The far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the value of a business continuity plan (BCP). Sudden changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic included lockdowns, economic volatility, supply chain issues, and shifts in the work environment, forcing businesses to adapt to an unforeseen and potentially disastrous event. Extreme weather events, long-term power outages, and data breaches can also pose a threat to the viability of your business. Having a business continuity plan in place can help your business recover from an unexpected interruption of your normal operations. Such a plan – documented steps to follow – should instances such as these occur could be a key to the long-term survival of your business.
What is a business continuity plan?
A BCP involves identifying potential disastrous events that might affect your company and assembling a list of procedures that detail how to respond to and recover from these specific threats. Though business continuity plans appear complex and time-consuming, even a basic set of policies and procedures can be useful. Both large and small companies can be impacted by business interruptions, but smaller companies might not have acquired the necessary financial resources to quickly recover after a period of downtime.
Why is it important to have a business continuity plan?
The COVID-19 pandemic may be a once-per-century event, but when it happened, those who adapted quickly were able to navigate challenges. This ability to respond to and recover from a disastrous event is essential. BCP events include natural and man-made interruptions that fall into three categories:
- Natural disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, ice storms, blizzards, and epidemics.
- Technology accidents, including power outages, downed phone lines, natural gas explosions, and traffic accidents.
- Malicious activities, including threats of terrorism or violence, in or around your business.
Having a solution in place to deal with these types of issues can get you quickly back on track and recover from any loss.
A BCP checklist
Setting up a BCP checklist allows you to break out each step in the process and ensure each business location or division is adequately prepared. Potential risks should be identified to ensure they are addressed in the final plan.
Conduct a business risk assessment
Every BCP should begin with a risk assessment to prioritize your resources and set the scale of your response to a BCP event. No region or business is immune to a natural or man-made disaster. For instance, companies located away from earthquake zones or common hurricane paths might still have to deal with the electricity being down. To narrow down your greatest risks, you can start by reviewing past insurance claims and tracking any events that cause even a minor disruption to operations. Examine your list of vendors and your supply chain to determine if external factors could lead to a serious business interruption. Ultimately, a risk assessment should identify the threats that exist to your business and the likelihood for those threats to occur.
Once you gain an understanding of your overall risk, it's time to set goals for your BCP. In the wake of disaster, do you want to strive for business as usual or employ a scaled-down approach until the immediate threat passes? How quickly should data breaches be addressed? Should a backup location be selected to relocate critical processes if your main operations are shut down due to weather disasters? Answering these types of questions can help you gain clarity on the objectives of your BCP.
Assemble a team
Organize a response team comprised of individuals from across the company who can work toward business continuity. This team should measure potential risks and decide how they can be handled most effectively. Representatives with an understanding of all parts of the business should be chosen—IT, finance, operations, and HR.
How to Create A Business Continuity Plan
Draft plan procedures
After identifying risks and setting goals, develop procedures to address potential business disruption. Collect input based on past experience and industry experts. Give thought to critical processes within the company including:
- Data backup and accessibility
- Cash flow effects
- Employee responsibilities
- Internal and External communication during a crisis
Test your plan
Regular testing of your BCP action plans for each BCP scenario can help assist business leaders and employees to know what to do if a BCP event happens. A run through of your BCP can identify holes in your plan that should be immediately addressed.
Employee Action Plan
Employees should be informed of their roles and given the opportunity to practice business continuity procedures. It is wise to document the intended methods of communication with workers in the event of an emergency — via text message, phone, or email. Written instructions included in a small business continuity plan should categorize additional job responsibilities. If advance warning is issued, an emergency preparedness checklist can be distributed and followed to safeguard your office as much as possible. The policies and procedures can help guide employees until conditions return to a business-as-usual environment. .
All employees who will have responsibilities under the business continuity plan should be educated and trained on the procedures. They should understand how they fit into the overall BCP and be aware of any changes to the chain of command during a specific event.
Reevaluate, test, and revise
A BCP should be reevaluated and revised as needed. Leverage experience and insight to improve a future response to similar threats. As new technologies evolve, they might help improve efficiencies during the recovery period from a BCP event. Periodic tests of the procedures can help confirm all systems are in order before a disaster strikes. A BCP, even if never used, can offer peace of mind, and encourages the business to assess the impact of potential crisis situations.
How a PEO can help you with business continuity planning
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how essential a continuity plan is in overall business strategy. Starting a BCP from scratch may seem like an overwhelming task, but solutions provided by a PEO can help set you on the right path. Cloud-based applications, in particular, provide data backup and access to important HR information from any location to help you keep the business going.