Business Continuity Planning: Things to Think About

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has tested nearly all businesses on their ability to deal with the unexpected. While many firms have managed to adapt and carry on business during the lockdown, it is important not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

Disasters take many forms and how a business responds to a crisis can be crucial to its success or failure. It usually involves more than simply rolling out a ‘work from home policy’. A whole host of considerations need to be made to meet the considerable challenges posed by disasters, such as severe weather, fire, cyber-attacks or indeed, pandemics.

Failure to be prepared can prove devastating to a business. Many firms struggle to recover from a disaster. Having a written Business Continuity Plan is a crucial first step in guiding a firm through difficult times. The FCA expects that firms should have operational resilience and be able to continue to function and meet regulatory obligations in the event of unforeseen interruption.

Business continuity planning involves anticipating the risks that a business may face from crises and putting together a plan to allow the business to continue in an emergency. A clear and well-tested plan helps firms get back to ‘business as usual’ quickly and effectively.

Every business is different, and each will have its specific needs. There are many questions that firms should think about when planning for business continuity and considering how to return to ‘business as usual.’

  • Think about the processes that are essential to the operation of your business. What would happen if a disaster or crisis prevented them from functioning in the usual way?
  • Think about the types of ‘disaster’ that would affect your firm. How likely are they to occur and what level of impact would they have if they materialised? Who would they be likely to affect?
  • Think about how these disasters could affect your customers, your employees, and the wider market. How would you communicate with them to make sure they are kept informed about what is going on?
  • Think about your employees and their roles. Who are the key people within your organisation? What would happen if they left to work elsewhere or if they went on long-term absence or died?
  • Think about insurance. Do you have relevant insurance policies in place (e.g. business interruption insurance, key person insurance)? Are the policy wordings suitable for the demands and needs of your business?

So, what needs to be in a Business Continuity Plan?

A Business Continuity Plan should:

  • Identify the decisionmakers. Who is responsible for what in an emergency?
  • Provide contact details for key persons with responsibilities under the plan
  • Provide contact details for key suppliers or relevant external bodies (e.g. the FCA)
  • Clearly identify emergency procedures to be implemented in the event of a crisis
  • Provide details of ICT systems, back-ups etc.
  • Be compliant with health and safety regulations

It should be available digitally and in hard copy away from the premises.

The only way you’ll know if your Business Continuity Plan works is to test it. Perhaps carry out a scenario test or simulation. Communicating relevant parts of the plan to your employees is vital – they will need to know what to do if a crisis materialises.

The current Covid-19 situation will undoubtedly have tested your firm’s Business Continuity Plan. Naturally, some things will have worked well whilst others will have presented challenges to overcome. Implementing a review process where you ask “what would I do differently if presented with this situation again?” and documenting the improved procedures will allow you to make necessary improvements to your existing Business Continuity Plan.

The Business Continuity Plan should be kept updated on a regular basis. Ideally, this would be at least every six months. This helps ensure that the information within it remains relevant. It should be updated following an incident to incorporate lessons learnt and should be updated whenever the needs of the business change.

If you require advice on business continuity planning or need help in reviewing your existing plan, RWA’s team of experienced business managers can support you. For further information, please contact helpdesk@rwagroup.co.uk or call 01604 709509.

About the author

Nathan joined RWA in 2016 on successfully completing his PhD. He previously worked in the private, public and charitable sectors. Nathan leads the content and professional standards team at RWA and is responsible for managing and curating technical content on the Aviva Development Zone and the award-winning My Development Zone e-learning platforms.

Since joining RWA, Nathan has written hundreds of business skills e-learning modules and assessments on a variety of subjects, including leadership and management, communication skills, human resources, employability, regeneration, citizenship and equalities.

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