Business continuity planning helps you to manage risks and ensure continuity as much as possible if your business is disrupted.
- “It will never happen!” Is a phrase most people use when asked about what they would do if a major incident or emergency happens close to them. In early 2019, when discussing a business continuity plan with the owner of an elderly person’s home, this was the answer given when asked about their plan for an outbreak such as an epidemic or pandemic.
- Who would have thought a single ship getting stuck in the Suez canal in 2021 would cause major disruptions in the UK, and triple shipping container costs around the world?
Having a structured, developed and rehearsed Business Continuity Plan will help your business return to normal as quickly as possible when faced with significant disruption such as the two mentioned above. It helps you anticipate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from anything that severely interrupts you from working.
Incidents do and have developed without warning, disrupting business for a critical length of time. Preparing to cope reassures your customers and suppliers that you take the resilience and security of your business seriously: it is good for you, your staff, and is key to your reputation.
In most cases, a business continuity plan need be only a couple of pages long. The important thing is to look at what it is you do; what you use and whom you need that you cannot operate without, then what could interrupt those. Then putting good workarounds in place. A plan costs little to produce and not long to prepare.
For example, many small businesses operate from industrial parks or estates, which concentrate various services in a convenient, accessible area. Some use dangerous chemicals or processes. If there is a fire or incident, the emergency services may evacuate or seal off the area for a time for everyone’s safety. If that happened to you, what is the impact from not being able to access your workplace or equipment for hours or days? Understanding potential problems such as this and deciding on the best way to work around them could make a difference.
Because of the pandemic, many companies now work remotely, and have developed strategies to manage this new way of working. But. What if a cyber-attack or power cut affected a large part of your workforce, what is your plan for this?
If you are a small or medium enterprise or a voluntary organisation, we can provide free advice on business continuity and planning. Please read the FAQ below and check out the links to the BCI and other useful sites. If you want more help or assistance, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice and details.
Frequently asked questions
A well-developed, structured and rehearsed business continuity plan will help your business recover from significant disruption as quickly as possible.
It will ensure that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities in an emergency and follow recognised, practiced and agreed procedures. This will ensure that the functions, services and systems critical to your business are up and running again as soon as possible.
Typically, disruption to businesses happen through:
- severe weather;
- loss of utilities;
- loss of premises or restricted access;
- loss of key personnel;
- theft or vandalism; and
- adverse, or vexatious publicity.
The lack of an effective plan could result in:
- loss of business;
- damage to reputation or brand;
- loss of customers and staff;
- loss or damage to property and premises; and
- impact on insurance.
Your plan may need to take into account contingency arrangements such as:
- temporary relocation of your business functions and operations;
- staff taking on different roles;
- home working;
- sourcing a new supplier or contractor; and
- back-up key data.
Consider what you do.
- Identify all the activities you do, and prioritise them.
- Identify what you need to carry them out; staff, equipment, premises, suppliers, IT, etc.
- Look at what the impact would be over time from loss of any one or more of them.
- Identify clear risks you could anticipate or know about, Can you reduce the likelihood or mitigate the effects of these?
Analyse the risks and develop a strategy.
There are typically three approaches:
- Accept the risks and change nothing.
- Attempt to reduce risks by making mutual arrangements with suppliers, contractors to help during and/or after an incident.
- Reduce all the risks and deal with threats yourself.
Develop and write a plan.
- Discuss your plan with staff involved in critical functions.
- Give roles and responsibilities to staff.
- Ensure all staff are aware of continuity procedures and know what to do in an emergency.
- Think BCP when making business decisions.
Exercise and maintain your plan.
Depending on how many staff you have or if you are a lone owner / operator, depends on how you test your plan, here are some suggestions:
- Stand outside your premises, and ask yourself “What if I couldn’t get in today?” Don’t worry about the ‘why’ for the minute.
- List all the things that action affects. Then work out how you would get around the problem.
- Repeat it with loss of staff, and any other area where you feel the loss will affect you.
- Adjust your plan accordingly.
- Anticipate such things as severe weather, and if necessary run through your plan to prepare.
- Don’t just look to domestic issues, a lot of your supplies will come in from abroad, remember the ship stuck in the Suez canal? Or the Icelandic volcano?
Disaster recovery plans are usually associated with information technology recovery, such as back-up systems, electronic data storage recovery and hot sites for servers.
A business continuity plan covers all aspects of your business, highlighting what is critical to keep you running. A good business continuity plan should cover staff, resources and contractual issues.
Your County or City Council offers free business continuity advice to small and medium businesses and voluntary organisations.