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Worried about the next crisis? You need to create a comprehensive business continuity plan for your business.

Business continuity planning goes beyond disaster recovery. A business continuity plan (BCP) is a comprehensive action plan for when things go wrong (COVID-19 is one perfect example of a situation when a continuity plan is invaluable). It should lay out the role each department or team will play in an emergency, as well as specific steps for continued operations in suboptimal circumstances.

Previously, we shared some beginning tips for business continuity planning we can learn from COVID-19. Now, we’re going to give you the comprehensive checklist for items and actions to include in your business continuity plan so you’re prepared for the next crisis.

Each business’s continuity plan will, of course, be unique to that organisation. Factors such as industry, size, location, and other variables will significantly impact the specific steps you choose to include and the types of situations you need to prepare for. However, our essential business continuity checklist will outline the steps and areas businesses will generally need to plan for.

Here’s a guide to each section of our checklist:

Who to Involve

You need to assemble your BCP team to begin planning. Every person won’t need to be involved for every step of the plan, but these are the teams you’ll want input from during various stages:

  • Production
  • IT
  • Legal
  • Accounting
  • Insurance
  • Public relations
  • HR

Decide who in your company will act as your BCP team lead. They should be in charge of coordinating department heads and other personnel who should be involved in your planning.

Consider holding an initial meeting or meetings with your core team members, usually including personnel who are familiar with both day-to-day operations and big-picture resources.

Then, if you outsource any department of your company, ask for that partner’s input when planning for that area. Make sure they receive a copy of your plan and know what their role will be should an emergency arise.

Risk Assessment

With your BCP team, assess the areas of your company most at risk. It’s important to consider damages that may occur during catastrophes that are universal across locations and industries, such as data breaches, as well as potential disasters in your specific area or industry, such as tornadoes, bushfires, or specific supply chain disruptions.

You won’t be able to predict the future or foresee every eventuality, but with some creativity, you should be able to imagine the most common areas that would be affected should a worst-case scenario occur.

Some important areas of risk to include are equipment and data, personnel, and process disruption. With companies relying so heavily on technology for daily processes, your cybersecurity and access to communications, systems, and data should be a key consideration.

Data Backups

Creating backups of all essential data is pivotal to your business continuity plan. This is something you can do immediately to prepare for any disaster that may affect your software or physical servers. Past and current projects, financial information, and client and employee information are key pieces of information that should be backed up and protected.

Communication

There are two areas of communication you should prepare for: pre-crisis and post-crisis. You should first prepare ways to communicate your plan to employees and train them on processes and procedures.

Second, you should prepare for communication that will need to occur directly after a crisis hits. This includes:

  • Preparing communication chains. Who gives the command to trigger emergency procedures? And who passes on instructions after that?
  • Writing macro scripts for messages to employees, clients and vendors.
  • Creating accessible backups of contact information in the case of loss of access to company directories or email programs.

Your communication plan should include both internal and external communications, as well as technology used to communicate and contact information in case of an emergency.

Immediate Emergency Response

This section is one of the most valuable components of your business continuity plan, as having specific immediate emergency response protocols in place will increase your response time and ability to continue operations smoothly when catastrophe strikes.

Decide which services are essential for operation, if they can be conducted remotely or at reduced capacity, essential personnel who will continue operating and making decisions during a crisis, and other decisions that can be at least partially planned ahead of time.

Your immediate response plan should have specific actions assigned to individual team members. When planned well, your business continuity plan can ensure that, in the occurrence of an emergency, employees will be able to act decisively instead of questioning the next steps to take.

Disaster Impact Analysis

Once immediate processes are underway and your organization has gained some stability, you’ll need to evaluate the impact of the disaster.

Hopefully your risk assessment analysis will have prepared you for the areas that may be affected. Now you’ll need to go through each area and team to analyze how they were affected. Prioritizing recovery areas to be addressed will be essential in returning your business’s return to normal operations and productivity.

Recovery

Create a goal for your company’s recovery time and include specific stages that can be kept on schedule. This planning step will help speed your recovery, especially if there is reconstruction or reopenings that need to be conducted in stages.

Evaluation and Revision

Your plan is no good to anyone if it doesn’t work. That’s where evaluation and revision come in.

Although you could wait for a crisis to see how your plan works out, it’s a better idea to test and revise your plan before your company’s productivity depends on it. To whatever extent possible, you should test each process of the plan with each team. At the very least, team members should have the opportunity to review the plan and give feedback on how effectively the plan will address processes. Evaluate any issues that occur within the plan or new problems that arise that should be addressed within the plan, and revise accordingly.

Should you have a reason to use your business continuity plan, you should also evaluate once the catastrophe has passed.

We hope this checklist will help you be better prepared to respond quickly and weather the storm the next time disaster strikes.

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