Your organisation might need a business continuity plan (BCP) to ensure that the right people and processes are in place to allow your business to continue functioning during an outage or disaster. Without a BCP in place, you might have the right disaster recovery technology to be able to access critical systems and data, but not a plan for actually activating the human element needed to see it through.
There’s no substitute for working with BCP experts to devise a comprehensive plan. But you can begin the BCP process with your team and fellow senior managers. Follow these four steps to take the guesswork out of drafting a BCP.
BCP Step 1: Identify the roles and responsibilities personnel will assume. Start your business continuity plan by listing key personnel — those with intimate knowledge of systems and processes and, perhaps most importantly, can-do attitudes. Ensure they’re assigned the most important duties and have proper communications equipment. See who amongst other employees can perform as back-ups in your business continuity plan. Create a list of all processes and functions that must be covered in your business continuity plan, including step-by-step directions to complete tasks. More than likely, you’ll notice how many processes or functions have no back-ups. Create a cross-training schedule for the BCP to mitigate this risk.
BCP Step 2: Establish the main risks and response times. Know where you’re most vulnerable in the event of a disaster or even a key employee stepping down when crafting your business continuity plan. Whether the vulnerabilities lie in technology, processes or job functions, you’ll need to set two very important objectives in your BCP: your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO). The former is the amount of data loss you can sustain during a disaster or disruption. The latter is the amount of time required to come back online and resume normal operations. Because your RTO is largely dependent upon data centre and disaster recovery providers, check your service level agreements to ensure they’re up to snuff for your business continuity plan.
BCP Step 3: Lock down all the contingency plans. It may take some time to find alternate locations fully stocked with the computers, network infrastructure, process necessities and communications devices your staff can work from during an event. But as you work towards a fully functioning contingency location for your business continuity plan, you can:
- Know your current contingency equipment options and what you’ll need to fill the gaps
- Set an emergency meeting location every employee can report to
- Place emergency kits in your offices and in the emergency meeting location
- Establish who can work from home and, in the event of an emergency, how they know to work from home until notified otherwise
BCP Step 4: Ensure the plan is communicated and that people can communicate. A BCP requires many interconnected — and disparate — parts. But they all must reside in one final version that the right people can access. Once you know employees can access the business continuity plan, ensure they also have the communications devices they’ll need as well as a phone-tree list so information is passed quickly and methodically. Be sure to include in your business continuity plan contact information for external contacts so your organisation can communicate with partners and vendors.
Remember: a BCP is never “done.” Think of it as a living document. Because business always changes, so must your business continuity plan to keep your organisation afloat.