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How to create an effective business continuity plan

How to create an effective business continuity planWe rarely get advance notice that a disaster is ready to strike. Even with some lead time, though, multiple things can go wrong; every incident is unique and unfolds in unexpected ways.

This is where a business continuity plan comes into play. To give your organization the best shot at success during a disaster, you need to put a current, tested plan in the hands of all personnel responsible for carrying out any part of that plan. The lack of a plan doesn't just mean your organization will take longer than necessary to recover from an event or incident. You could go out of business for good.

What is business continuity?

Business continuity (BC) refers to maintaining business functions or quickly resuming them in the event of a major disruption, whether caused by a fire, flood or malicious attack by cybercriminals. A business continuity plan outlines procedures and instructions an organization must follow in the face of such disasters; it covers business processes, assets, human resources, business partners and more.

Many people think a disaster recovery (DR) plan is the same as a business continuity plan, but a DR plan focuses mainly on restoring an IT infrastructure and operations after a crisis. It's actually just one part of a complete business continuity plan, as a BC plan looks at the continuity of the entire organization.

Do you have a way to get HR, manufacturing and sales and support functionally up and running so the company can continue to make money right after a disaster? For example, if the building that houses your customer service representatives is flattened by a disaster, do you know how those reps can handle customer calls? Will they work from home temporarily, or from an alternate location? The BC plan addresses these types of concerns.

Note that a business impact analysis (BIA) is another part of a BC plan. A BIA identifies the impact of a sudden loss of business functions, usually quantified in a cost. Such analysis also helps you evaluate whether you should outsource non-core activities in your BC plan, which can come with its own risks. The BIA essentially helps you look at your entire organization's processes and determine which are most important.

Why business continuity planning matters

Whether you operate a small business or a large corporation, you strive to remain competitive. It's vital to retain current customers while increasing your customer base — and there's no better test of your capability to do so than right after an adverse event.

Because restoring IT is critical for most companies, numerous disaster recovery solutions are available. You can rely on IT to implement those solutions. But what about the rest of your business functions? Your company's future depends on your people and processes. Being able to handle any incident effectively can have a positive effect on your company's reputation and market value, and it can increase customer confidence.

"There's an increase in consumer and regulatory expectations for security today," said Lorraine O'Donnell, global head of business continuity at Experian. "Organizations must understand the processes within the business and the impact of the loss of these processes over time. These losses can be financial, legal, reputational and regulatory. The risk of having an organization's "license to operate" withdrawn by a regulator or having conditions applied (retrospectively or prospectively) can adversely affect market value and consumer confidence. Build your recovery strategy around the allowable downtime for these processes."



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