We are living through an unprecedented time. As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe with no end in sight, businesses of all sizes and make-ups are having to ask themselves one difficult question.
“How am I going to weather this storm and come out whole on the other side?”
The pandemic has created uncertainty through business disruption and taught the world one valuable lesson.
Business continuity planning is essential for survival in an uncertain world.
What is Business Continuity?
Business continuity is the planning and preparatory measures taken by a business in advance of a major disaster to preserve operations.
COVID-19 Showed How Important Business Continuity Planning Really Is
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, it showed us all how woefully unprepared the bulk of the world’s businesses were, and the stunning lack of business continuity found on seemingly every level of the professional world.
In just half a year, a huge number of companies were forced to fire or furlough employees. Many even had to declare bankruptcy.
While most consider business continuity planning a way to combat natural disasters, online attacks, legal issues, and the like, COVID-19 opened our collective eyes. This pandemic showed the entire world that wildfires and hurricanes are not the only potential threats that can shut a company down completely.
8 Steps to Ensuring Business Continuity in 2021 and Beyond
In a post-COVID world, the question now becomes how can you ensure that your business can handle whatever unexpected twists and turns the world throws at it?
Here are some steps that you can take to implement business continuity planning initiatives that will keep your company going through 2021 and beyond.
1. Take the Time to Make a Plan
The first thing you’re going to have to do is create a business continuity plan. There are four key elements which make up disaster recovery planning.
You want to make sure that you have procedures in place to handle:
- Crisis management
- The administration of your program
- Recovery of business assets
- Recovery of IT assets following disaster recovery
These are the four pillars which can hold up your business in the event of a major event like COVID-19 or an intense hurricane. By creating a business continuity strategy that utilizes these four important points, you’ll be able to avoid major business interruption.
2. Create Your Task Force
The Business Continuity Task Force serves a vital role in your organization as it pertains to business continuity management. They will be the first line of defense, putting your business continuity strategy into action.
The business continuity manager would be the person directly responsible for the disaster recovery plan’s implementation, while the sponsor would be someone from senior management who oversees the entire plan and how it pertains to business functions.
Then you have an assistant business continuity manager who backs up the manager in implementing the program companywide. Finally, there’s an administrative assistant who supports the entire task force.
The business continuity management team is also going to need some involvement from the IT department in order to develop the proper backup and recovery strategies needed.
3. Assess Your Assets and Needs
Before you can develop a recovery plan, you first need to have a strong understanding of what you already have in place. To that end, you’ll have to take stock of your current assets and business functions, determining what is essential and nonessential in the event of a pandemic-level event.
Ask yourself the question “what do we need to stay afloat?” When these major issues arise, you have to know right away which operations must continue no matter what and which you can suspend or discontinue altogether in the name of continued survival. It’s also a good idea to perform a business impact analysis to determine how various disasters would affect your operations.
Ensure that you have a stock of evergreen content available for your customers to use as a resource in the event that operations are temporarily suspended. Expand your knowledge base for customers, and arm your support with articles they can reference.
Once you assess your financial assets, you can determine whether a business loan is going to be needed to keep you afloat during hard times.
4. Have Alternatives for Crucial Teams/Procedures
In the event of a major disastrous event, certain teams and procedures that are crucial to the organization might not be able to continue on as before.
When that happens, it’s important to have alternative options in place. Have a list of various third party services handy or a ready to go reallocation strategy for responsibilities in the event of a huge disruption.
Take customer service as a prime example. Let’s say your call center is decimated in the wake of potential threats like a major hurricane or wildfire. You might need to switch to an alternative service to pick up the slack.
5. Set Up Backups
You’re going to need to have emergency management backups in place in the event that a cyber attack or massive storm wipes out your servers or causes data loss.
A constant data backup saved at an off-site data center means that you’ll never find yourself scrambling after an outage. Consistent backups and an established recovery procedure will make these issues minor bumps in the road.
6. Put Together Your Crisis Management Plan
Once all of that is put into place, it’s time to figure out how you will manage your business once a crisis hits. That means you have to put your crisis management plan together.
The first stages of your plan should be something manageable, such as outlining the organizational structure of the company and creating checklists that will make disaster response faster and more effective.
Make sure that you have a strong understanding of your essential and nonessential departments. Then, create a recovery plan detailing the actions you will take to keep your most critical functions moving forward in the short term. If you have a highly diverse pool of employees, make sure that the plan is accessible in multiple languages by hiring tutors to prevent any communication issues.
