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Preparing For the Unexpected: How To Create a Solid Business Continuity Plan

Published September 23, 2021

6 min read

By George Drennan

Disasters happen, and they can have crippling consequences for a business. Around 45% of businesses do not reopen following a disaster, and 25% of those that do fail within 12 months.

You can’t avoid the disruption caused by a global event like the COVID-19 pandemic or a local natural disaster. But you can prepare. A business continuity plan can help you avoid the most damaging effects of an emergency and speed up the recovery process.

In this guide, you’ll learn how how to create a business continuity plan. We’ll go through the process step by step.

What Is a Business Continuity Plan?

A business continuity plan is a documented set of procedures to keep a business operational or restore processes quickly in the event of a major disruption.

The disruptive event may involve anything from physical damage to the business property or a technological disaster caused by system failure or cyber-attacks. For example, if your office building was forced to close unexpectedly, how would you be able to handle communications with customers? Would you be able to relocate to a temporary location, or would your team need to work from home?

A business continuity plan addresses potential issues and establishes a plan of action to minimize the disruption to your business.

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Why Business Continuity Plans Matter

Without a plan to mitigate disruption, an unexpected disaster could impact your ability to operate and threaten the survival of your business. The longer your business is unable to function, the more damaging the disruption.

Prior to the start of the pandemic, over half of organizations around the world had no business continuity plan in place. Governments around the world began to put restrictions in place in March 2020. This resulted in a huge spike in interest in business continuity planning.

But when your business is in the midst of a disaster, it is often too late to avoid or mitigate the impact. A business continuity plan can help you recover quickly and shield your core operations. For many businesses, it will be the difference between survival or failure following a disaster.

Success: In 2013, a lightning strike caused a fire in the office building of South Carolina hosting provider Cantey Technology. The fire destroyed Cantey’s servers and made the office unusable. However, the hosting company’s clients did not experience a disruption to their service. As part of Cantey’s business continuity plan, server backups were stored at a remote data center. The disaster still had a significant impact, and the company had to relocate, but failsafe processes helped mitigate the disruption and protect revenue.

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Creating a Business Continuity Plan

Creating a business continuity plan from scratch can feel overwhelming. There are lots of aspects you need to cover. It’s much easier if you break the process up into smaller, manageable chunks.

If you follow the steps below, you’ll cover all the bases you need to develop a strong recovery strategy. You’ll also be able to identify the resources and processes you need to implement the plan.

1. Define the Scope and Goals of the Plan

The first step is to define the scope of your plan and the goals it needs to achieve. The overall goal is to ensure that your business can continue to operate or that disruption is minimal. But the objectives you set will be unique to your business. For example, the objectives and priorities for a retail store will be very different from a SaaS company.

You need to think about the areas of your business that are essential to the products and services you provide to your customers. Your goals will impact the mitigation strategies you put in place and how you develop a recovery plan.

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2. Establish Your Continuity Team

The business continuity management team is tasked with preparing and executing the business continuity plan. The size and makeup of your team will depend on your business, but usually includes the manager, assistant manager, and a representative of each department.

Your continuity team will contribute to the plan, helping you identify core processes that need to be protected. Department representatives will also be responsible for training staff on emergency protocols.

It’s essential to have support from the top of the organization. This helps to establish credibility and buy-in throughout the company. A single team member should be designated as the leader and take ownership of the plan.

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3. Identify Key Business Areas

The next step is to gain an understanding of the areas of your business where disruption would cause the most damage. Which processes are integral to your business operations?

To determine which areas are the most important, you should consider the cost to your business if the process were to fail. For example, if your website were to go offline, how much would you lose in revenue per hour/day?

It’s also important to consider how areas of your business are dependent on each other. For example, an IT system failure could have a knock-on effect on processes in your sales and marketing departments.

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4. Business Impact Analysis

After you have established the critical areas of your business, you need to conduct an impact analysis. This is an investigation of the potential threats to your company and how they would impact your key business areas.

Create a document that details all potential threats and the financial costs. Interviewing department representatives can help you determine how resilient your current processes are.

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5. Perform a Gap Analysis

A gap analysis helps you identify the requirements needed to keep your core business areas operational versus your current resources. It shows you what you currently have and what you need in the event of a disaster.

This will help you identify the weaknesses in your current processes. You’ll also be able to see what is needed to make your business more robust to disruption. The gap analysis should also help you to identify potential recovery strategies.

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6. Establish Recovery Strategies

The previous steps should provide you with a detailed list of potential threats. Now, you need to collaborate with the continuity team to establish recovery strategies for each eventuality and how they will be implemented.

You should create a plan of action to address each type of disruption. It should detail the best way to ensure the damage to your business is minimized and who will be responsible for ensuring that specific actions are taken. For example, if a natural disaster damages your data storage, how will you be able to restore backups quickly? Who will be responsible for ensuring that data is backed up on a separate server?

Include the steps you need to take in preparation and the plan of action to speed up the recovery after the event.

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7. Testing

The final step is to test the plan by conducting trial runs. Of course, some recovery strategies will be impossible to carry out in full, but you can simulate the processes to ensure the recovery plan works as expected.

Testing will help you to identify areas you may have overlooked and gain feedback from stakeholders. You can use the initial trial runs as a learning process to make the recovery plan more effective.

When all stakeholders are happy and trial runs are successful, you can begin to train employees on the protocols. It needs to be clear to staff what their responsibilities are.

To signify the importance of the business continuity plan and recovery protocols, you may want to involve a senior management figure in training exercises.

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Safeguarding Your Business

A business continuity plan is one of the most important tools for making your company more resilient to disruption. If you’re proactive and follow the steps detailed above, you’ll have a solid recovery strategy in place to fall back on if disaster does hit.

But a business continuity plan isn’t a one-and-done document. As your business grows and changes, so do the potential risks and vulnerabilities. You’ll need to review your plan and ensure it still offers maximum mitigation. A business continuity plan is never finished.

About the Author

Subject Matter Expert

George Drennan is the founder of Eagle Content, a UK-based copywriting company, and a writer on all things business and tech. A graduate of University College Falmouth, he believes that everyone should be able to access the best information to make the right decisions for their business and future.

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