You know what they say, when it comes to doing smart business one should “expect the unexpected”. Often times, it is the things that don’t exactly go according to plan that effectively derail an otherwise solid business strategy. Of course it’s virtually impossible to construct a business model that’s impervious to all risks, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t position your assets in such a way as to mitigate known or unknown factors. What you should really be after is a basic approach to running your company that allows it to become more “viable” over the long-term.
The act of assessing internal and external threats and generating a strategy for dealing with them in advance is called “business continuity planning”. Likewise, BCP is essentially divided into two distinct areas – prevention and recovery. Although it’s always a good idea to keep a handle on the status of the many internal elements which are driving your business, these days, it would seem, external factors might be the biggest threat. For example, just think about the high number of natural disasters we’ve seen emerge over the course of the last few years, many of which absolutely wreaked havoc on those organizations which had running operations in those areas. Similarly, even if we’re not talking about a full-on environmental problem, there’s potential risk with regards to these same issues taking down remote servers and/or critical 3rd party services. After all, a storm doesn’t have to actually hit your main facility to disrupt your operations; one could just as easily take out your remote data center.
So, how does one begin or start setting up a business continuity plan, you ask? First off, you’ll need to conduct a risk assessment. Quite simply, this entails looking at all possible risks and identifying which ones are potentially the most damaging. As you might expect, if one were to look at every potential risk factor, you could lose a fortune while trying to prep for them all. The best approach is to identify those risks which could be called the “most critically damaging to the continuity of operations” so that you can focus mainly on them (instead of “spreading yourself too thinly”, so to speak).
Next, you’ll want to identify which services / methods are the most important for the continuing operation of your business. For instance, if your company is reliant on orders that come in from the internet via a number of distinct servers, it would be in your best interest to make sure that there is some type of back-up system or contingency plan in place where those servers are housed and operated. It’s this type of “thinking ahead” approach that ultimately separates successful businesses from less successful ones.
Once you have your basic risk list ironed out you can start looking at individual issues and taking action. In any potentially damaging scenario the end goal and result should be the same – to determine how you’ll actually get work done in the event of the unforeseen. Sometimes this might also include specific directions for your employees, team or board members. In some cases where you’re not dealing with a breakdown in IT service, you might actually look at using things like social media to “fill in the gaps”. For example, if some element of your IT infrastructure were to go down so that internal communications were compromised, it would be extremely handy to have an understanding among your employees that certain social media services might temporarily replace it. In other words, your team members would receive and share their communications / data via their personal devices and private accounts.
Finally, once you have addressed all the critical risk factors and created contingency plans for them, use this as another marketing tool. In other words, tell your customers and clients about your business continuity planning operations. Not only will this let them know that you’re thinking ahead, it will also imbue them with a much stronger sense of trust. In some instances you might actually find that the overall level or number of customers you deal with (on a regular basis) will dramatically increase because of your BCP efforts.
How can you learn more about business continuity planning? If you’re just discovering this field, or interested in implementing your first business continuity planning project, you’re going to want to engage in some research and/or training. A solid kit or course, like the one offered here, can help you uncover the best strategies for both prevention as well as recovery. Avoiding interruptions to your operations is very important these days, especially when you consider the increasing speed at which modern business is being conducted. All it might take is a few days to significantly set your company back to a point where either recovery might not be possible or large amounts of profits are lost. The bottom line is that you should take steps now to prepare so that you, your employees and your business are protected if / when chaos or destruction comes knocking.