No business is immune to disruption. Organizations across industries are at risk for cyberattacks, natural disasters, workplace violence, supply chain interruptions, mechanical failures and countless other disturbances. Disruptions are often more than a mild inconvenience because the cost of not having a business continuity plan is significant, and often entails long-lasting damage to brand reputation.
Disruptions don’t need to turn into crises when you have an effective business continuity plan (BCP) in place. If your organization is looking to create or revamp its BCP, be sure to avoid these five common pitfalls.
1. Not Having a Proactive Plan
If an organization doesn’t plan for critical events, a reactive response to disruption can turn a minor incident into a full-blown crisis. An effective business continuity plan enables organizations to proactively avoid and mitigate disruption. When there’s a clear plan of action in place, organizations can continue operating throughout nearly any emergency.
If your organization doesn’t already have a BCP in place, the first step is to form a planning team to consider a range of scenarios and strategize action plans for each. After a series of planning sessions, your team should recommend tools and procedures to help your organization continue functioning during a disaster.
To ensure a proactive response, immediately implement supportive systems, especially critical communications, emergency supplier contracts and emergency stockpiles.
The plan should include an alternate workplace in case of a natural disaster or building hazard, as well as a way to backup any company data. Make sure the plan is digitally accessible to all relevant stakeholders so everyone can access the plan during an emergency.
2. Not Including All Relevant Stakeholders
Organizations too often forget to consider all stakeholders when developing a business continuity plan. For example, you may have a way to alert employees about an emergency, but have you considered how to alert customers, clients and guests who happen to be on the premises when an incident occurs?
Organizations should make an effort to avoid business continuity plan assumptions and instead include a range of perspectives during both the planning and implementation stages. Representatives from all major business functions should be involved, and all stakeholders should be considered. If you’re a governmental or community-facing organization, don’t forget about low-income and underserved populations, who are too often overlooked when disaster strikes.
3. Not Using Data to Drive Decision-Making and Planning
Disaster and business continuity planning without data is a bit like driving blind. If you’re not using accurate and up-to-date information to guide your planning and decisions, you’re much more likely to make dangerous assumptions. Access to accurate and comprehensive data can help avoid assumptions in the planning process so your team can create a business continuity plan based on reality.
To improve decision-making immediately before and during an emergency, your system should provide a visual display of the location of the incident, the severity of threats and their proximity to people and company assets.
4. Not Utilizing Artificial Intelligence
It’s become nearly impossible for personnel to monitor threats without the help of artificial intelligence (AI). AI-powered risk intelligence enables teams to track tens of thousands of data sources and sift through the noise to pinpoint relevant threats to an organization. This technology can monitor local, national and global news sources, government alert systems, weather reports and other online data, and then cross-check the information for accuracy. By doing so, AI saves time for security teams and enables core personnel to focus on higher-level tasks, strategize thoughtfully and address threats earlier.
5. Not Testing and Reevaluating on a Regular Basis
One common example of business continuity failures is a lack of testing. Without it, you don’t know if your plan and systems will work under pressure or in real-life situations. Business continuity plans should be tested and evaluated regularly, at least once a year. Conducting walkthroughs of various emergency scenarios will allow your team to develop muscle memory for how to react during a disruption. If the first time your team carries out a plan is during an emergency, there’s a chance someone will panic and forget best practices.
A two-way critical communications system is crucial. Make sure to test it well in advance to ensure all stakeholders are receiving alerts and can utilize the response option to mark themselves safe or ask for help. In the test message, ask everyone to respond to verify they’ve gotten the message and incentivize personnel to sign up for alerts.
Every year or immediately following an emergency or disruption, your team should evaluate their response and make any necessary changes to the business continuity plan. Review reporting data to see who received emergency alerts and on what devices to analyze the effectiveness of the system. If you find messages aren’t reaching everyone, encourage stakeholders to update their contact information in the self-registration portal. Communication is essential during a disruption or emergency, and your business continuity plan will be completely ineffective without it.
Strengthening Resilience Every Day
From massive wildfires and global pandemics to active shooters and cyber threats, organizations in today’s world have to be prepared for anything. When you give disaster and business continuity planning the time and attention it deserves, you’re able to survive unplanned events and even bolster your reputation and set an example for other companies in the process. Organizational resilience becomes achievable.
Discover how your organization can better prepare for anything in the ebook, "Critical Event Management 101 for Business Continuity Leaders."