As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated in the United States at the beginning of March, so too did Google searches for “business continuity planning.” Google Trends found that searches for the term skyrocketed between March 8 and 14 – around the same time the U.S. declared a national emergency in response to the pandemic.
The pandemic forced back-office processes into the spotlight, but these aren’t the only events for which a business should prepare. Business continuity plans (BCPs) can help businesses prepare for many disruptive events, including natural disasters, cybersecurity breaches, terrorist attacks, fraud, and even embezzlement.
[ Also read: What does a business continuity plan include? 5 key elements. ]
Now that business continuity is at the forefront of business leaders’ minds, it’s time for organizations to refresh their BCPs to ensure they’re still relevant and actionable.
Here are four ways to go about updating your plan now.
1. Think about your people
Employees should come first in any type of business disruption. Without its employees, a business simply cannot go on. This means considering their health and well-being, along with how they’ll continue to work for your organization during times of disruption.
They’ll need tools and resources to maintain productivity and they’ll also likely need stronger leadership and more flexibility to accommodate changes in workflow. In practice, this is an opportunity to listen to employees and understand their needs through the disruption. Suggestion boxes or surveys are useful to collect responses, but anonymity is key to garnering candid feedback.
Remember, your employees should always be treated with respect and empathy.
2. Establish an A-team
It’s imperative for an organization’s executive team to be involved in company decision-making about business continuity, and to be seen as such in front of the entire company. This will quell any fear and uncertainty that may arise when a BCP is put into action.
Outside of the executive team, a BCP needs a team of people to aid in both its creation and execution. Such stakeholders should be on board during the plan preparation stages to ensure that it’s well-balanced and has no blind spots. This also ensures that the plan’s creators are fully on-board and can address any concerns or dissenting opinions employees may have.
In any disruption, be prepared to over-communicate with employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Make sure communication is frequent and consistent and leaves nothing open to interpretation. Always consider different perspectives when creating the communications plan and tap trusted minds, both internal and external, to provide constructive feedback.
Evaluate all the channels you’ll use for communication and make sure all stakeholders have the same level of access to them. For example, you wouldn’t want to roll out a message to employees on the East Coast at 8:00 a.m. but wait until 8:00 a.m. PT to deliver the same message to those on the West Coast – you’d end up with fraught, and possibly misinformed, employees.
A final tip: Rely on government agencies for verifiable facts when necessary.
4. Spot vulnerabilities
Your next step is to evaluate your business functions: Determine where there are vulnerabilities, map dependencies, and estimate what losses look like if functions halt for a period of time. Start by identifying critical products and services your company delivers and the customers or clients who receive them. This will help you understand which parts of the BCP pertain to your business’s most high-value assets, functions, and relationships so you can protect those high-value losses.
The coronavirus has proved to be a lesson to all organizations to prepare for disruption. BCPs aren’t just for pandemics; they’re for outages in service, natural disasters, and more. The more closely you follow the steps listed above, the better prepared your business will be for disruption.
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