Do You Need a Business Continuity Plan?

Does your company have a business continuity plan (BCP)? If it doesn't, it should. A business continuity plan is simply a strategy that helps ensure your company will be able to respond to a disaster or other event that would normally interrupt the flow of work – a flood, a hurricane or other natural disaster, or a power failure that results in loss of telecommunications or Internet connectivity, for example.

Some businesses – for instance, healthcare facilities – make business continuity planning a priority; in fact, many hospitals are required by their boards to develop plans and keep them updated on a regular basis. They make sure they have contingencies in place that can help tide them over until power is restored, roads are cleared or they can otherwise resume “business as normal.”

But many SMBs don't bother to develop continuity plans at all, at least not beyond a vague idea of what they would do under such extreme circumstances. If that sounds like your business – or if you've thought about developing a BCP but have no idea where to start – here are a few quick tips:

Start by forming a team to build your plan. The team should include key decision-makers who can solicit input from every department in your company to make sure the plan is comprehensive and responsive.

Then, brainstorm to identify the potential events and risks. Events include things like power outages, major storms, accidents, cyber-attacks, service sector failure – basically anything that could interrupt your workflow.

Next, identify critical resources that need to be maintained. These are resources that are necessary for the continued functioning of your business. Prioritize resources in order of importance so you can determine where your post-disaster efforts should be focused.

Develop mitigation plans. This is the “meat and potatoes” of your BCP, and includes things like communications, resource management, emergency response and public relations.

Finally, to be sure your plan remains responsive, revisit it frequently with your team members to fine-tune it, especially as equipment and other resources are added to your company, or removed from it.

Having a BCP in place helps ensure your business can weather virtually any storm – literally -  while minimizing loss and other impact that could otherwise wind up crippling your business. If you don't have a BCP, make it a priority to develop one; and if you do have one, make sure it's up-to-date and relevant.

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