In our 24/7 business environment, customers expect (and often demand) 100% uptime. That means no interruption in production, delivery, or service, come hell or high water. Do you have a business continuity plan in place to prevent core production downtime in the event of a crisis? Have you found a trustworthy partner to help you execute that plan? If you answered “no” to either or both questions, read on.
First, what is a Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan is an essential component of your disaster recovery plan, which is a specific, step-by-step guide for actions to take during an unexpected interruption in business caused by any unforeseen or extenuating circumstances.
Some people struggle with the difference between disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans. To put it simply, disaster recovery plans tend to focus on systems and operations, while business continuity plans focus on production and processes.
The business continuity portion of your disaster recovery plan outlines how you will stay up and running during the emergency period. This includes identifying which vendor partners you will use to make sure marketing and mail operations don’t experience downtime.
Regulated industries such as finance, healthcare, and government have legal obligations to ensure important communications are mailed on time, so having a business continuity plan is critical. Even organizations operating in unregulated industries would be well-served to develop a business continuity plan to prevent costly downtime and maintain customer satisfaction.
Expecting the unexpected is a tall task. If you don’t already have a business continuity plan, now is as good a time as any to create one!
There are six basic steps to creating a business continuity plan:
- Identify the scope of the plan.
- Identify key business areas.
- Identify critical functions.
- Identify dependencies between various business areas and functions.
- Determine acceptable downtime for each critical function.
- Create a plan to maintain operations.
As you execute step number six – creating your business continuity plan – and start to implement it within your organization, keep in mind the four following guidelines of a reliable business continuity plan.
4 Guidelines for Creating a Reliable Business Continuity Plan:
It’s All About the Details
Every – and we do mean every – step needs to be well-documented, each with a specific owner attached to it who will take responsibility for that step in a crisis. The order of your steps depends on the type of disaster as well as your organization’s services and programs.
To truly capture all the details, you need to imagine that the ultimate disaster has just come upon your company. What do you do first? Whose job is it to do it? Complete this exercise for each task required to get your business back up and running. The responsibilities generally start at the top of your organization and trickle downward.
Make it Available
Your plan needs to be made available in multiple locations. It’s a good idea to have both digital and hard copies of your documentation as you may not have access to your server during the time of need.
Each employee should be made aware of, and have access to, the business continuity plan regardless of whether or not they are a designated responsibility owner. This will help to eliminate any sort of internal panic and allow things to run smoothly in the critical moments.
Flexibility is Key
Your plan’s success depends on your ability to mold it to fit the current issue at hand. Though you can (and should) assign backup owners for each step, the truth is that you never know who will be on hand during a crisis.
A well-crafted plan is flexible and has the ability to be implemented without the person or team that created it. This means that each step should include some basic instructions for how to carry-out the required action, so that anyone could theoretically execute the necessary actions.
Test & Update Your Plan
Once you’ve completed the documentation for your plan, it needs to be periodically tested and updated. If you are not working with a business continuity partner, updating documentation should be assigned to a specific group or team of employees. If your organization has a high turnover rate, you may consider increasing the frequency of updating your process.