Running a business is challenging even at the best of times. Company leaders, who often have their hands full with short-term responsibilities and medium-term strategy questions, rarely set aside time to plan for the kind of Black Swan event that the COVID-19 pandemic has now forced us all to reckon with.
The value of such a plan is now universally apparent – and even though the worst of the crisis may have passed, the possibility remains very real that re-opening the economy will give the virus a second chance to disrupt entire societies. For this danger alone, not to mention other potential emergency situations which may also occur, Business Continuity Management is an invaluable tool for leaders both now and in the future.
What is Business Continuity Management?
Business Continuity Management, or BCM, is a plan or strategy to be implemented when unexpected events interrupt your business. A system crash, large-scale protest, road disruption, natural disaster, pandemic, or other disruptive event can cause additional damage if your business is caught without a proper plan to cope.
The resulting slow response time can lead to severe financial losses, and eventual bankruptcy – not necessarily from the event itself, but from a failure to adequately prepare for it. Having a BCM plan in hand can help your business remain operational under even the most trying circumstances.
Below are the steps that should be followed when developing a Business Continuity Management plan.
- Understand your company
Start by evaluating your company’s existing risks and vulnerabilities to impact, including both operational and financial areas. Identify, map, and analyse your business processes in order to determine who is taking responsibility for each task, which resources are required, and what activities are essential to perform in critical period and need to be prioritized. These elements need to be thoroughly investigated and documented in order develop the BCM plan.
- Determine responsive strategy and recovery plan
The next step is to separate potential responses according to the type of disturbance, because different tactics may be appropriate depending on the specific situation that occurs. During a pandemic, companies might need to focus on managing remote employees over the long term; conversely, the same company might prioritise the recovery of IT infrastructure systems during a flood.
Additionally, ensure that you have established a crisis leadership team, and make sure that a clear area of responsibility is assigned to each role. It then becomes important to develop your detailed plans, ensuring that each plan covers both crisis period and the recovery period. Although some situations may be hard to predict, the goal of the recovery plan should be to bring business back to normal as soon as possible.
- Spread the word
Training is a good way to make your employees understand the BCM concept, and become familiar with the BCM plan including BCP testing. Your personnel will have a chance to review the relevant documents, and learn their roles and responsibilities, so that they will react accordingly during the crisis. This stage can also provide your team with an opportunity to highlight any problems within the process so as to improve it further.
- Assess and develop
Businesses tend to constantly change. So after you have completed all the steps above, it is nevertheless recommended to periodically go back to step 1, and review the whole process again. Each iteration of planning will help keep your BCM plan fresh and familiar, so that it can be implemented efficiently and appropriately for your business should the need arise.
Bringing back the safety net
COVID-19 has given us all a stark lesson on how drastically the world can change within only a few weeks. After accepting the need for Business Continuity Management, we recommend following the above steps and updating them regularly for your organisation. Preparation makes all the difference when your business needs to cope during uncertain times – whenever they may come.