A business continuity plan will not guarantee you will never experience a disruption to your business (ie. network outage, flood, fire or natural disaster), but having a plan in place will reduce your downtime and therefore minimize your financial losses, reputational damage, and loss of clients.
When your car needs service, you go to a mechanic. When you don’t feel well, you go to a doctor. When you need legal advice, you go to a lawyer. When your business needs a continuity plan, you should go to a certified “Business Continuity Planner”. Without a certified planner helping to establish your plan, your business runs the risk of not recovering successfully.
For any plan to succeed you need the buy-in and support of senior management. Management support will reinforce the importance of your business continuity program. This will help ensure that all employees and critical vendors understand the relevance, the priority levels and that they fully cooperate. This will make all the difference in the success of your planning and recovery efforts.
The appropriate funding needs to be in established and in place to ensure the overall success of your program. Considerations include the expense of hiring a certified planner or consultant; ensuring your critical systems and data are appropriately backed up and stored off site; regular testing of critical functions; and any potential tools that may be required to facilitate your recovery efforts. Consider total cost, and budget monthly.
Ensuring that a governing body of senior executives is empowered to oversee the progress of your program. Members should be stakeholders from various departments (ie. Audit, IT, Risk, Finance, Operations). Establish regular monthly meetings to review progress. Ensure that the Steering Committee enforces appropriate employee participation and cooperation.
A full business continuity program will ensure that all aspects of planning are considered and incorporated into your organizations planning efforts. A full program that is exercised and updated regularly will exponentially increases your recovery odds. Piece meal planning will not thoroughly protect your business. It may cover certain areas, but ultimately cutting corners will cut your odds at a successful recovery.
Assigning an internal employee that is inexperienced in business continuity to manage the development of your program, while maintaining their current responsibilities is risky business. As a stretch role, that person has regular daily responsibilities that will be their primary focus. That means your business continuity program will not get the attention and prioritization it requires. An inexperienced planner will potentially not include all the required elements of a business continuity program leaving your organization open to risk. Yes, you may save some money, but should your company experience a true crisis you may find the cost to recover potentially debilitating.
A full business continuity program includes multiple phases, and areas of focus. A certified consultant will take you through the core planning process and professional practices. In an effort to cut costs you may be inclined to skip some steps. This will only diminish the thoroughness of your business continuity plan and may render your plan less effective when you need to implement it.
Business continuity does not belong under the jurisdiction of one department, or one manager, or one planner. One person can not be the authority of the entire program as it will limit the reach and overall success of the program. Information Technology, or Audit can not own your recovery plan because they can not be self governing. However, they are both vital organs in your plan. Your business continuity plan is literally a main artery in your organization that must reach and touch every part of your business in order for it to be effective and flow properly. Thus the need for a Steering Committee.
Once you’ve completed your business continuity program that doesn’t mean you are done and now you can relax. Your internal and external processes continue to advance; regulations and requirements evolve; employees come and go; technology constantly changes; and data transforms by the second. You can’t assume that once you’ve completed a plan that it will remain effective if you haven’t maintained it. Regular checks are required. A minimum of monthly updates along with quarterly testing is mandatory to ensure the plan remains current and effective.
Don’t rely on the fact that you’ve never had a problem before or that lightning never strikes the same place twice. Life happens, and usually when you least expect it. Start planning now. If time and budget are concerns, focus on completing one business continuity activity a month to get your business continuity program on the road to completion. This way if something happens before you have a full plan in place, at least you should have a few key elements in place to reduce your impact or losses.
The only thing worse than not having a full business continuity plan in place, is explaining why you didn’t. Instituting a full business continuity program is essential to the successful recovery of your business in the event of a disruption. Your company’s ultimate success begins with a plan. Plan to maintain management’s full support and ensure everyone in your organizations is participating. Maintain and test your plan regularly. Plan sooner than later.
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