If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that every business, regardless of its size or industry, needs to be prepared for the unexpected. Their ability to survive the next big crisis, whether it takes the form of a cyberattack, a major economic upheaval or a natural disaster, depends on it. That’s where business continuity management comes in.
What is business continuity management, and why does it matter?
Business continuity management is the advance planning and preparation of an organization’s ability to maintain critical operations during undesirable incidents. Incidents come in many forms, such as cyberattacks, hardware failures, and physical disasters like floors and fires. Things like a key member of staff leaving the company unexpectedly or longer-term disruptions caused by economic upheaval can also cause lasting disruption and damage.
Business leaders need to prepare their organizations for such eventualities. Furthermore, they need to thoroughly test their plans and periodically review and update them to ensure they’re still relevant. Without proper planning, there’s a much higher chance of the business closing its doors for good in the wake of a major event. According to the US government, for example, that’s exactly what happens to a quarter of businesses after a disaster.
Business continuity management, or BCM, refers to a broad framework incorporating policies, strategies, plans, solutions, and assessments that work together to proactively mitigate risk. It’s a complex, multi-stage process that should take the form of an ongoing cycle of continuous testing and refinement. In other words, it’s not something you set and forget, but an integral part of your company culture.
How does business continuity management help your company?
Unexpected events occur regularly, and regardless of severity, they usually cause disruption to your everyday business operations and have a direct impact on your bottom line.
Proactive planning and management is vital for keeping that impact to a minimum. Even though no one can tell the future, having a thorough understanding of the current and potential risks facing your business will help you prepare for them. For example, while the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns introduced to stem its spread caused unavoidable damage to many businesses, some fared better than others. The impact was significantly lessened for those with comprehensive business continuity plans.
For many businesses, the biggest source of disruption was the practically overnight shift to remote work. Those that already had flexible work arrangements and used cloud-based computing assets were able to adapt quickly, while those that didn’t had to make risky, ad-hoc arrangements.
Of course, the pandemic isn’t the first disaster to affect the business world, and it won’t be the last. No business can hope to blag its way through any eventuality. With careful planning and management, however, they can keep their business trading during and after a disaster, limit financial and reputational risk, and ensure ongoing compliance with regulatory obligations. It’s about more than just peace of mind – it’s about keeping one step ahead of the various threats and challenges that face businesses today.
Here’s an overview of the main features and functions that BCM should incorporate:
Business risk and impact analysis
Before you can plan proactively, you first need a clear picture of the risks facing your business. Some risks, such as cyberattacks, are universal, while others, like floods, generally affect specific areas only.
Nevertheless, risk and impact analyses must be business-specific. This will help you prioritize more effectively, which is important given that you likely won’t have the resources necessary to plan for literally any possible incident.
A detailed plan
The next step in developing a BCM framework is building a detailed plan that ranks your recovery priorities in clearly relatable business terms like revenue, brand reputation, customer protection, and regulatory obligations. It’s important to build out this plan through close collaboration with all critical business departments in order to accommodate the unique needs of each process.
Effective communications are crucial for ensuring a smooth response in any emergency situation. Everyone on your team must be clear on their roles and responsibilities when faced with a particular disaster, and all employees need to know exactly who to contact if they’re the first to discover an incident. Drafting simple and consistent emergency messaging that can be easily updated depending on the situation is especially important when addressing customer and stakeholder concerns.
Uninterrupted access to vital resources
The scope of a BCM framework should go beyond business survival through an emergency to maintaining normal operations to the best possible standards – without resorting to risky workarounds. As such, it’s vital to set up uninterrupted access to mission-critical resources like apps and data. This is possible with the use of automated rollovers to cloud-hosted resources, which will allow your team to work from home even if the office becomes unusable.
Testing and refinement
No matter how thorough your business continuity plan, it’s all for nothing if it’s not tested and relevant to your current environment. That’s why it’s essential to conduct routine drills, ideally at least once every year or whenever you’ve made any significant changes to the structure of your organization. If your employees and processes don’t respond as well to the plan as you had hoped, it may be necessary to make some adjustments.
How can business continuity management software help?
While businesses usually have a lot more time to prepare for longer-term events like economic recessions and broader market disruptions, the same can’t be said for the sort of unexpected disasters that can strike at any time.
The best way to mitigate the effects of acute disruptions, like hardware failures, cyberattacks, floods, or fires, is to have a fully automated strategy that’s ready to go at the click of a button.
That’s where BCM software helps by providing a way to automate disaster recovery workflows, such as alerting employees and scheduling resources. Although software isn’t meant to be a substitute for proper planning, it does make the difference between whether your plan will work or fail.
Enhancing your business continuity management can undoubtedly bring numerous benefits to your company. Consider taking the time to assess your current approach and see how you can reevaluate it.
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