Kenny Natiss is the Founder of The LCO Group in New York and a noted expert in disaster mitigation. Below Mr. Natiss discusses the fundamentals of and the need for business continuity plans regardless of business model.
All companies require some form of business continuity to remain intact during challenging situations. Business continuity ensures that your organization appropriately responds and adapts to any disruptions in service. It is a vital part of continued operations, no matter the industry.
Why is Business Continuity Necessary?
Service disruptions can happen in any industry and at any time. Let’s take the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. Before the pandemic’s onset, businesses in and around the U.S. were enjoying prolonged growth periods and generally stable markets. Once the pandemic hit, businesses were suddenly stalled, converted to remote operations, or – for those without business continuity – shut down permanently.
Other examples of service disruptions may be caused by the following.
- Cyber security attacks
- Floods or other natural disasters
- Global pandemics
- Financial recessions or depressions
- Losing key employees
- Workplace violence
- Utility outages
- Supply chain failures
Companies and organizations with business continuity plans that are well-understood by IT staff and management are prepared for any emergency, displaying resistance to adversity. They are the businesses that can overcome challenges to both move forward and continue growing.
Business Continuity Guiding Principles
When establishing business continuity, you’ll need to develop a business continuity plan (BCP) to address potential emergencies. As any business owner knows, there are hundreds of facets to running a business – leaving one stone unturned could be enough to overturn an entire enterprise. Here are some of the guiding principles to get you thinking about what to include in your own BCP.
1. Customer Communication
If disruptions cost businesses their customers, then those businesses are just offices wasting money. During emergencies, communicating with your customers is key to keeping your client base in the know and onboard. Your BCP should include the protocols of who will communicate to your customers, which channel of communication will be used, and what will be said.
2. Delivering Products and Services
If you experience a disruption in service, one of your priorities needs to be how you can get your product or service back in the hands of your customer. Kenny Natiss says to develop a strategy or alternative methods of receiving and delivering goods to your customers should your original method prove flawed.
3. General Support
Emergencies are known to produce panic and fear. Delegate a leader or group of leaders to provide support to both customers and employees alike during these emergencies. Providing comfort and helpful answers will ensure that everyone continues to trust in your business through the emergency and beyond.
4. Technology Recovery
Kenny Natiss has seen first-hand that most major disruptions in service are related to technology. Backing up your data is foundational in a BCP, as well as establishing a strong cybersecurity system. If you experience technological malfunctions, have a protocol in place for how your business will move forward while reestablishing connection.
5. Relocating Activity
As many saw during the pandemic, a thorough BCP should include remote work protocols if employees are unable to get to the office. Ensure employees have access to work-from-home systems and technology before they need it.
6. Documentation and Implementation Practices
All of your protocols, strategies, and plans should be neatly documented in your BCP. This document should be shared with all key employees who may be affected during a service disruption. Update your BCP at least annually, and have professionals review it for gaps or oversights.
Developing a Business Continuity Plan
Each BCP should include all of the guiding principles above, described under four main domains.
- Program administration
- IT Disaster Recovery
- Crisis Management
- Business Recovery
Each BCP should also be created and implemented through a business continuity team. This team will consist of the employees responsible for implementing and managing a BCP during a crisis. This may include a business continuity manager, administrative assistant, IT representative, etc.
The first step to developing a BCP, according to Kenny Natiss, is assessing the business and possible crises. The BCP team will analyze what is critical to your business and the possible threats to critical processes.
After documenting these processes and risks, the BCP team will begin to form responses to each risk. These can include simple checklists to follow during an emergency but should be covered more in-depth in the final BCP.
There are a few common mistakes you will want to avoid when creating your first BCP.
- Ideas instead of plans: Having an idea of how you will face an emergency sounds good, but all too often ideas sound better than they work. Test your idea and research to see if it has worked with other businesses and BCPs. Document it and have your colleagues revise it wherever necessary.
- Perfection over functionality: A BCP will never be perfect because humans have not yet figured out how to accurately predict the future. Focus on efficiency and completing your BCP above perfection.
- Lacking insight: Other businesses and business owners are sure to have more experience in developing and implementing BCPs. Asking for guidance is ideal, if not necessary, to make sure your BCP is accurate.
Following a Business Continuity Plan
Kenny Natiss explains that to have business continuity you must not only have a BCP but solid buy-in from key personnel and the ability to follow it when a crisis occurs. Protocols without follow-through are like businesses without employees – useless. Make sure you and your employees are prepared and ready to use your BCP when the time comes, and your business is sure to come out of the emergency stronger than ever.