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The Role of Communications Planning in Business Continuity

Posted on Thu, Nov 06, 2014

The primary goal of business continuity planning is to efficiently restore operations through predetermined, systematic processes and procedures. However, in order to minimize the impacts and rapidly respond to operational hindrances, companies must ensure business continuity communication methods and procedures are clearly defined and functional.

Communication planning is an intricate part of preparedness and any continuity process. Clear and effective communication channels must remain available in order to disseminate information to employees, assess and relay damage, and coordinate a recovery strategy. Failed communication often results in failed business continuity efforts. Thoroughly planning, testing, and exercising communication procedures within the following four phases is essential to ensure effective business continuity and viability of critical business operations.

1. Notification- The notification process begins upon the anticipation or discovery of a business continuity situation. Appropriate personnel and applicable business unit managers should be initially notified and updated on the current scenario. The initial notification format can be dictated by company policy, however all known information should be provided at that time, including:

  1. Location of impact or potential impact
  2. Scenario details (fire, explosion, etc.)
  3. Implementation timeline

The person responsible for each critical business process should begin documenting response actions.  Necessary continuity information should be maintained and updated as necessary to ensure all management and affected personnel can quickly initiate proper actions.

In the planning phase, initial communication procedures, available communications equipment, and alternative communication formats should be evaluated.  Initial and back up communication formats should be agreed upon during training and exercises to certify that managers, continuity personnel, external suppliers, and possibly the public receive pertinent messages.

Primary and alternate resources contact information should be included in the business continuity plan (BCP) to ensure consistent delivery and continued operations in the event suppliers are subjected to business continuity circumstances. Up-to-date contact information for internal and external responders should be verified for accuracy.

2. Verification - Verification of contact information for personnel, continuity supervisors, and external responders should be done on a periodic basis. Business continuity planners must be certain that new employees are included in the plan, as necessary, and that notifications are being delivered to accurate e-mail addresses and/or contact numbers.

If maintaining accurate contact information is challenging, consider opting for an e-mail notification verification system that enables the contact to verify their information through hyperlinks. Companies can also offer incentives, such as drawings or prizes, to encourage all personnel to verify contact information as requested.

3. Stabilization - Stabilization is the result of the corrective actions initiated by the business continuity coordinator, business unit managers, and response personnel. Stabilization includes such actions as initiating proper notifications and implementing a procedural course of action. Planners should identify and procure necessary communication equipment and establish processes for continued operations and recovery. This will prevent unnecessary downtime and additional recovery efforts. Effective communications is the bridge to stabilization.

4. Recovery - Recovery begins once the affected area, personnel, equipment, and/or operations are accounted for and stabilized. Recovery communications includes actions such as damage assessment reporting, interactions with response personnel, removal and disposal of disruptive element, and safety verification prior to reentry or a return to operations. The lines of communications need to remain open in order to return to a “business as usual” level.

Developing relationships and common understandings of roles and responsibilities prior to a continuity event increases overall communication, post-disaster collaboration, and unified decision-making, streamlining the recovery process.

Upon termination of the incident and restoration of operations, an oral and written critique of the response should be conducted among personnel and the key business continuity members.  Communicating through evaluations and post-incident summaries can lead to the identification of continuity challenges and procedural obstacles. Items requiring action should be documented, communicated to involved parties, and tracked to ensure that potential corrective actions are identified and mitigation efforts are completed.

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Tags: Business Continuity key points, Business Continuity, Crisis Management, Communication Plan, Business Continuity Plan