Business Continuity Plan

Business continuity planning. A step-by-step guide and free downloadable template.

Business Continuity Plan

April 2nd, 2020

A business continuity plan (BCP) is an essential business document that outlines how a business will continue its critical functions during and after an emergency event or disruption in business.

Emergency events can also include natural disasters, workplace violence, utility failures, cyber-attacks, supply shortages, economic downturns, or any event that will result in the disruption of business processes.

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is a real-world example of an emergency situation in which a business continuity plan should be instituted. We've got a COVID-19 specific business continuity plan as well.

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Why is it Important To Have a Business Continuity Plan?

Whether you are a small business or a multinational corporation, it is essential to retain customers and protect your digital assets in times of crisis. Having a business continuity plan in place will ensure your business is able to function, before, during, and after an emergency event.

A BCP will clearly outline the people and procedures involved in running your business when the worst happens. A Busines Continuity Plan is beneficial because:

  • It provides a sense of security for managers and staff.
  • It will allow your business to provide reasonable service to your customers during and after an emergency.
  • It will allow you to preserve your revenue stream and your reputation.

What Should Be Included In A Business Continuity Plan:

Business continuity plans are as varied and complex as businesses themselves. Every plan is different and should be based on the needs of your company and your customers. Here are a few general examples of what a BCP should include:

  • The scope and purpose of your plan.
  • Your plan's goals and objectives.
  • A comprehensive list of tasks required to keep your operations going.
  • The roles and responsibilities of your BCM team and your staff.
  • The contact information for management and key BCM staff.
  • Maintenance protocols for your plan.
  • Information about site and data backups.
  • Information on where to go in an emergency.
  • Procedures to coordinate with emergency personnel.

How to Build a Business Continuity Plan:

Step 1: Identify the scope of your plan.

The first step in creating a comprehensive business continuity plan is to identify the objectives of your plan and then set goals accordingly. Here you should be considering how detailed your plan should be and which departments and staff members should be involved?

When creating the scope of your plans, you should also define the successful outcome of your plan and which milestones should be tracked during an emergency situation.

Step 2: Form the business continuity management team.

The business continuity management team is responsible for implementing and executing your BCP. The size of your team is dependent on the size of your company and the way in which you plan on rolling out your program. At a minimum, you will want your team to consist of a Business Continuity Manager, an assistant manager and an administrative assistant for each department in your company.

If you operate a medium to large business, you should consider including additional personnel to form command and control teams as well as the task-orientated teams.

Command and Control Teams:

  • Business continuity facilitation.
  • Crisis management.
  • Recovery management.

Task-Orientated Teams:

  • Finance.
  • Human Resources.
  • Internal Communications.
  • Legal.
  • Customer relations.
  • Supply chain management.
  • Disaster recovery.
  • Information technology.

Your BCP should include the title and contact information of each of the team members listed above. If applicable, you may want to specify backup contacts.

Step 3: Identify your key business areas and critical functions.

The next step in building your business continuity plan is to identify your business's core needs. Here you should identify which business processes are the most critical and which would cause the most damage to the company if they were to fail. This includes anything that would impair your company's ability to operate, harm to the company's reputation, and major revenue loss.

To gain a better understanding of your critical process, classify each of these functions or processes as either:

  • High
  • Medium
  • Low

Find out which business objectives they support, how often they occur, which departments do they affect, and what other aspects of the business are dependent on these to function?

Step 4: Conduct a business impact analysis.

The next step in busing a business continuity plan is to understand the physical, financial, and operational risks to your company should a major disruption occur. You can determine these risks by conducting a business impact analysis. Have your team create a list of threats and risks that would impact your business. Then review how each of these could impact your operations. Impacts that you should consider include:

  • Increase in customer dissatisfaction.
  • Damage to company reputation.
  • Loss of sales or income.
  • Loss of equipment or data.
  • Delay or loss of new business.
  • Regulatory fines.

Step 5: Create a plan to maintain operations.

This should be the most comprehensive section of your business continuity plan. You can break down operations activities into prevention strategies, response strategies, and recovery strategies.

Prevention strategies

In this section, you should detail any preventative measures that should be taken before a disruption occurs. This may include creating remote work solutions for your employees, having backup utility providers, alternative network resources, data backups, and server backups.

Response strategies

Response strategies are needed when there is an emergency or sudden disruption of business. This section should detail what each member of your business continuity team should do in the event of an emergency. This includes evacuation procedures, safety protocols, and staff communications.

Recovery strategies

Recovery strategies ensure that critical business processes are restored after an emergency event or major disruption in business. Your plan should have a detailed description of the actions necessary to keep your business functional until all personal, systems, and facilities are operational again.

Step 6: Develop a training curriculum.

Once your business continuity plan is complete, it is important to implement a training curriculum for your business continuity management team and your company employees. Training should include a basic overview of your BCP as well as relevant and tactical exercises designed to test your continuity procedures.

It may be worth staging a mock emergency to establish the efficacy of your plan and highlight areas of improvement.

Step 7: Conduct annual reviews.

As your business grows and changes so should your business continuity plan. It is important to conduct annual reviews of your BCP to ensure that it aligns with your current processes and requirements. Updates should be made to evacuation procedures, staff contacts, and communication methods as needed.

Business Continuity Management Services:

For larger businesses, it may be worth employing the services of a business continuity consulting and management company to review your BCP. These services may include:

  • A comprehensive assessment of your current business continuity plan.
  • Gap analysis.
  • Recommendations and long-term planning.
  • Annual updates.
  • Training exercises.

FAQ's

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan is a document detailing how your business will continue to function during an emergency or major disruption of business.

What is the primary goal of business continuity planning?

To minimize the damage to your business in the event of an emergency or disruption of business.

What does a business continuity plan typically include?

  • The scope, purpose, and policy of your plan.
  • Your plan's goals and objectives.
  • A comprehensive list of tasks required to keep your operations going.
  • The roles and responsibilities of your BCM team and your staff.
  • The contact information for management and key BCM staff.
  • Maintenance protocols for your plan.
  • Information about site and data backups.
  • Information on where to go in an emergency.
  • Procedures to coordinate with emergency personnel.

Is business continuity the same as disaster recovery?

No, disaster recovery is part of a business continuity plan which is designed to ensure that your business stays functional before, during, and after an emergency. Disaster recovery focuses on restoring operations after a major disruption in business.

When should I update a business continuity plan?

Your business continuity plan should be reviewed and updated annually or whenever you make major changes to your production processes.