Developing an Inclusive Business Continuity Strategy – The Benefits
In business, the importance of planning should never be underestimated. Whether that’s financial planning or the development of long-term marketing strategies, forward planning can often prove highly rewarding in the long-run. While it’s natural to plan for future growth and prosperity, it’s also important to consider events that might throw your business temporarily off-course and develop a plan to minimise the effect of these events on your operations. ‘Business continuity plans’ seek to do just that, by laying out the precise course of action an organisation intends to take following a crisis.
Business Continuity planning – a brief introduction
A business continuity plan (BCP) sets out the procedures and resources that will be invoked following a disruptive event, as well as the individuals responsible for doing so and the third-party actors that may be called upon. Designed to limit further disruption, contain damage and return operations to their normal state as quickly as possible, a BCP will typically feature a list of actionable steps with reference to the individuals responsible for executing them.
Because it’s impossible to know how business disruption might manifest, it’s important to create a business continuity plan that considers numerous possibilities, with a focus on the most critical components of your organisation. Disruption could completely incapacitate your business, or it could afflict certain departments, leaving others unaffected. It could result from malicious human intervention, carelessness or negligence, or even an ‘act of god’ that’s completely outwith your control.
Some of the disruptive events most often faced by businesses include:
- IT downtime
- Cyber-attacks and data breaches
- Labour market disruption
- Supply chain disruption
- Human-origin physical incidents (vandalism, theft, fire, sabotage, loss or accidental damage etc.)
- Natural Disasters (flooding, earthquakes, storm damage etc.)
While insurance is beneficial for addressing immediate material losses, business continuity planning focusses more on reinstating the processes and functions upon which your business depends.
Why is important to develop a Business Continuity Plan?
There is a common misconception that creating a BCP is all about ensuring the survival of a business following some sort of catastrophic event, but the reality is more nuanced than that. While business survivability is of course a critical aim, a BCP should focus on finer details like maintaining your business’s reputation among external onlookers, maintaining the quality and dependability of service delivery and returning to maximum profitability in the shortest possible timescale. Listed below are 4 key benefits that a business continuity planning can bring about.
A Business Continuity plan helps manage risk
A degree of risk is par for the course in business, but choosing to ignore the risks present is a recipe for ruin. Your business continuity plan should be mindful of the most significant risks faced across the various elements of your business, and present damage mitigation measures designed to prevent minor issues escalating into more serious calamities.
A BCP helps ‘save face’ and limit reputational damage
Despite your best efforts, sometimes business disruption cannot be avoided. Some events are completely beyond our control as business managers, and in such scenarios customers, partners and supplier are often sympathetic.
The actions you take after a disruptive event however could make or break your reputation as a professional, reputable company, as your customers will expect full-service resumption within a reasonable timeframe. If storm damage leaves you without business broadband for weeks or an IT outage hampers your operational capacity for days on end, then customers may get restless and seek to take their business elsewhere.
A BCP helps maintain trust
In some instances, service disruption might only result in short-term inconvenience to your customers, but depending on the nature of the event something altogether more damaging might occur: loss of trust.
Whether you’re acting in the interests of your clients as an investment manager or you’ve been entrusted with sensitive information as a legal advisor, countless business relationships rest on a foundation of trust, and any event that erodes that trust could lead to the end of the relationship. For example, a data breach that places customer information at risk could seriously jeopardise a trust-based relationship unless you’re able to demonstrate to your customers that you’ve taken every viable step to safeguard their data. A well-crafted business continuity plan should help minimise the risks posed by cyber threats and enable the swift recoverability of data. It will also help demonstrate to concerned customers that you’ve acted in good conscience in terms of preserving their interests.
A BCP helps maintain quality
While some disruptive events could leave you temporarily unable to provide a product or service to your customers, others could threaten the quality of your offering. A business continuity plan should consider your quality objectives, and specify contingencies that will be implemented to ensure product/service quality is maintained. Your customers will likely be highly attuned to any aspect of your offering that strays from the norm, so a BCP is vital in maintaining a reputation for quality and consistency.
A BCP helps safeguard profitability
Business downtime can decimate profitability. This was exemplified by the covid-19 pandemic, which required the government to aid small-medium sized businesses with over £21 billion worth of grants to compensate for loss of earnings during lockdown.
While not quite on the same magnitude, business disruption can have a similar effect on profitability, with cashflow problems often resulting from the immediate revenue damage. A business continuity plan that prioritises swift service resumption will limit the profitability damage business downtime can cause and ensure your business’s finances remain in the black.
Regardless of the size of your business or the sector it operates within, a business continuity plan is vital to safeguard the profitability, reputation and productivity of your operation both during and following a disruptive event. It will help assuage any fears your customers might have and protect the integrity and quality of your service offering.
Stay tuned for our next article where we’ll present a brief guide to constructing a comprehensive business continuity plan.
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