Why Your Perception of Business Continuity Plans Could Ruin Your Business

September 9, 2014 at 2:17 pm Leave a comment

In a newly released report outlining facility management perspectives on emergency preparedness and business continuity in North America, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and RLE Technologies discovered that nearly one in five (19 percent) surveyed organizations do not have an up-to-date emergency preparedness/business continuity plan.

That only 19 percent of surveyed organizations did not have an up-to-date emergency preparedness/business continuity plan is only more shocking considering the catastrophically high cost that an unforeseen emergency can incur — including the possibility of total business failure.

“Small businesses generally do not have the financial resources to sustain the ‘business’ of their business. An extended outage that could result from a flood or fire or some other type of catastrophic event will destroy their business,” Francis A. Covington, chief marketing officer with Continuity Dynamics Inc., tells Raising the HR Bar. Consider it this way: “You’ve spent years building a clientele that relies on your product or services to enhance their quality of life. For each day your business is closed, you have customers that need what you offer and are forced to go to your competition because your business is unavailable.”

So how do you reduce the time your business is closed following such a catastrophe? The IFMA study suggests that the 81 percent of organizations with an up-to-date plan are “not only able to handle identified risks, but they are also more resilient when recovering from unplanned events.”

“When people think of business emergency preparedness plans, they tend to imagine massive newsworthy catastrophes like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, bombings and shootings,” commented Tony Keane, president and CEO of IFMA, in a news release on the report, titled “High Stakes Business: People, Property and Services.” Keane added, “These events are certainly significant in their scope, but for most organizations the bulk of business interruption risk actually comes from more mundane threats like a leaking or bursting pipe, an internet access outage, or a power outage caused by an external event. The difference between bouncing back with minimal disruption or costly, long-term damage is often the plan that was in place long before the disaster occurred.”

Covington agrees. “Without a plan it could take you weeks or months to restore your business. With a plan, you could reduce that time by as much as 90 percent,” he says.

Covington suggests thinking of a continuity plan in this way: “Most people go to the same doctor because they trust him, but you generally only go when something is wrong and you need immediate care. If that care was suddenly unavailable, you would immediately turn to somewhere else. This same story can be told of virtually any small business. Gartner reports that 76 percent of all businesses that experience a major catastrophic event with go out of business within 90 days. Thus, you must have a plan to protect the business of your business.”

While HR pros may prefer to manage people, facility management can be among the numerous other hats worn by HR managers of small businesses. So how do you keep business running as usual when circumstances are anything but typical?

IFMA advises considering the following 10 areas for developing or updating your emergency preparedness/business continuity plans:

  1. Define Roles – Determine who is responsible for the formation and execution of the plan.
  2. Define Mission-Critical Functions – Prioritize functions so you can determine which to dedicate resources to protecting and which to address first in the case of a failure.
  3. Define Risks – Assess vulnerabilities, especially to mission-critical functions, and determine their likelihood.
  4. Calculate Costs – Estimate the cost of down-time as well as the cost of preparation and planning.
  5. Monitor – Utilize manpower and technology to catch disasters before they occur.
  6. Communicate – Make sure your post-emergency communications plan is resilient.
  7. Test – Ensure the elements of your plan are in good working order.
  8. Practice – When possible, conduct live drills and tabletop exercises.
  9. Adapt & Adjust – A plan should be an organic thing, not something you write and file. Make regular adjustments based on testing, practice and changing situations and priorities.
  10. Crowd Source – Develop a network of strategic partners that you can go to for advice when disaster strikes.

Covington offers an additional suggestion. “My best advice is to do something,” he says. One good place to start? “Start with making sure that you have at least a good off-site back solution for your company computers. Remember, the IRS does not care if your receipts burned up in a fire. However, if you have those receipts scanned and on a remote backup server, you have a readily available alternative.”

An investment in a continuity plan can become an insurance policy of sorts for the very life of your business.

As Nick Bettis, director of marketing for RLE Technologies, comments, “Every organization from 10 to 10,000 or more employees needs to consider what can and will happen when threats to up-time arise. Far too many organizational leaders think it will never happen to them. They are wrong.”

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