The Need for Business Continuity Planning to Make It Through a Pandemic
Published April 24, 2020
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” —Winston Churchill
Having helped organizations develop business resiliency and continuity strategies for many years, I can attest to the importance of creating a business continuity plan (BCP). A well-developed BCP can help ensure your company continues to operate near normal during times of crisis.
Overcoming Common Challenges
Business continuity planning doesn’t come without its challenges, and I believe the first step to creating a BCP is overcoming two critical “roadblocks.”
The first one is the classic “This (or that) won’t happen to me.” I’ve had variations of that sentence uttered to me thousands of times. The second impediment is “I can figure it out if it happens.”
Getting past those misconceptions can be difficult. Often, it takes a seminal event—like the one we are experiencing now during COVID-19—to change the mindset around the first roadblock about the need for continuity planning. The counter to the second argument is a simple one: “OK, but what if you aren’t around? Shouldn’t the plans be memorialized so that someone else can carry the baton if needed?”
Once you get past those issues, the real work begins.
Creating a Business Impact Analysis
In a disaster or recovery situation, not all are created equal. You need to identify critical functions, employees, and processes. You need to be able to concentrate your finite resources to ensure that they remain operating. This is done via a business impact analysis (BIA). The BIA will quickly and efficiently identify those functions, vendors, employees, and processes that are essential to ensure that vital elements of the business continue to operate with as little disruption as possible.
Constructing Your Business Continuity Plan
Once you’ve completed your BIA, the second phase of the process begins, which is to construct your business continuity plan(s). Note: Plans should be somewhat unique to each business process/function. This is not a “one size fits all” scenario.
Your plans should contain identification of the following:
- Hardware/software used in operating your business
- Critical periods within your business (e.g., month-end, quarter-end)
- Dependencies (Are you dependent on another company or process?)
- Special or unique equipment that is critical
- Vital records
- Employees (email, mobile phone numbers, computer capabilities, etc.)
- Essential vendors
The Importance of Communication
Finally: communication. Fear of the unknown can lead to critical missteps in executing your business continuity plans. Over-communicate to customers, employees, vendors, and other constituencies. Share with them your BCP plans; get their input.
You cannot communicate enough in a disaster. Even if the message is “we don’t know—yet,” your voice itself will be a powerful tool to assure those who are the most panicked that there is indeed a plan!
The COVID-19 pandemic has made business leaders more aware of the importance of business continuity planning. Business continuity planning is a critical aspect of risk management and can help ensure your company survives during times of crisis like we’re in right now.
VP of Risk Management
Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP)