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Business continuity

Photo of the power station at GrainBusinesses need to think about the effects on their customers and business if their building was to catch fire. What if a neighbouring building suffered a major fire that resulted in a business having no access to its offices for days or possibly weeks? What might be the effects be of:

  • a fuel shortage
  • communications failure
  • loss of power
  • severe weather conditions
  • floods

Any short interruption to normal business can have a disproportionate effect, halting output and letting customers down. All of these events could have an impact on the survival of a business. If it is unable to satisfy its customers’ needs, how confident is it that they will wait for the business to recover? Providing information quickly may help to stop worry and rumours.

How can a business keep in touch with its:

  • customers
  • suppliers

Being prepared does not need to be complicated and cover every eventuality or every business process, just those that are most critical. It is essential to keep staff informed about the emergency and the response being made.

They may be concerned about:

  • what is expected of them
  • whether they should they turn up for work on the following day
  • whether there will still be a job for them if the building has gone up in smoke.

Employers should consider:

  • issuing a help line number for staff to call
  • an announcement on local radio
  • a phone call to all staff

What is Business Continuity Management (BCM)?

This is a complete process that:

  • identifies, in advance, potential risks and impacts of a wide variety of sudden disruptions that could threaten a business
  • enables a business to prioritise the efforts of the members of its workforce aiming to achieve resilience in their areas of expertise, such as telecommunications, security, facilities and information technology
  • makes a business look at how to survive significant losses of resources, such as staff or equipment
  • provides a business with the knowledge to respond effectively in a crisis to safeguard the interests of key stakeholders, partners, reputation and employees
  • builds resilience into the business by providing a framework for the response to an emergency.

What are the aims of BCM?

  • The ultimate aim is to keep businesses running
  • It also aims to help develop business-wide resilience, allowing a business to survive the loss of part or all of its operational capability.

What are the implications of not having a business continuity plan?

While it may be possible to calculate the financial losses of disruption, other significant effects are usually:

  • damaged reputation
  • a loss of trust that results from a mismanaged incident
  • loss of work to competitors
  • exposure to failures in the supply chain
  • higher insurance premiums
  • difficulties in absorbing the financial impact, making it harder to recover, even after returning to normal operations
  • evidence that senior management is not taking responsibility for the long-term interests of staff, customers and all those who depend on the organisation in some way.

No business is too small to have a business continuity plan

  • No matter what the size of a business, it is important to have a plan in place
  • Any incident, no matter how small, is capable of affecting business and profitability
  • For small businesses, the impact of the potential risks mentioned above is likely to be more destructive, as the majority operate in specialised markets.

How to start on a plan:

  • Step 1 - analyse the business
  • Step 2 - assess the risks
  • Step 3 - develop the strategy
  • Step 4 - develop and keep developing the plan
  • Step 5 - rehearse and train the staff.

Find out more about the five steps towards formulating a business continuity plan.

Where to find further information