You can’t plan for everything. Even with an excellent business continuity plan in place, some decisions will need to be made along the way. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a plan. You do. And there are some best practices you should follow when making a business continuity plan that won’t change.
Develop structured teams
Business continuity takes a team with an established hierarchy. An established hierarchy ensures everyone knows who’s responsible for making decisions when the time comes. Make sure everyone knows what role each member of the team is taking on so everything is covered without repeats or team members working against each other, even if they’re out of touch.
Don’t stop at one team. Business continuity requires a lot of pieces working together. Having a core business continuity team in place that includes employees from throughout the organization like IT, public relations, communications, finance, executive leaders, physical security, etc. ensures you will be able to find the right partners who can be responsible for the heavy lifting in your business continuity plan. In addition to the core team, establish support teams that each member of the core team can reach out to for more specialized help with their responsibilities.
Make a business continuity plan
You’ve got your teams in place and that’s a great start, but they need to know what to do; you still need a business continuity plan. Identify and prioritize risks. Consider worst-case scenarios and create plans based on them, but be sure you include steps that work if the worst doesn’t strike. Prioritize your plan, keep it up to date, distribute it and test it.
Keep in mind, the most effective plans are both thorough and simple.
Practice your business continuity plan
When we talk about testing a business continuity plan, that means running through it with emergency simulations. A plan that looks great on paper might be useless in an actual emergency; you’ll want to know what needs improving before that emergency strikes. Get creative with your business continuity training exercises. Include all the important personnel in the training; will your new employees know what to do? They’d better.
Establish communication procedures
You won’t want just anyone talking to the press while your business continuity team is working to mitigate damage. You need a plan for communicating internally and externally during a crisis to keep everyone safe and up-to-date while also managing your public image.
Make a list including all who needs to be communicated with: vendors, stakeholders, employees, press. Establish a communications team to handle clear messaging to all. Preparing easy to fill in templates that can be distributed quickly for certain communications in advance wouldn’t hurt either.
Your organization might have a perfect business continuity plan that covers every imaginable risk, but if no one knows about it or what is expected of them should it need to be put into practice, it won’t do any good. Communicate regularly about your plan and expectations for everyone who is part of it.
Offer training if necessary, conduct drills, and make sure everyone is aware of procedures.
When and why you need to put a business continuity plan into action is not necessarily predictable, but establishing a plan with these best practices in mind will mean you’re as prepared as possible to execute it successfully.