Perhaps you’ve heard this old folk quote already, “things usually get worse before they get better”? While some might think this was a largely pessimistic saying, there’s actually a ring of truth to those words. Perhaps you’ve experienced this firsthand already? Additionally, the second part of the quote says, “But when they do, remember who put you down and who helped you up”. In a way, this little colorful quote embodies the mood and purpose of Business Continuity Planning.
The point being, a serious-minded person who’s interested in success should at the very least consider (or at most, plan) that “something bad” might happen. Moreover, “after it happens” you should also take note of what helped you climb out of that mess. In other words, we should always be aware of what works and what doesn’t in any situation and try to move toward remaining more “functional” in the face of mishaps and missteps. You know what they say, “a stitch in time saves nine” (meaning, if you fix something immediately, the condition won’t continue to deteriorate so that it becomes a larger problem down the road).
So, what’s the point here, you might be wondering, are we talking old colloquialisms or technology here? Well, if you really think about it, one can make a strong case that a disaster is always just around the corner. Before you get nervous or dismiss this notion outright, just realize that the point here isn’t to scare you, it’s to help you realize that we live on a planet that’s till somewhat relatively “chaotic”. In fact, as a business owner, you never know if you’re going to have to deal with some kind of natural or man-made disaster from month to month. Now, for those of you who might be thinking, “well, this is just too much trouble, I don’t want to run a business if I’m constantly thinking about how negative events will impact me”, just remember this other old quote, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.
The best solution you have at your disposal as far as either preventing or subverting disasters which might affect your organization is of course, business continuity planning. For those who might be a little bit “fuzzy” about what BCP actually entails, it is essentially a calculated strategy (or set of strategies) which reduce one’s exposure to internal or external threats which might undermine an institution’s ability to conduct business operations. As a general rule, the larger an organization is, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong. But please don’t mistake this as pessimism, in reality it’s about becoming more aware of the many factors which actually exist (and either consciously or unconsciously seeks to derail you and your business’ endeavors).
Needless to say, there are quite a lot of very specific things which can go wrong and might cause your entire business operation to go “dark” for any length of time. For instance, natural disasters, like – earthquakes, tornados, monsoons, sandstorms, hurricanes, etc… Not to mention man-made disasters / scenarios like – terrorism, theft, cyber attacks, fire, or even run-of-the-mill hardware failures (which can also easily disrupt operations). A great business continuity planning specialist takes all of these kinds of events into consideration along with any which might be more locally specific or probably to occur and formulates a unified plan to address them. This is also called “solution design” and it usually involves making preparations to ensure continuity. For example, you need to make sure that you have:
some form of telecommunications infrastructure / architecture connecting the primary and secondary work sites
crisis management command structures in place which can directly thwart a problem
secondary work sites that are capable of being used at a moment’s notice
a data sharing and storing system in place linking the primary and secondary work sites
all the required applications (and data) at the secondary work site
all other physical / technological requirements at the secondary site
Once this phase has been taken care of, it’s only a matter of actually implementing these plans and/or acquiring any necessary components which might be needed. Additionally, most businesses will want to perform simple or complex tests which are designed to measure both speed and effectiveness in terms of both the solutions themselves as well as the reactions of employees. After the business becomes relatively satisfied that they have “all their bases covered”, to make a baseball analogy, it’s only a matter of performing routine maintenance from time to time, just to make sure that preparations are still in place.
All of this underlines a very important point for virtually every business out there though, which is directly related to personnel. Specifically, every business must have one or more specialists in the field of business continuity planning. Often times, it is a person within the IT department that is tasked with this duty, perhaps due to the fact that a lot of BCP directly related to many of the technologies which exist within the IT department itself. In fact, all one really needs is some form of training or certification in business continuity planning to be able to perform such duties. Any business that doesn’t have any form of BCP process in effect should strongly consider doing so as soon as they can (especially since certification is so affordable and effective).
Let’s face it, we live in turbulent times, but that’s no reason to simply give up or let our guard down. Instead, why don’t we continue to promote the idea that all business owners and managers should adopt BCP procedures instead? Think about it, if most of us are prepared when the next disaster strikes, we’ll be able to both avert and rebuild much faster than ever before (due to the fact that more services and products will still be available). In other words, when you engage in business continuity planning, you’re not just doing it for yourself or your business; you’re also doing it for your entire community and region.