Words like catastrophic, unprecedented and record-breaking should be reserved for works of fiction. However, when you see the communities impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, those words become reality. Intense weather systems appear to be developing with more frequency. In preparation, companies must ensure that their operations can withstand an unprecedented business disruption. They must be ready for the next Harvey or Irma.
Many companies have Business Continuity Plans (BCP) in place. However, they are often untested or ill-suited for extensive conditions or durations. How would a catastrophic event impact your operations? How will your employees work? Will your supply chain be disrupted and for how long? Mitigating business continuity response processes, procedures, and personnel responsibilities must be adaptive enough to account for destructive weather conditions.
The BCP and Corporate Leadership
Every organization is unique and requires a tailored BCP to suit their particular needs. A well-developed plan should be able to sustain the viability of the affected businesses unit while ensuring the continuity of, and safeguarding of key business interests, relationships, and assets.
The primary purpose of a BCP is to minimize operational, regulatory, financial, and reputational impacts of a significant business disruption to accelerate the time frame to return to “business as usual”. Simply stated, a business continuity plan is a ‘restoration plan.’ In order to effectively implement a relevant BCP, company leadership must be support the development and implementation of an effective plan. In order to ensure critical operations can withstand unprecedented events, corporate leadership should:
- Support budget allocations for the BCP program
- Appoint key personnel to lead the program
- Ensure the BCP team is staffed and fully trained to implement the plan
- Provide the resources necessary to maintain an up-to date program that accounts for any site-specific changes to facilities, personnel, or processes
- Provide ancillary support and resources to implement the BCP process and recovery strategies
Once an initial BCP is developed, company leadership should continually support plan evaluations that account for evolving operations, potential disrupting scenarios, and identified vulnerabilities. If new vulnerabilities or threats are identified, the BCP should be updated to address those newly identified variables.
The Business Continuity Plan
When effectively developed, tested and accessible, a business continuity plan can address operational disruptions of key business resources including:
- Facilities or Workspace
- Infrastructure or IT Applications/Systems
- Supply Chain
Your business continuity plan should include, but are not limited to the following considerations:
- Notification procedures for key stakeholders
- Internal and external contact directories
- Business Continuity Team notification and activation procedures
- Business Continuity Team structure, organization charts, and interfaces
- Position-specific checklists
- Facility information and documentation forms
- Detailed critical process recovery tasks, workaround procedures and reference documents
- Identification of staff required to recover those critical processes
- Detailed information concerning alternate facilities
- Plan Review and Update procedure
Site specific recovery strategies should be developed with the assumption that the disruption occurred during the peak business cycle, when the services or output are at the highest level and most critical point. This will improve the potential for that plan to be effective.
BCP managers should regularly monitor incidents that may cause a business disruption and/or have a serious impact to operations. A BCP manager should:
- Comprehend basic BC principles and methods
- Ensure consistency in business impact analysis to identify critical business functions
- Understand the correlation between operations, business continuity, IT disaster recovery, and emergency planning
- Ensure that the BCP reflects the current hazard risk analysis, mitigation processes, business impact analysis, response management, and recovery strategies
- Encourage coordination between all company staff while implementing a BCP
- Identify and initiate appropriate, cost-effective strategies and procedures to recover critical business functions and information assets
- Formally assign BC responsibilities to appropriate department managers and ensure each receives proper training to implement the BCP
- Ensure that necessary contractual agreements exist for recovery of critical business functions and information resources
- Review, update, and communicate BCP content changes
- Continual improve the BCP as required