business continuity planning

When disaster strikes, it can cost money. The lost revenue and extra expenses incurred by business interruption reduces profits — and insurance cannot cover all costs. Through the implementation of continuity plans, the strongest businesses are able to maintain their operations amidst natural disasters, economic crises, or even so-called “black swan” events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to one survey from earlier this year, roughly 51 percent of companies around the world had no emergency plans in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. As the pandemic continues, however, more businesses are embarking on the business continuity planning process.

What is Business Continuity Planning?

Business Continuity Planning is a process of creating prevention and recovery systems against potential threats, from natural disasters to cyber-attacks. A critical, yet overlooked, component of the business continuity planning process is testing. It is important to identify and correct weaknesses in your plan to ensure a smooth implementation. Rather than relying on a spur-of-the-moment plan, businesses can implement a well-thought-out plan to protect assets and swiftly resume operations after a disruption.

What Should Business Continuity Planning Include?

Developing a business continuity plan involves analyzing business operations, identifying key business functions and processes, assessing resources, and evaluating risks. A successful business continuity plan prepares for a range of potential threats, from the global to the inter-organizational. Remember: the point of business continuity planning is to prepare for the worst. A response plan should exist for all reasonable scenarios. A successful business continuity plan also includes the following:

  1. An identification of all critical functions, ranked by priority and divided into assigned tasks
  2. An employee succession plan for all major positions
  3. Multiple tested strategies for crisis management
  4. A transparent and timely communication plan for all relevant stakeholders

So You Developed a Continuity Plan. Now What?

Once a business has a formal continuity plan in place, it is important that the plan is regularly tested and reviewed to ensure its effectiveness and identify any needed improvements.

Businesses can “test” their continuity plans by walking through critical workflows under different simulated crises. One of the most common tests for continuity plans is done in coordination with IT staff, in which employees attempt to maintain operations during a planned outage. A more timely test would be experimenting with remote working, such as selling from home.

At a minimum, business continuity plans should be reviewed in-depth on an annual basis, with more frequent testing of plans between reviews.