“What comes to mind when you come across the term Business Continuity Planning?”
The first time I asked this question was during a workshop for small business owners a few years back. The replies were vague, and I could easily tell that the concept of Business Continuity Planning was misunderstood. I asked the same question to different groups of people, all in business but within different industries, and the vague answers kept coming.
If you google the term “Business Continuity Planning”, what you get is that it is a plan created by organizations and includes processes and procedures that should be followed when a disaster arises. Business Continuity Planning is portrayed as though it is only beneficial for large organizations.
This is false.
We have seen just how inaccurate that portrayal is with the arrival of COVID-19. Business Continuity Planning is important for small businesses as much as it is important for large ones. Irrelevant of the organization’s size, the following questions need to be asked.
What happens if you or a team member gets infected?
What are the procedures that should be followed so that the business can continue to flourish in a member’s absence?
Is your business funded well enough to recover from an adverse economic climate?
Have you thought through what would happen if key clients could not afford your services anymore, or can no longer afford the monthly payment plan?
Is your business dependent on suppliers?
And do suppliers have an adequate continuity plan?
Will your business be affected if the country you are operating from or the country you provide your services to declares a lockdown?
Implementing a Business Continuity framework would have helped you plan for what happens to your business for the scenarios above. I will be going through a few tips below to help you get started.
BE CLEAR ON WHERE YOU ARE NOW
Have some Business Continuity plans already been created? And if yes, what areas of your business do they cover? Take your time to evaluate and get clarity on what you currently have set up. If you’re starting from scratch, that’s fine too. Being aware and taking the necessary action is always a good way to start.
IDENTIFY KEY BUSINESS PROCESSES
Identify the processes that are critical to your business’ success such as social media management, client communication, invoicing, payment acceptance, financial reporting, content management, etc. These would be the processes that impact the way you do business. Assign a priority to all business processes where 1 is the most critical and 10 would be the processes that least impact the business’ operations. Apart from helping shape your business continuity efforts, this exercise will also help you to become aware of what you should be focusing your efforts on.
CARRY OUT A RISK ANALYSIS
Once key processes are identified, a risk analysis will help to outline possible incidents. These should then be categorized by the likelihood of the incident happening. For example, what happens if immediate internet access is not available. Depending on where you operate from, the likelihood of this incident will vary.
IDENTIFY SOLUTIONS TO HANDLE THE RISKS
Here are a few scenarios to help you understand what you need to look out for.
If a system is down, is there a backup of the data, and can it be accessed from another source?
If you are experiencing a loss in internet connection and have a number of client calls; how can the clients be contacted to reschedule the call?
If you or a team member falls ill and is unable to carry on working, are there manuals that can be followed to enable another person to complete the tasks/processes?
PUT YOUR PLANS ON PAPER
Write it all down. This document should be shared with all team members and should be reviewed, at minimum, on a yearly basis. If there are any changes throughout the year that impact the way the business operates, these plans must be updated and reflect the updated version.
TEST YOUR PLAN
Testing will help to identify whether your plan is robust enough to handle several incidents, as well as helps to identify more areas that might not have been taken into consideration yet. Take note of the tests you have carried out, and re-test plans where the expected results were not achieved.
Business Continuity Planning is crucial for business success, irrelevant to the business model, and irrelevant of size. Implementing Business Continuity Plans to your business from the get-go will help to ensure minimal disruption in the business when incidents arise. It happens too often that businesses do not make it because their owners would have overseen or ignored, and not planned for scenarios they might face at some point. Your business is your future – take the necessary measures to secure it.