A comprehensive business continuity plan is one of the most crucial safety nets for businesses of every size. In 2020, it became abundantly clear that we must expect the unexpected. Proactively preparing for a crisis now is the best way to protect your business systems, operations, and data from a worst-case scenario. 

A business continuity plan defines the processes and procedures the company will follow after a disaster and includes everything from business processes and assets to human resources and business partners. 

This five-step plan for creating, testing, and maintaining a business continuity plan will help your organization get the business back up, running, and making money quickly after a system failure, cyberattack, weather event, or natural disaster.

1. Get Support and Buy-In from Senior Management

Your business continuity plan won’t succeed without support from the top. Executives and senior management are the source of the funding required to kick-start and support the business continuity initiative.

Getting buy-in early is crucial because these are the individuals who will define the business value and set continuity and recovery priorities. Without their input, your continuity plan is dead in the water. Senior-level buy-in and support will also help facilitate cross-departmental collaboration on the plan, which might be difficult to achieve on your own.

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2. Identify a Basic Emergency Plan

If you’re starting from scratch, quickly put together a high-level continuity strategy and recovery plan. You may not be able to fully execute the plan, but you will at least have a basic idea of what steps you need to take in an emergency. 

You will be able to springboard off of this plan when you are ready to flesh out your fully executable and tested business continuity strategy because some of the foundation will already be in place. 

3. Create a Business Continuity Team

The business continuity team is the go-to group in a time of crisis. These are the individuals responsible for implementing policies, directing the continuity effort, and educating the rest of the company on emergency protocols.

Your business continuity team should include representation from every level of the organization, from the C-suite to administrative assistants. For maximum efficiency, assign business continuity responsibilities to appropriate roles:

  • Sponsor: A member of senior management who is responsible and accountable for the overall business continuity program
  • Business continuity manager: This person has direct responsibility for the business continuity program’s implementation
  • Assistant continuity manager: This person acts as a backup to the business continuity manager, so there is always a fully trained and knowledgeable decision maker available
  • Administrative assistant: This team member provides administrative support to the business continuity team
  • Business unit representatives: This person helps shape the business recovery strategy for their business unit
  • IT representative: This person helps maintain technology functions and recovery efforts

4. Perform a Business Impact Analysis

A business impact analysis helps leadership and the business continuity team compile business requirements and data so they can develop an appropriate business continuity and recovery strategy.

The business impact analysis should include:

  • All business processes 
  • Recovery time requirements for business processes
  • Interdependencies between processes
  • All applications and systems used by the company and their level of importance
  • Inventory of hardware
  • Compliance requirements

Be sure to include all stakeholders and business units in the business impact analysis discussion. Omitting a single business-critical application or dependency can mean the difference between getting the business back online in hours versus weeks.

5. Develop the Comprehensive Business Continuity Strategy

Now that you have funding in place, buy-in from senior management, a business impact analysis in hand, and a continuity team to do the heavy lifting, it’s time to nail down the specifics of your business continuity strategy. 

Your plan should cover short-term technology workarounds at the individual department level, as well as longer-term solutions in the event of a major outage of environmental impact. Define how you will set up remote workstations or temporary office spaces and identify alternative phone and email systems so employees and customers can stay connected with the organization.

IT recovery needs to happen fast after a disaster. Be sure your business continuity plan clearly and succinctly covers how data and applications will be restored from backup if needed, and how physical hardware and technology will be recovered or replaced.

To be truly effective, business continuity must be viewed as a lifecycle rather than a project. Treat your business continuity strategy like an ongoing process that needs constant review, refinement, and optimization. You can’t set-and-forget your strategy if you want it to work when you need it. Effective business continuity plans require scheduled reviews, regular testing, and investment in a business continuity tool that provides unified, cloud-based continuity and disaster recovery.

No matter where you are in your business continuity journey, there is always something new to learn. Download Smart Strategies for Business Continuity to find out how to successfully overcome data loss and downtime and create an affordable business continuity strategy that’s predictable, sustainable, and dependable.

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