2020 is turning out to be an extremely challenging year for businesses and economies around the globe due to the Covid-19 (aka coronavirus) pandemic. All sizes of businesses from the Fortune 500 companies to small and mid-sized businesses and entrepreneurs are being hit hard. No one is being spared.
This unprecedented and challenging phenomenon can help demonstrate the importance of a business’s capability and preparedness to weather a disaster. For the big, multi-national corporations, continuity and disaster recovery plans are part of their business planning process. But for small and mid-sized businesses, this type of planning is often overlooked. This leaves them ill-equipped and unprepared for such unforeseen events as the Covid-19 outbreak.
What is a business continuity plan?
A business continuity plan (often abbreviated as “BCP”) is a plan that outlines systems and processes to help a business recover from potential threats, such as natural or man-made disasters. It ensures that a business’s assets and employees will be protected and able to recover quickly in case of a disaster and continue providing services.
A business continuity plan protects every aspect of your business – physical business location and equipment, personnel, inventory, data, and intellectual capital. If your business faces an uncertain and challenging event, a business continuity plan can, at least, mitigate the loss and the damage brought by that event and provide a clear set of steps to recovery.
Whether the type of business you have is a corporation or a small business, every business should have a business continuity plan.
The word “disaster” instantly reminds you of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and tropical storms or man-made crises such as wars and any other large-scale armed conflict. These events can leave a massive trail of physical destruction and losses behind. However, this perspective is narrow and leaves many businesses vulnerable.
Disasters can be in the form of the following: loss of access to a physical establishment or building; loss of systems or data; loss of a key team member; and loss of a key supplier or vendor. In the case of Covid-19, most businesses encounter at least one of these losses. The Covid-19 outbreak has also threatened the lives and safety of the employees, especially those with key roles for and within the business. It has also had the unique effect of separating employees from the resources they need conduct business. It requires in this case the ability to work remotely and manage as much as possible at a distance (e.g. social distancing).
With business continuity planning, many businesses will still be able to conduct operations remotely, which keeps key systems (such as operations and accounting) remain accessible. Cloud infrastructure (or cloud computing) means storing and accessing data and programs over the Web, instead of your computer or laptop’s hard drive. It provides a valuable tool for businesses because it offers excellent data security. It is also a reliable and highly available platform for data storage and systems access. No matter where you work or no matter the circumstances, information, and programs will be at your fingertips, thanks to cloud infrastructure. But this is the factor that most businesses tend to overlook, considering this is one of the most crucial things any company can do to protect themselves for any eventuality.
Tips for developing and using a business continuity plan
Now that you are aware of how a business continuity planning is essential, you should take time to create and develop your business continuity plan. While the plan can be tweaked according to your business’s specifications, the following lists the basics that will help streamline the process. These tips will help you create the most effective and efficient business continuity plan.
Create a template – No matter how different businesses are, they all have the same basic and necessary information. A template will save you a great deal of time and effort in starting to create your own business continuity planning. Download these templates from FEMA or TechTarget and update them with your business information.
Make your planning easy to implement – If your business continuity planning is confusing and lacks organization, how can you execute it effectively and on time? To make your business continuity planning easy to implement, you should include clear step-by-step instructions, agendas, or checklists that outline what exactly needs to be done. Adding helpful visual aids such as flow charts, diagrams, and graphs will make your plan much easier to understand and execute.
Extend the estimated recovery time – Developing a business continuity planning involves lots of making assumptions, theories, and estimations. What would happen if your business meets disruptions? What will it need to be done? And how long will it take time to recover? One of the ways to make sure that your business will recuperate is to extend its recovery time. That way, the extra time will give your business some breathing room during its recovery phase.
Test it out – A business continuity planning won’t work if you create it, then sit there and “hope for the best.” You will never know how useful the planning will be if you don’t put it into practice. Test it out (and test it thoroughly) and plan several run-throughs to ensure that every of the most crucial business areas is covered, incorporated, and adequately prepared for.
Regularly update your information – Having created your business continuity plan doesn’t mean you do not have to update it. To avoid leaving your program in the dust, you should devote the necessary time to make sure that it’s comprehensive and accurate. Plan regular check-in schedules (at least every six months) to examine, review, and update all the necessary information in the document – including the business location, contact information, personnel, strategies, etc.
Share the information with your key personnel – Everyone who has crucial roles in the business continuity plan should be aware of it. Make sure that they have a clear understanding of the plan and the tasks they will perform in executing it. It is also a good idea to make the plan known to other personnel on a broader level updated so that they can pitch in offer help when necessary.
Train your personnel to support the plan – Provide training to your key staff with tasks that go beyond their day-to-day duties. Additional training will enable them to perform and complete other tasks when necessary. Make sure that you provide training to each of your employees so that they will know what they need to do when the plan is put into action.