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The fundamentals of business continuity

As of 2020, 51% of businesses worldwide lacked a business continuity strategy, underscoring a widespread gap in organisational preparedness and over 100,000 small businesses were forced to close permanently¹.

Organisations must ensure readiness for unforeseen disruptions, such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, or global pandemics. A robust business continuity plan is essential, acting as the linchpin for survival in times of crisis. Central to this plan is a comprehensive business continuity checklist, which is critical for maintaining operations amidst chaos.

A business continuity checklist is a systematic document that outlines the essential steps and strategies required to keep a business operational during and after a crisis. It serves as a roadmap to guide an organisation through the process of maintaining critical operations and services, ensuring minimal downtime and loss.


Why you need a business continuity checklist


Minimising Downtime

For 44% of enterprises, hourly downtime costs exceed $1 million; for 18%, these costs surpass $5 million per hour. Smaller businesses also face substantial costs, with averages between $8,000 and $25,000 per hour².


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One of the primary benefits of having a business continuity checklist is minimising downtime. When a crisis hits, every minute counts. A well-prepared checklist ensures that employees know exactly what needs to be done, reducing the time it takes to recover and resume normal operations.


Protecting reputation and customer trust

More than half of businesses see a decline in brand reputation and customer trust after a crisis. A business's reputation can be tarnished in a matter of hours. Having a solid continuity plan in place helps demonstrate to customers and stakeholders that the organisation is prepared, reliable, and dedicated to delivering consistent service, even in the face of adversity.


Regulatory compliance and legal obligations

Many industries are subject to regulatory requirements that mandate the implementation of business continuity plans. Failing to comply with these standards can result in fines, legal repercussions, and even business closure.


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Building your business continuity team

Creating a strong business continuity plan starts with assembling a dedicated team. This team should include individuals from various departments within the organisation, each bringing a unique skill set and expertise to the table.


Executive sponsor

An executive sponsor is a high-level leader who champions the business continuity effort within the organisation. They provide the necessary resources, support, and authority to ensure the plan's success.


Business continuity coordinator

This individual is responsible for overseeing the development, implementation, and maintenance of the business continuity plan. They act as the central point of contact for all continuity-related activities.


Departmental representatives

Representatives from key departments (such as IT, operations, HR, and communications) should be included to provide valuable input on the specific needs and requirements of their respective areas.


External consultants or experts

In some cases, organisations may benefit from enlisting the help of external consultants or experts who specialise in business continuity planning. Their experience and knowledge can add a valuable perspective to the process.


Steps in creating a business continuity checklist


1. Business impact analysis

The first step in creating a business continuity checklist is conducting a thorough Business Impact Analysis (BIA). This involves identifying critical business functions, determining their dependencies, and assessing the potential impact of disruptions.


2. Risk assessment

A comprehensive risk assessment helps identify potential threats and vulnerabilities that could impact the organisation. These may include natural disasters, cyberattacks, supply chain disruptions, and more.


3. Recovery strategies

Based on the BIA and risk assessment, develop recovery strategies for each critical function. These strategies should outline the specific steps and resources required to restore operations in the event of a disruption.

Communication strategies

Clear and effective communication is essential during a crisis. A well-designed communication plan should address both internal and external stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the media. It should include protocols for how information will be disseminated, who will be responsible for communication, and what channels will be used.

Testing, training, and updating

A business continuity plan is only effective if it is regularly tested, employees are trained, and it is kept up-to-date. Conducting drills and simulations helps identify gaps in the plan and allows for adjustments to be made. Additionally, providing training to employees ensures they understand their roles and responsibilities in the event of a crisis.

Regularly reviewing and updating the business continuity checklist is crucial to reflect changes in the organisation's operations, technologies, and external environment. This ensures that the plan remains relevant and effective over time.

Conclusion

Having a robust business continuity checklist has become essential, not just a luxury, given the unpredictability of today's climate. This checklist offers a structured method for dealing with crises, protecting a company's operational capabilities, reputation, and, most importantly, its longevity. Adhering to the steps in this thorough guide allows companies to establish a solid base for enduring and overcoming difficulties. A business that is well-prepared is one that prospers, despite the hurdles it may encounter.

Frequently asked questions

What is the business continuity process?

The business continuity process refers to the strategies and procedures put in place by an organisation to ensure that critical functions can continue during and after disruptive events such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, or pandemics. This process involves identifying potential threats and risks, developing response plans, and testing and updating those plans regularly. Business continuity planning can help protect an organisation's reputation, reduce data loss, and ensure the safety of employees. Effective business continuity planning also helps companies comply with regulatory requirements and meet customer expectations. Businesses of all sizes and industries can benefit from investing in a robust business continuity process.

What is the main goal of business continuity?

The main goal of business continuity is to ensure that an organisation can continue essential business functions despite unforeseen disruptions or incidents. This can include natural disasters, cyber-attacks, power outages, and even pandemics. By implementing a comprehensive business continuity plan, an organisation can minimise the impact of these events on their operations and quickly recover to minimise downtime and revenue losses. The plan should include backup systems, remote work arrangements, communication protocols, and regular testing and updating to ensure it remains effective. Ultimately, the goal of business continuity is to protect the organisation's employees, reputation, and bottom line in the face of adversity.

What are the five components of a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a crucial document that outlines procedures and strategies for enabling business operations following an interruption in services. A well-designed BCP involves five crucial components that ensure a smooth recovery of critical business activities. These five components include risk assessment, business impact analysis, strategy development, plan development and maintenance, and testing and training.

Having a robust risk assessment component identifies potential hazards that may affect the business. The business impact analysis identifies critical business functions, their interdependencies, and their potential failure effects. Strategy development entails identifying alternate methods of operation, while plan development and maintenance involve documenting critical information. Finally, testing and training are essential to ensure that the BCP functions as intended during a crisis. A competent and thoroughly crafted BCP is thus needed to safeguard the business from any potential disruption.

What are the 4 P's of business continuity?

The 4 P's of business continuity are:

1) Prevention: This involves identifying potential risks and taking steps to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This includes creating a business continuity plan, implementing security measures, and training employees to respond to emergencies.

2) Preparedness: This involves being ready for potential disruptions to business operations. This includes having backup systems and data in place, establishing communication protocols, and conducting regular disaster drills.

3) Response: This involves taking immediate action in response to an incident. This includes activating the business continuity plan, initiating an emergency response team, and communicating with stakeholders.

4) Recovery: This involves returning to normal business operations after an incident. This includes assessing the damage, restoring systems and data, and addressing any long-term impacts.

By focusing on the 4 P's of business continuity, organisations can better prepare for, respond to, and recover from potential disruptions to their operations. This ensures that they can continue to provide products and services to customers, protect their reputation, and minimise financial losses.

What are the three elements of business continuity?

The three elements of business continuity are people, processes, and technology. Business continuity planning ensures that an organisation can continue its operations and minimise the impact of disruptions such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, or other unplanned incidents. The people element involves ensuring that the organisation's employees have the necessary skills, knowledge, and training to continue operations during a crisis. The process element involves defining and documenting the organisation's critical processes and ensuring continuity during a crisis. The technology element involves having backup systems and ensuring the cybersecurity of the organisation's data and infrastructure. A comprehensive business continuity plan should consider all three elements and regularly test and update the plan to ensure its effectiveness.

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