Four Steps to an Effective Business Continuity Plan

Four Steps to an Effective Business Continuity Plan

Planning for business continuity is no longer an option. Even as cyber security risks change and increase by the day, and hurricanes and tornadoes continue proving their threat to business continuity, the greatest risk is generally employee error. Your enterprise needs a plan that allows the business to go on nearly as usual during a catastrophic event.

You may immediately think of business continuity as it relates to systems and applications that support your business, but there are additional areas to address. How would your employees carry on business operations if your office was flooded or destroyed by fire? If inventory was ruined, would it immediately shut down your ability to service customers?

Once you begin identifying all the segments of your enterprise that need to be included in a business continuity plan, you’ll find that its scope needs to be comprehensive. Here are four steps to simplify a complex process and make it more manageable:

Conduct a Business Impact Analysis. This initial step takes you systematically through the concerns that need to be included in your plan. Many enterprises find it helpful to begin with a questionnaire that goes out to line-of-business managers to help identify vulnerabilities in the event of a disaster. It also estimates the financial and physical impact of an event, related to cash flow, equipment, and data.

During this stage, it’s helpful to establish a time frame in which a loss of recovery creates unacceptable consequences. This identified time is known as the recovery time objective. It helps set a target for your business recovery plan objectives. It also helps create prioritization for addressing the areas with the most financial risk associated with delays in recovery.

Create a Recovery Strategy. This stage includes plans for areas of the business, including employees, physical workspaces, technology, records, utilities, inventory, production facilities, and third parties that have a direct impact on business functions. It determines specific objectives for putting business continuity measures in place with formal approval from company stakeholders. It’s also customary at this stage to conduct a gap analysis, identifying any areas that require additional investment and other resources to execute business continuity measures.

Develop a Framework. Once a business continuity plan has been approved, recovery teams are organized with specific instructions for handling different types of disasters. These teams are responsible for writing the responses for each scenario, using manual workarounds to keep processes operational.

Test and Refine. The final stage of an effective strategy is simply to test the plan — at even the most detailed level — to see how the business would continue in the event of different types of disasters. Plans can then be adjusted as additional gaps emerge through the testing process. 

Business continuity is a critical investment of time and resources. While many enterprises initially resist that investment, the first step of determining the potential financial impact generally cures any reluctance to begin the process.

Fortunately, there are tools and strategies available to streamline the process. Contact us at Clarksys for more information about initiating your business continuity process.