Brand Strategy. Brand Energy.
The recent flooding in South Carolina reminded me that many businesses do not take the time to adequately plan and prepare for when there is a significant disruption to normal operations. This result should come as no surprise as disastrous interruptions have a low probability of occurring. But as Murphy’s Law states, if anything can go wrong, no matter how unlikely, it will. And the corollary is that Murphy was an optimist!
Events that can cause significant disruptions are not limited to rising waters. Disruption of operations can be caused by a wide variety of sources such as outages, security breaches, scandals, severe weather, etc.
Businesses that can rapidly recover from unplanned disasters have invested in proactive measures, consciously or not, to ensure continued operations of essential services until full operations can be restored. Simple examples include online storage of company information in the cloud, remote access to company servers, etc.
Being prepared to recover from a disaster is more than merely identifying the risk and developing a contingency plan. What needs to occur is proactively mitigating the effects of significant disruptions so that business operations can continue or resume as soon as possible, although potentially in a degraded fashion. The mitigation approach needs to specify the resources needed to ensure a minimal critical level of operations can continue if a significant disruption occurs, as well as identifying a) which operations cannot be disrupted and b) what other operations that can but for a limited amount of time.
Typically a disaster or disruption to business operations is a situation that involves an event or sequence of events that make it virtually impossible to conduct business as usual, e.g. rising flood waters, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, acts of terrorism, equipment malfunctions, etc. Moreover, to compound the problem, the business may only have a short period of time in which to recover and resume operations or severe financial issues will ensue.
Forewarned is forearmed. So being proactive involves developing, testing, and maintaining a continuity plan. Before this plan can be written, certain information must be identified:
Creating the continuity plan involves:
It is vital that the people assigned to perform the contingency procedures are trained on how to perform these activities. In addition, periodic tests of the continuity plan (e.g. fire drills) should be done to verify that the continuity plan will be effective in an actual emergency or significant disruption of operations. These drills or simulations also serve to identify necessary updates or improvements that will enable the business to reliably continue operations.
And since the only constant in life is change, the continuity plan needs to be kept current, meaning that it needs to be periodically reviewed and updated.
The resulting continuity plan has to meet the needs of the business. So the size and complexity of the plan is directly related to the size and nature of the business. The plan for a small family owned business will look very different from the plan for a Fortune 500 company.
Unfortunately, the majority of businesses only realize that they have neglected this essential capability in ensuring business operations after disaster strikes. If your business is in this category, take immediate action to mitigate the next time a disruption occurs. Otherwise, be proactive and take the necessary mitigation steps today.
Henry Schneider is the owner and principal consultant for PPQC, a small elite, highly specialized consulting company that rapidly delivers analysis and tailors solutions to maximize an organization’s earning potential. We help companies strike the balance between people, process, and tools by leveraging extensive experience across more than a dozen industry sectors.