
Okay, that may seem simple enough. Maintaining business continuity through a crisis, however, may not be so simple. And that’s where Business Continuity Management comes in.
Business Continuity Management
Business Continuity Management – also known as BCM – is a comprehensive management process that helps you identify potential threats to your business. And it outlines what impact such threats have on your business operations, should they occur.
“[BCM] provides a framework for organizational resilience with the capability for an effective response that safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities,” the Business Continuity Institute writes.
Adopting Business Continuity Management helps you create a strong framework for your organization. But it also compels you to identify your most important products or services and devise a plan that outlines how you can recover and move forward in the event of an emergency.
How to Design a Business Continuity Management Plan
Every organization moves through what’s known as the Business Continuity Management Lifecycle. And it mirrors the steps to creating a plan that protects your company. Below are the six stages of the BCM lifecycle (in bold), along with the steps to ensuring your business is prepared for an emergency:
- Program management – You can’t put a successful plan into place if your organization isn’t on board. And that, of course, starts at the top. Your first step is to get approval from upper management.
- Understanding your organization – Before putting any kind of plan in place, you must work with your business’ key stakeholders, including your key vendors. You must learn how a crisis would impact each part of your business.
- Determining your BCM strategy – Identify a BCM sponsor, who can create a team that’s job it is to design a framework and activities to respond to a crisis. The team should outline acceptable levels of risk and pinpoint your business’ regulatory and contractual obligations that you’d have to meet in such an event.
- Developing and implementing a BCM response – After you understand what critical functions must be maintained, you must conduct a risk assessment of those critical functions. What are your weaknesses, and how can they be fortified?
- Exercising the response – Create an exercise program that covers different scenarios in line with your plan and strategy. Then review the plans and identify any weakness or limitations they may have.
- Maintaining, reviewing, and creating a culture – Your BCM program must be maintained on a consistent basis to ensure its effectiveness over time. Conduct internal audits, self-assessments and periodic management reviews. That being said, the true key to your success is whether BCM becomes a staple of your company’s culture. Business continuity is a product of top-down awareness, after all.
How to Improve Your Business Continuity Management Plan
If you already have a BCM plan in place, it’s important to ensure it’s working as it was intended. It’s why the final stages of the BCM lifecycle are so essential.
Here are several checks to help you make sure you’re equipped to manage a crisis:
- Your plan is truly comprehensive – One of the common mistakes companies make is designing a narrow-minded plan. Your BCM strategy can’t cover only specific situations or products. And they can’t protect only your IT and finance departments. Emergencies impact your entire business, and your BVM plan must reflect that.
- Your plan is process driven – Your plan must be driven by a strong process – a process suitable for a wide variety of scenarios. Some plans prepare you for the most common emergency. But what happens if something less likely presents itself? A truly formidable plan outlines processes for any and all situations.
- Your plan is clear and simple – You can practice anything under ideal circumstances, but a true emergency will always be more trying. And for that reason, your plan needs to be as clear and simple as possible. If your processes are too complicated, they’ll be difficult for to follow under the pressure of a real-life crisis.
- Your plan is up-to-date – You can’t create a plan and forget about it until an issue arises. If it’s outdated, your team may not be able to manage the process and maintain your operations. What if a key contact no longer works for you? What if you no longer use a specific system outlined in your process?
- You communicate your plan to your team regularly – All of your stakeholders should review their responsibilities on a quarterly basis (at least). And you must train new employees on your process during onboarding. For a BCM plan to succeed, you need everyone to be on the same page.
Taking Advantage of Cloud Computing
One of the most important and emerging tools within business continuity and disaster recovery is The Cloud. In fact, business continuity mechanism are commonly built right into cloud systems these days.
The CIO detailed why The Cloud has become a key resource during crises:
“Because cloud computing relies heavily on hardware-independent virtualization technology, it enables enterprises to quickly back up data, applications, and even operating systems to a remote data center (or cloud). Faster uploads and downloads of important computing elements naturally translate into faster recovery times for the business.”
Recovering from a disaster – or any emergency, really – often depends on the strength of your IT architecture. And the most formidable design can help you automate many processes within your BCM plan.
It’s also important that you can quickly switch your computing resources to a stable backup so your business can remain operational. With cloud infrastructure and a suitable partner, the steps built into your business continuity plan can be simplified, condensed and even managed for you.
Considering how critical a business continuity management plan is to the success of your organization, you simply can’t afford to be unprepared for the unexpected.
If you don’t have a plan in place today, follow the steps outlined above to create one as soon as possible. And if you do have a plan, review it consistently to ensure it will protect your business in the event of a disaster.