A 5-Step Guide to create a Business Continuity Plan

In this blog, we’ll take you through 5 steps to help you create a strong and effective business continuity plan, and implement it in your organization.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A business continuity plan is a series of steps or procedures that a company will follow to ensure continued operations when faced with an unprecedented emergency situation. These situations could range from natural disasters, public health emergencies or even human error.

Staying ahead and planning for such crises will help your business stay in the market. Business continuity plans should list all the processes that need to be performed if a major business disruption occurs.

Business continuity plans could sound alien to most small businesses. A data health study claims that only less than 50% of organizations with a small IT team (1-5 members) have a business continuity plan in place. This is due to the general lack of awareness amongst small and medium-sized businesses and their scope limitations. But, it is always good to have at least a rudimentary business continuity plan in place, as we hardly know when a disaster strikes. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has left global organizations startled, as governments have implemented nation-wide lockdowns forcing employees to work from their homes. In situations like these, where the health and safety of your employees are of prime importance, business continuity plans can seem godsent. This way, your employees can take care of themselves and can also continue performing their daily activities by working remotely.

Watch: How to ensure business continuity with the help of IT?

How to draft a solid Business Continuity Plan?

It is important to note that the nature of the crisis/emergency heavily determines the nature of the business continuity plan. The current COVID-19 pandemic is declared as a public health emergency by the WHO, whereas most business continuity plans are designed for local/regional disasters like fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods. With natural disasters like these, infrastructure damage is severe. Whereas with pandemics, there are no inherent infrastructure damages, but your workforce might be forced to work remotely from their homes. The bottom line is, your business continuity plan should suit the emergency in concern, and be custom made for your organizational needs.

Step 1: Form a Business Continuity Team

Before you get started, it is essential to have the right team to create and implement a business continuity plan in your organization. A business continuity team can be split into two sub-functions: 

  • The Command Center team: This team consists of the incident response team, crisis, and recovery management teams. These teams, in turn, consist of Information officers, program managers and coordinators, executive managers, service desk managers, and communications managers. This team should be led by the Chief Information Officer, to ensure senior management buy-in.
  • The Task-Oriented team: This team is made of public relations, legal, procurement, cybersecurity, IT service desk, and communications teams. 
  • Assign clear responsibilities for each role and ensure there are no overlaps. 
  • The members of this team are responsible for executing the business continuity plan and will prepare policies for the project, train additional team members and identify processes to streamline the implementation of the business continuity plan.

Step 2: Conduct a Business Impact Analysis

Emergency situations might not offer enough time to assess business impact in case your business doesn’t have a business continuity plan already in place. 

  • Business Impact Analysis is the process of identifying time-sensitive or critical functions, their vulnerability, the resources that support them and the impact caused in the event of a prolonged disruption. 
  • The risk assessment process can help you identify the vulnerabilities. It is crucial to identify these weaknesses as they can make your assets/resources more susceptible to damage caused by the disaster. 

A thorough business impact analysis is key to gathering the information needed to develop mitigation strategies and recovery plans. 

Step 3: Identify Stakeholders and Critical Functions

  • Start by identifying the key stakeholders of each business unit in your company. Narrow down on critical resources and functions without which the organization cannot function smoothly. 
  • Establish contact points with these key resources, as multiple teams in your organization, might be dependent on them for their smooth operations. Ensure that the contact information is up-to-date. 
  • Identify and map the dependencies between various business areas and critical functions.
  • Document the acceptable minimum levels of operations for each of these functions and how they will ensure the continuity of the business and to what extent.

Step 4: Draft the Recovery Plan

With all the information from the previous stages, draft the baseline plan—to decide the various business areas and critical functions that will be covered under your business continuity plan. The draft should include the following key aspects:

  • The objectives and mission statement of the business continuity plan
  • Information about the business continuity team members, their roles and responsibilities
  • Key stakeholders and critical functions involved in the business continuity plan
  • Business Impact Analysis report
  • Gap Analysis (the resources you have vs the resources you need)
  • Prevention, response, mitigation, and recovery strategies
  • Testing schedules for the business continuity plan

Step 5: Review and Revise your plan

Once you have the plan in place, it is crucial to test it often. This lets you identify the gaps and flaws in your plan and help you address them before another disaster strikes. The importance of testing a business continuity plan cannot be emphasized enough. An untested plan can prove to be expensive for the company, both in terms of time and costs. With that said, in order to test your BCP, you don’t have to shut shop. Instead, you can conduct table-top exercises wherein emergency scenarios are hypothetically created (inside a meeting room, of course!) and the team members can review how robust the plan is. All business continuity plans should be subjected to continual improvement.

Business continuity planning is vast and never-ending. This is primarily because of the changing needs and objectives of an organization. But if you follow these 5 steps to create a business continuity plan (keeping in mind the unique needs of your organization), you will be able to get the fundamentals right and ensure that your business stays afloat during the times of crisis.

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