Regardless of your organization’s size or mission, it is incredibly important that your operations can continue after an emergency happens. A large portion of this will be related to your IT Infrastructure, but unlike Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity Planning involves all areas of your business including HR and finance. We’ve written about why you should have a business continuity plan in the past, but in this post, we want to take you through the steps.
When you first start creating your plan, you will need to get buy-in from all your stakeholders. This includes creating a team that is responsible for developing, assessing, and implementing your business continuity plan. This team should include management and leaders within your organization who understand your needs and processes and they should be the people responsible for acting if an incident occurs. The team should span all areas of your business, it is not enough for operations or HR alone to take charge if your business suffers critical downtimes or system-wide issues.
Organizations that don’t have a continuity plan in place will need to assess all areas of their business and discover where there are vulnerabilities and determine which aspects of operations are critical to functioning. You’ll also need to determine which areas of your business are dependent on one another and how long it is alright for critical functions to be down. Once you have all these areas identified you can start creating a plan to maintain operations in the event of a critical incident.
Technology is going to be a key part in any continuity plan as well. If technology fails or worksites become damaged or inaccessible, you need to know ahead of time what the costs of replacement or timeline for recovery will look like. This will help you understand how quickly you can return to normal operations after an emergency. Talk to your IT team or backup providers so you know how long backup recovery will take, understand where your backups are stored, and know what is covered.
You will also need to document instructions and guidelines for executive your continuity plan. This includes tasks and objectives as well as outlining who will be responsible for implementation. It will also include instructions for the rest of your staff, including guidelines on communication and remote work policies. There should be a clear chain of communication outlined, including reporting structures and which leadership team members will send out critical updates.
A major part of this documentation will include training. While having these policies and guidelines in place is a great start, it doesn’t help if your staff members at all levels aren't aware of the procedures. During onboarding of new hires, and at regular intervals throughout the year, make sure your staff is aware of your plan and what their roles in it are. By performing continuous training, especially after updates are made, you ensure that business continuity remains top of mind and can be executed efficiently.
Once you have created your plan and trained your staff, testing is key to ensuring it will work. This includes initial conversations where you discover gaps and vulnerabilities, stakeholders reviewing their functions, and simulation testing. Some services can perform testing without causing a disruption in your day-to-day operations, helping ensure the technology aspect of your business is secure. You may also want to perform an annual simulation with key team members to make sure critical functions can be performed during an incident.
Completing all these steps will help ensure you have a disaster recovery plan that works for your business. With regular training, testing, and updates, you can have peace of mind that your organization can withstand an emergency, including technology failures and natural disasters. For some support, download our business continuity plan checklist. If you need help with the IT side of things, please contact us.