Business Continuity

Business continuity is all about preparation. It is a way of ensuring that your firm will never be caught out by an unexpected event or circumstance, and if it does, that it can bounce back. Contingency planning and disaster recovery have played a vital role in businesses of all sizes since the early 1990s, and a number of global guidelines and regulations have been introduced to help make business continuity the norm. After all, if a business can’t continue, it can’t make money.

But what exactly does it involve?

There are many ways to interpret business continuity, depending on the scale of your business and the risk of future crises.

Business continuity for small businesses: start small. Get each employee to make a list of the key functions that they perform over a 48-hour period. This means that in the event that one person is incapacitated, another member of staff will know exactly what needs to be done in their absence.

Next, get each employee to detail the resources which they need to carry out their job effectively. This could be anything from a company car, to a phone, or even just access to a computer. Once you have identified your key resources, come up with alternatives to each one. For instance, if the company car breaks down, you would have access to a hire company or car service to ensure the continuity of that task.

Then think about your biggest resources: your office, your equipment, or your data, for instance. If you can’t use your office, can some staff work from home? Or is there an alternative site which could be used in an emergency? If your equipment breaks down, how quickly could it be fixed? And is there an adequate replacement available at short notice? And if your data is lost or corrupted, do you have it backed up in a safe place?

Finally, make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage and carry out regular simulations and spot checks to ensure that everyone is equipped to carry on working to the best of their ability despite any interruptions to the business.

Business continuity for large businesses: the larger a business is, the more difficult it is to implement continuity strategies from the ground up. Instead, you will need to take a ‘top-down’ approach. This will probably involve hiring an outside expert who can fully assess the risks within your business, and make suggestions on how to protect against them.

The largest businesses may even implement a full business continuity management system, which is constantly monitored and updated to the highest standards.

A good guideline for large businesses is the ISO22301 plan, which was launched in the US and the UK in May 2012. ISO-standard business continuity follows the ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ model by spelling out the requirements for any business continuity management system in an effort to keep businesses moving and reduce income loss due to unforeseen events.

Regardless of the size or function of your company, some form of contingency planning is absolutely essential. By auditing your business continuity at regular intervals, you can stay on top of any emerging threats or new issues which might impact on your company’s future, and avoid being caught unawares.

Read more about business continuity in this section.