Five tips for business continuity management
Global, round-the-clock business means that downtime to your organization can have severe financial and reputational consequences. Your business continuity plan needs to keep you operational whether your data center floods or your staff can’t reach your contact center.
According to a survey from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the top four disruptions that organizations suffered in the past year were extreme weather, loss of people due to illness, loss of IT and loss of telecommunications.
Below are five tips to keep you up and running regardless.
1. understand your business
The first step in any business continuity exercise is to understand your business, rather than focusing on the threats you face. You need to maintain operations, irrespective of the disruption to your business. The key to achieving this is to undertake a business impact analysis (BIA). The BIA will help you identify the key services you provide and how your business would be impacted by a disruption, such as the loss of telecommunications connectivity.
First, work out how long your business can survive unscathed in terms of financial or reputational damage: this will be your maximum tolerable period of disruption (MTPD). Then set targets for how quickly you need to get these services operational again if disrupted: this is your recovery time objective (RTO). Finally, use the BIA to identify the resources required to resume your key services.
2. build a strategy
Once you have identified your key services and the resources required to get them back into service, you need to build a clear strategy that outlines how you achieve it. Your business continuity management (BCM) strategy should cover people, premises, technology and information. You may need to plan for an area-wide emergency, so having a data center back-up location in the same city, for example, may not be sufficient.
3. be clear about management responsibility and roles
The success of your BCM strategy depends on the sponsorship of senior management. According to the CMI survey, 51% of organizations surveyed said that the CEO was the sponsor, with 19% reporting it was the chief operating officer’s (COO) responsibility. In addition to taking ultimate responsibility, senior management also needs to communicate the strategy clearly to the rest of the organization.
Aside from the responsibilities of senior management, members of staff, such as line managers who have involvement in the execution of the plan, must be clear about their duties and receive appropriate training where required.
4. include the supply chain in your plan
Your business continuity plan is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. In this age of just-in-time delivery and greater supply chain integration, it is essential to ensure that your plan also encompasses the supply chain. Find out whether your key suppliers have a business continuity plan in place and look toward multi‑sourcing materials or key products if you are not satisfied. You could even mandate companies to have a BCM plan in place in order
to become a registered supplier.
5. exercise and keep up-to-date
A BCM exercise allows you to identify any glitches in the plan before an actual disaster occurs. According to the CMI survey, just 13% report that their BCM arrangements had never been exercised. You should look to exercise your plan at least once a year using a combination of testing, discussion-based exercise, tabletop exercise and live exercises. This exercise will also help you keep your BCM current by identifying changes in personnel, key services or suppliers, for example.
Sources: The 2013 Business Continuity Management Survey (CMI), Business Continuity Management Toolkit (UK Government)