7. Have the Proper Tools In Place
You should include a number of emergency management productivity tools in your plan that the company can utilize in the event of a major disruption.
For instance, during COVID-19, many businesses had to switch to a work from home setting. To that end, they needed to utilize remote tools like Slack for interoffice communication, Zoom for distance meetings, and calendar tools which allow for remote scheduling of important tasks.
VPN’s are essential for remote teams. They help you ensure that data is being accessed securely and they allow your employees to access resources from anywhere in the world. With thousands of VPN’s available on the market, it can be difficult to choose the perfect one for your company.
It helps to read reviews of VPN’s (like this review of Surfshark VPN) and compare pricing, features, speed, and other specifications. The perfect VPN will be the one that is perfect for your company’s specific needs.
4 Tips on Keeping Your Business Continuity Plan Up To Date
Setting up your business continuity process is not a one time event. The market, available tools, and the makeup of your organization could change over the years. As such, you have to make sure that you’re continuously re-evaluating your plan and keeping it up to date if you want to avoid a disruption of business operations.
1. Refresh Asset Data Every Few Months
Make sure that you’re constantly refreshing your asset data. That means performing a new asset evaluation every few months or so. Try making it a regular event once every quarter in order to maintain a complete and up to date appraisal of every asset in your company.
This includes your finances, organizational structure, physical assets such as buildings and equipment, and content.
2. Keep a continuous meeting schedule
The business continuity task force should never go a prolonged period of time without meeting. It’s best to keep a regular meeting schedule for members to get together and discuss where the company is, the level of preparedness you currently have, and what can be done to improve upon it.
By making these meetings a regular part of business operations, you can ensure that everyone remains on the same page and that you’re ready should an issue arise out of the blue.
3. Hold Other Team Members Accountable
You’re going to have to hold the employees of your organization accountable for knowing, understanding, and ultimately following the business continuity plan in the event that it is implemented. The measures that you take should not come as a surprise to anyone.
It’s a good idea to have a business continuity educational resource available for employees to review at any time. It could be a part of the employee handbook or even an online portal. Not only does this help the company avoid downtime in the event of a major incident, it also eases employee concerns and confusion during what will undoubtedly already be a difficult time.
4. Don’t Think it’s Avoidable
If you think that you don’t need a business continuity plan, you are 100% wrong.
Look at how this year turned out. At the beginning of January 2020, the concept of the coronavirus was still far off and not being taken seriously. Fast forward a few months and the entire American economy came to a screeching halt.
The thing about major disasters is that they are impossible to predict. They come out of nowhere and leave us scrambling to pick up the pieces in their wake. By remaining constantly on the ready with a business continuity plan in place, you’ll be able to avoid the pitfalls that so many businesses succumbed to this year.
Remote Workforces That Enable Your Business to Continue
One of the major takeaways from COVID-19 is that remote workforces are more viable than ever. Cloud-based services and remote conferencing and messaging have brought the power of the workplace into the comfort of our homes.
While work from home initiatives have been gaining popularity in the last several years, we’re just now starting to see major companies like Twitter embrace the concept as a response to COVID-19. In fact, a whopping 88% of companies have instructed their employees to work from home as a result of the pandemic.
It’s always a good idea to look into various work from home options so that, should you be forced to transition into a remote work environment, it will be an easy adjustment for everyone.
The current pandemic and ensuing economic crisis is proof that every business large and small needs to have a business continuity process in place.
In a 2020 survey, 33.33% of businesses are anticipating significant changes to their business continuity plan. By following this guide and taking each step to heart, you can ensure that your company will see minimal impact to critical business functions in the event that another such disaster impacts the global economy.
With a topic as important to continued success as business continuity, there are going to be a number of questions that people have. Here are some of the top frequently asked questions regarding business continuity.
What is Included in a Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan is a four part strategy meant to preserve business processes.
The stages of a business continuity plan include:
- An assessment of assets
- Business recovery planning
- The recovery of IT data
- A specific crisis management plan
Is Business Continuity Important?
Business continuity is incredibly important, because it is a plan for how your company will keep itself alive in the event of a disaster. By implementing a business continuity plan you’re able to hit the ground running, avoid downtime, and save jobs and resources. Business continuity ensures that you’re never caught off guard.
Which Types of Businesses Should Create a Business Continuity Plan?
Businesses of all types from a small business to a large corporation should create a business continuity plan to protect their business processes. However, it is more important for enterprise level businesses with multiple divisions, a wealth of assets, and a large workforce.