Below is part 2 of our 6-part series aimed at helping you Stabilize your business where we focus on Business Continuity in this post. To read part 1 of the series, click here:
The CornerStone of Success for Stabilization
As mentioned in our previous post in this series, one of the cornerstones of stabilizing your business is focusing on business continuity. In this blog post, we will discuss what business continuity is, how to set up a business continuity program, and the benefits of business continuity.
What is Business Continuity?
Business continuity refers to the measures which your organization can put in place to ensure that it can continue to operate in the event of unexpected disruptions, such as natural disasters, power outages, or cyber-attacks. These measures include backup systems, disaster recovery plans, and business continuity plans.
The goal of business continuity is to minimize the impact of disruptions on the organization and ensure that critical business functions can continue to be carried out as smoothly as possible. This may involve switching to a backup system, relocating operations to a temporary location, or implementing contingency plans for key processes.
A sound business continuity plan is a comprehensive document that outlines the steps an organization should take to ensure the continuation of critical business functions during a disruption. Here are some key steps you can follow to implement a sound business continuity plan.
Identify and prioritize critical business functions.
Identify the functions critical to your organization’s success, and prioritize them based on their importance and impact on the business. Sometimes referred to as a business impact analysis, it can highlight the functions most critical to your organization’s success. Whether that is research and development, shipping your products, your systems for communicating with your customers, or anything else that provides revenue to your business and value to your markets.
Assess the risks and vulnerabilities.
Conduct a risk assessment to identify potential threats to your business, such as natural disasters, power outages, or cyber-attacks. Analyze the likelihood and impact of these risks and determine how to mitigate them.
Sometimes included in the business impact analysis, a risk assessment can help you to find and measure the impact on those critical areas of your business. The output of this risk assessment can help you understand where you will need to invest more resources for redundancy to reduce impact and recovery time for those critical areas of your business.
Develop response and recovery strategies.
Develop strategies to respond to and recover from disruptions based on your risk assessment. These strategies should include plans for maintaining essential functions, communicating with stakeholders, and returning to normal operations. Also known as a disaster recovery plan, this plan should inform all the essential players of how to recover from an impactful event so that critical functions can resume quickly to keep your business moving.
Create a business continuity plan document.
Document your business continuity plan clearly and concisely, including details on the critical functions, risks and vulnerabilities, and response and recovery strategies. Make sure to include contact information for key personnel and resources.
Also known as a business continuity management system, this system should be a collection of all the documents and procedures outlined thus far. Also want to make sure that people are appointed to maintain and coordinate this system whenever changes to the business processes, technology, or risk factors take place.
Test and maintain the plan.
Regularly test and update your business continuity plan at least annually to ensure it remains effective. Conduct drills and exercises to test the plan and identify any weaknesses that need to be addressed. This is one of the most critical pieces of a business continuity management system. Businesses change to keep up with customers, competitors, and market demand. With those changes, as outlined above, a business continuity management system must reflect and improve the efficacy of those changes in regard to stabilizing the entire organization.
Risks to consider when developing a Business Continuity Plan
When working with an IT Advisory or Consultancy, they will bring a comprehensive and extensive assessment to help you develop a thorough business continuity plan that considers a wide spectrum of risks. However, the following are some key areas to consider if you want to start thinking about this independently.
While it is impossible to account for every possibility, consider natural disasters that may be prone in your area or where business assets are located.
For example: if you live in an area that can often get impacted by hurricanes, consider the needs for your supply chain, technology infrastructure, backup power generation, etc.
Cyber Attacks and Data Breaches
Considered one of the most prominent and top-of-mind concerns for businesses today, consider what you will need to do to protect your organization, employees, and customers from bad actors and threats. Also, ensure you know what to do should a data breach occur and how to recover from this type of impact. This would also include an incident response plan and a system security plan to outline the processes from start to finish to satisfy your requirements of responding to a data breach or cyber attack.
Once considered “something beyond our control,” but with the COVID pandemic experience, we have learned quite a bit about what businesses need in place in the event of a future outbreak. This has led to organizations planning for remote work strategies, redundant supply chain models, automation, and introducing integrated technology solutions into their business operations. We have learned quite a bit through the COVID pandemic about what can go wrong, and sadly many businesses could not survive the storm.
Known as one of the most unpredictable and difficult to prevent, human error can occur at any time. The most likely factors contributing to human error are a lack of training, negligence, or carelessness. Not to be confused with an insider threat, which is the act of purposefully compromising a company from within as a trusted entity.
Considering how your employees are trained, safety certified, and communicated regularly about these precautions is just as important as introducing technology to help you alert or monitor key business areas.
It takes more than just technology for businesses to deliver their products to market. Telecommunications, internet, and electricity are examples of utilities that many businesses depend on and outages to these utilities can greatly impact their ability to operate. Furthermore, these utilities may support fixed assets such as refrigeration, ventilation, and environmental controls that with interruption may also impact the business.
For example: an ice cream shop’s entire business runs on technology; its product is stored and can only exist with refrigeration, its storefront requires a terminal for conducting sales, inventory management requires computers, and advertising and social outreach require the internet. Can an ice cream shop exist with a cash-only, paper-only managed environment without refrigeration? Or the use of any technology? Probably not.
If you think about it, it’s challenging to find any business today without the need for technology for it to exist or, in rare cases, it is ancillary for the company to be able to operate. Either way, you need technology.
Supply Chain Disruption
Businesses may depend on others and supply chain disruptions need to be factored into their business continuity plan. Where a wide-spread event may impact a particular industry or geography it can have downstream effects that span the globe. When the container ship Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal for six days in March of 2021 it impacted global trade and impacted the entire business ecosystem downstream from their shipping operation. Products spoiled onboard, shelves were empty in stores across North America and Europe, and delays of important components setback manufacturers for months due to a lack of parts that were on that ship, all told it is estimated that it froze nearly $10 billion in trade per day that it was stuck according to the New York Times. From that single event many businesses realized that supply chain disruptions can occur and without a business continuity plan in place, it can have devastating consequences.
Our digital world demands a Business Continuity Plan.
Some argue that with our world becoming ever more integrated and digitized, the risks discussed above have started to bleed into one another. These dependencies can manifest one incident to cause others to manifest, so while our world today is more resilient in some ways than say a hundred years ago it is also more integrated.
For example: imagine a Cyber Attack on the Electricity Provider in your community. The threat is a real possibility and it would impact many layers of a business’s capacity to operate; it may even affect the backup plans they had in their business continuity plan. We cannot account for all scenarios but we must realize how co-dependent we are in the integrated world of today.
There are other considerations, of course, such as political change, Regulatory Changes, Terror Attacks, etc. some of these considerations may have implications for one business while not so much for another. An airport will have particular concerns that perhaps an ice cream store may not, but needless to say, each has to consider what risks they have to take into account and create a business continuity plan that considers their needs.
How StrataNorth can help.
Are you thinking about investing in the stabilization of your small or mid-sized business? Do you have a Business Continuity strategy defined and the technology roadmap to get you there? Let us help you. We can help you go from an idea to execution. StrataNorth is an IT Advisory Consultancy. We help businesses of all sizes adopt the right technology to help them grow, work smarter and stabilize their business. Our consultants have decades of experience in the industry. We are cost-competitive and fiercely independent in our analysis.
If you are ready to transform your business’s operational efficiency and are looking for experts to guide you, StrataNorth has Security and Technology consultants with decades of experience. We can help you reach Operational Stability and give you a roadmap for success. Reach out for a no-cost, no-obligation chat with an IT Consultant or Security expert today.