Would your employees know what to do in the event your business was disrupted for several hours or even days? Weather events and other natural disasters pose real threats, and the increased adoption of online business portals, websites and cloud-based data storage bring on an entirely new set of cyber risks that can bring business to a halt. Other forms of business disruption can occur as a result of a supply chain failure or when a key employee suddenly leaves.
A business continuity plan is critical for any organization, no matter how big or small. It outlines processes that can help navigate through the confusion to recover quickly when your business experiences disruption. It can protect against costly downtime, protect your market share and also protect your brand and reputation. Here’s a basic overview of business continuity and some important steps and best practices to protect your organization.
What is Business Continuity?
Put simply, business continuity is a plan that can help your organization function properly when the unexpected happens. Unlike a disaster recovery plan, which focuses mainly on recovering an IT infrastructure, business continuity encompasses an entire organization. Like any good plan, it identifies potential threats to your organization and how those threats could impact your day-to-day operations.
The best plans, however, don’t just identify risks and outline processes for when disruption occurs; they provide step-by-step procedures and actions that should be taken to mitigate those threats in the first place.
Implementing robust risk management practices is a crucial part of a business continuity plan. Identifying and addressing potential disruptors before problems occur can allow business to continue without a hitch so that customers can receive the goods and services they depend on from you.
Business Continuity Best Practices
While a comprehensive business continuity plan involves many variables that are too numerous to mention in this article, there are some givens for almost all organizations.
1. Identify the Who, What, When, Where and How
If an incident occurs, everybody on your team needs to know their individual responsibilities for getting operations back up and running. This requires assigning very specific tasks and training individuals on how to implement the recovery plan. Ideally, individuals are identified by name so there are no assumptions or confusion. Who will notify employees? What is the procedure? Where do people go for information (e.g., online portal, website, physical location, etc.). How will they be notified (e.g., email, phone, etc.), and what happens if communication systems are down? Communication is vital both before and after a potential incident, and these criteria need to be pinpointed as part of an effective business continuity plan.
2. Conduct a Risk Assessment
In an ideal world, organizations would never have to rely on their business continuity plans. Your company can get a little closer to that scenario by taking measures to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place. In order to do that, however, you’ll need to thoroughly analyze existing business practices, safety protocols, cyber risks, training and more. Enlist the help of a qualified risk advisor to bring an outside perspective. He or she is familiar with risks — both commonplace and those unique to your business — and can bring insights from other industries and peers to reveal areas you may have overlooked or never even considered.
3. Conduct an Inventory
In the event of a loss and any subsequent claims, you’ll need to provide accurate records of those losses. Conduct a thorough inventory of all physical and virtual assets, including machinery, equipment, furniture, computer systems, cloud-based programs, backup systems and other vital assets required to conduct business.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
Preventative measures have been taken. Everyone knows their roles. The inventory is complete. The detailed tasks are assigned and training has occurred. Now it’s important to conduct practice drills to ensure the plan that is on paper can be translated to real life. It’s easy for people to forget their roles and the steps that need to be taken, so schedule periodic reviews of the plan to identify any needed updates and to serve as reminders to those with responsibilities.
5. Get the Right Insurance Coverage
There’s no way to prevent every potential threat from becoming a reality, especially when Mother Nature is involved. Even the most thorough business continuity plan can sometimes leave a company scrambling to recover. Make sure you work with a risk advisor who specializes in business insurance and can explore options from various providers to best fit your needs. A trusted advisor is someone who will be there to guide you through the recovery process and continually seek opportunities for mitigating future risks.
Properly protecting the business you’ve worked so hard to build isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition, and a business continuity plan is just one part of mitigating the risks. Work with a risk advisor that has helped similar businesses develop and implement their business continuity plan and takes a thorough and holistic approach to reducing risk and ensuring proper coverage. Reach out to McClone today to learn more about these types of services and put your mind at ease.
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