American novelist Thomas Berger once mused that, “the art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” The quest for answers, searching beyond the surface and challenging currently accepted assumptions, provokes greater understanding and wisdom in any aspect of life…even in developing business continuity plans (BCPs).
To build a robust, full actionable plan, you must ask questions and consider what is missing or needs to be refined. To help your organization develop the most successful program, we’ve gathered five important questions to pollinate your plans.
7 Questions You Ask to Develop Strong Business Continuity Plans
1. What are your company’s critical functions?
You cannot begin to build your plan without understanding what processes and operations most impact your ability to conduct business and maintain services without incurring damage and loss.
2. What are your chief products and services?
What products or services would induce significant revenue or customer loss if they were undeliverable for a certain period of time? Knowing this information helps you better focus your efforts.
3. What risks are your organization most likely to encounter based on your geographical location?
Is your home office located in a flood-prone valley? Does your third-party vendor dwell in the snow-packed northern country? Are several of your satellite locations populating regions extreme heat inflicts power outages? Consider your unique weather patterns and other geographical influences on your facilities.
That’s not to say that organizations in, say, Washington state shouldn’t prepare for a tornado because it’s ‘unlikely.’ But, when your enterprise or supply chain resides in an area prone to particular business-disrupting weather events, preparation is critical. Are employees prepared to address internet outages due to loss of power? What will you do if 90 percent of your workforce is unable to make it onsite due to heavy snowfall? What if an earthquake renders your office uninhabitable?
Think it through and prepare for it.
4. Do you have backup for crucial job functions and incident response tasks?
Only in a perfect world would employees never get sick or go on vacation. What if your office gets hit by the latest stomach virus and your entire accounting department is out sick? Do you have another employee who can get payroll completed in time? Or what if top-management – which includes key incident responders – is visiting a conference when a crisis hits? Do you have other personnel who can step in and handle the situation appropriately?
5. Can you avoid disruption of service when key locations are closed?
Situations of any severity can cause a site closure – from something as devastating and destructive as a tornado hit to something as benign as a national holiday. Will you have enough product in stock if your manufacturing facility is closed? Do you have an alternate work site if your office is flooded? Do you have an emergency communication plans to reach employees?
6. Do you have backups of all important data?
If you do possess backups, when was the time they were updated? Failing to keep current backups of vital data plagues many enterprises. A backup made even a year ago may be obsolete or lack critical information at the very least. Also, are those backups kept on a separate server or locations from the originals? Storing backup data in the same location as the original defeats the purpose.
7. Can you be certain your plan is without vulnerabilities?
Do all employees know their role? Are all staff aware of the plan and, at least superficially, of its processes and procedures? In what amount of time can you actually respond and recover as opposed to what you’ve proposed on paper? What if one of your intended processes fails? These kinds of questions must be answered to ensure success. And these answers can be found by testing your plan.
This of course, is not a fully comprehensive list, but it should get you started thinking about what’s important. Don’t settle for templated plans, think about your unique organization, what threats are most likely to surface, and what you need to do to recovery quickly avoid disruptions.