As a result of Covid 19, many businesses are susceptible to a variety of existing and emerging risks. Most companies around the globe have experience some sort of economic toll. Whether the impact affected business travel, disrupted supply chains, or involved installing new procedures around social distancing, the situation is forcing organizations of every size to dust off their emergency response and business continuity processes…if they even have one.
Managing these risks moving forward with a sound Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is the key to the continued survival of these organizations. A Traveler’s study found that 48% of small businesses are operating without any type of BCP, while 25% of businesses impacted by Covid-19 will likely not reopen. A predefined BCP combined with the right internal policies maximizes the chance of a successful recovery by eliminating hasty decision-making under stressful conditions. The faster your operations can return to normal, the more likely you will recover from the event successfully. A BCP should outline the procedures, policies, and instructions an organization must follow in the face of disruptions. The procedures should consider the timing before, during, and after an emergency and should directly speak to how you can quickly resume “Business as Usual.”
Assemble Your Preparedness Team
A BCP is only as effective as the people who put it into action. Thus, it is important to be critical about who will be directly involved. Getting these people on board in the initial stages can help with creating a stronger, clearer plan and a consistent message. Your preparedness team will appoint members to devise a response strategy, assign employee(s) who will enact the plan, push out responsibilities to resources across the company, and coordinate pandemic readiness activities. As members of your preparedness team may be working remote because of this pandemic, it is necessary to identify backup personnel who will be responsible for operating, maintaining, and managing the business and its vital functions. Keep this in mind for other potential threats as the team is built.
Identify potential threats your business could face. Each threat should be prioritized and assigned a risk level called the threat assessment. Post Covid-19, the health and well-being of your employees/customers should be your top concern. Address their immediate needs first – you’ll want to verify that you have the tools, technology, capacity, and security measures in place to support a large remote workforce.
What is the Impact to the Business?
A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) should be conducted to determine how each of these threats could affect the business. A BIA predicts the consequences of such disruptions, and gathers information needed to develop recovery strategies. As we move toward post Covid-19, many companies are facing detrimental operational and financial impacts. Each of these threats will need to be analyzed to the potential level of impact that has occurred to the business.
The BCP will be the result of the threat assessment and BIA. It will contain the actions you will take to recover, not only from this pandemic, but for other possible risk/threats. Take each business disruption discovered and outline the steps that must be taken to protect individuals (staff, customers, and third parties) during the potential threat. Identify actions that should be taken to contain the disruption in order to prevent further loss and disturbance. Next, you’ll want to assess your business processes, determine which areas are vulnerable, map dependencies, and estimate the potential losses from delays. This will help with prioritizing those parts of the BCP that pertain to the business’s most high-value assets, functions, and relationships.
The Importance of Testing
The only way to be sure that your plan works is by testing (or ‘validating’) it. A recommendation of at least twice a year or whenever there are substantial changes to your organization is advised for retesting your plan. There are three types of tests that you can conduct: The first is table-top exercises. This is essentially a read-through of the plan. Senior employees and those with BCP responsibilities should go through the plan together, looking for gaps and ensuring that all business units are represented. Second, you might choose to conduct a structured walkthrough. This is like a rehearsal, with each team member role-playing their responsibilities according to specified disruptions. The purpose is to familiarize employees with their responsibilities and to make sure the plan works as intended. Finally, you might conduct a disaster simulation test, which is essentially a dress rehearsal. Create a test environment that simulates an actual disaster across the entire organization and then put the plan into action. Once the plan is finalized, it should be published and made accessible to all members of staff. Ensure there is a proper training and a measuring tool in place to educate all employees of the final plan.
A business continuity plan should have at its foundation a solid mass communication strategy. During post pandemic times, constant employee/customer communication is vital. Being able to relay information and instruction to employees is critical in keeping everyone safe and guiding them to the appropriate behavior. Ensure your plan includes communication for internal (employees, staff) and external (customers, vendors, media, stakeholders) sources. The key here is to be proactive and transparent. Employees should have all required information at their fingertips without having to reach out for it.
The owners of the BCP will be responsible for ensuring that the procedures are reviewed and tested regularly. An in-depth full review of the plan should occur at least annually to be better prepare for the arrival of any new situation.
How can we help?
As we begin to recover from this pandemic, the foregoing will help get your disaster response planning off to a solid start. CI’s services can assist with the creation of such business continuity support.
At CI, we believe preemptive planning can go a long way. BCPs not only help protect core assets in the event of an outbreak, they also preserve peace of mind for business owners and employees. Although no BCP can guarantee full resumption of business operations, creating a sound framework for responding to crises will help your team handle disruptions. CI’s new, streamlined processes will help with tracking of risks/threats related to circumstances like the COVID-19 outbreak. CI will assist with the creation of a powerful platform, offering one central system where you can develop and store your response plan, keep key personnel up-to-date, and equip your employees with the essential information. Interested in a simpler way to manage your business continuity planning? We can help make difficult days a little easier. Reach out to us through our ‘Contact Us’ page found here.