Five Simple Suggestions To Starting Business Continuity
July 1, 2011 1 Comment
Welcome back to another installment of my blog. I’ve been receiving some very positive feedback about the topics covered so far and I always look forward to hearing what others may be thinking about. Please feel free to leave a comment about any of my blogs or to suggest future topics or issues.
In this installment I wanted to talk about what I see are the key areas a small business should focus on when starting a business continuity program. I start with small business because that’s what makes up most of the business community where you and I live. It’s also a segment that needs the most guidance in protecting their operations during and after an emergency or disaster. Bottom line is that they simply don’t have the resources large corporations do.
Now, I may focus on small business, but in reality these same areas are relevant if you are in a not-for-profit, a church, an educational entity, or even a large corporation. As a matter of fact, the areas I’m addressing will work for most, if not all, entities. It all comes down to basic “blocking and tackling”. And until we get a firm grip on the basics, we can’t expect to take on anything more difficult and still be successful.
Often, larger corporations will have large dedicated staffs that use industry software to perform activities such as business impact analysis, planning, and notification. Generally, these tools are not simple to use without significant training. All too often, the corporate culture may be one where extensive project management becomes cumbersome to the overall process. Combined with politics that add many buffers between senior management and the folks in the field trying to get the job done … geez, no wonder many shy away from business
continuity. So, let’s step back, take a deep breath, and consider taking a simpler approach to what I think is a very necessary function in business today.
Keep it simple and real – use common sense.
Don’t be Chicken Little always preaching the sky is falling. It’s not. But there are some things that can have a negative impact on the business. Take the time to find out what those are. Don’t stick your head in the sand and act like if you don’t see it or it won’t happen. Challenge yourself now to make your business more resilient when its really needed.
Let’s say in your simple research you uncover 10 threats that realistically could affect your business. We aren’t going to over-complicate our work by addressing each of the threats individually. Instead, we’ll look to leverage opportunities that allow us to use efficiencies gained from an “all hazards” approach to planning.
Include your experts.
Look throughout your teams and seek out those that you feel are “experts” and decision makers. These are going to be your “hunting dogs” or your “go to” folks. This team will be the team you call at 2:00 AM on Christmas morning after the emergency has hit. You’ll want to identify at least one back-up and perhaps two for each person listed on the team. Finally, you’ll want to document their contact information – especially out-of-hours information. Once the list is developed, it should be shared with everyone on the team. And, it should be updated on a regular basis. You’ll also want to have a methodology defined as to how your notifications will be made. For smaller groups, a simple call tree is sufficient. Then, the first time you bring the team together, you’ll want to explain how the notification process will work.
Document, Document, Document
There’s an old adage that says “if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen”. Nowhere is documentation more important than in business continuity. Whether it’s User Manuals for equipment, maps to key locations, telephone lists/directories of essential contacts, or our business continuity plans themselves, we must document.
Now, for the business continuity part you’ll want to identify (list) the critical functions your business performs in order to conduct business. Remember, these are critical. Not everything you do is critical.
Take those critical functions and document the tasks that need to be done in order to perform the function - and assign who will be responsible for completing the task. While you are at it, look for dependencies. By that I mean look to see if one task is dependant upon another and document those as well.
When you are addressing critical functions and tasks, you’ll also want to consider technology, supplies, and equipment that you’ll need to accomplish them. HOW and WHERE will you obtain these things when they are critically needed. Remember, your suppliers and vendors should be added to your “Experts” list.
You’ll also want to consider WHERE you’ll conduct your business in case you aren’t able to resume operations at your regular site. Do you have an idea of how much floor space you’ll need and what kind of infrastructure you’ll require? With this information, you can enlist the help of real estate “Experts” to find you an “alternate location”. This was a tactic used by a very successful business in Joplin, Missouri following the tornado. And it worked.
You will also want to make sure you speak with you insurance provider now to not only validate the type and amount of insurance coverage you have, but also what type of documentation will you need in order to process your claim swiftly and accurately.
Finally, when I’m writting (documenting) plans, I like to use checklists or flowcharts because they are so much easier to work with compared to narrative type documentation.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Talk to others. Look for opportunities to share, and receive information. You don’t need to know everything to be a good leader. But you need to be willing to listen to your experts and consider/use their input appropriately.
Also, be proud of your efforts; keep other key stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, etc) informed of your progress. Not to give the keys to the kingdom away, but to provide assurance that you recognize the problem, you are in control, and will have the problem resolved.
Also, make sure you and your essential team knows how to use the various communications technologies you have in order to communicate
effectively under pressure. Perhaps you’ll find gaps that can be addressed before the next emergency.
Promote training and awareness
Commit to making sure your employees are adequately trained so that when the emergency occurs, they have the knowledge and skills necessary to help your business recover as quickly as possible. Training such as CPR/AED, First Aid, CERT (Citizen Emergency Response Teams), etc.
Well, what I’m providing above are simple starting points. None are silver bullets in and of themselves. And there’s additional detail that could be added to each item. But when addressed collectively and implemented, they are starting points that will help your business, not-for-profit, church, school respond to and recover from emergencies that will occur. Then, as you and your team gain experiernce, you can dig deeper and look for more opportunities to grow your business continuity capabilities. And, if you need help, let me know.
I hope you have a fun and safe Fourth of July!
Tip (a little humor this time):
Morris, an 82 year-old man, went to the doctor to get a physical.
A few days later, the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm.
A couple of days later, the doctor spoke to Morris and said, ‘You’re really doing great, aren’t you?’
Morris replied, ‘Just doing what you said, Doc: ‘Get a hot mamma and be cheerful.”
The doctor said, ‘I didn’t say that.. I said, ‘You’ve got a heart murmur; be careful.’
A good example of listening to your experts, knowing your risks, and communicating!