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Business Continuity Plans need connection if they are to succeed in managing a disruptive event. The benefits of good business continuity planning have been self-evident over the past 12 months. Organisations that have good Business Continuity Planning systems in place have been successful in both managing and adapting to the changing operating environment resulting from the COVID pandemic.
They’ve done this by having a thorough knowledge of the critical elements of their business both internally and externally. The importance of recognising and working with suppliers and customers in the formulation and exercising of Business Continuity Plans cannot be overstated. The organisations that have flourished during these challenging times have been agile and had alternate solutions in place, practised and ready to go.
Businesses that have treated Business Continuity as more than a process have been the businesses that have been successful. Organisations that have gone beyond simply applying a template approach and instead produced a business continuity plan developed with input from all areas of their business, are the ones that have thrived.
The importance of organisational interdependencies is key. It is the vital piece of the business continuity jigsaw, the adhesive that gives life and meaning to a Business Continuity Plan.
There is little meaning, and a low probability of success in the deployment of a Business Continuity Plan, if it has not been built by the very business units that will be impacted by the disruption. If there isn’t this symbiosis with the relationships and the connections across the entire organisation, then the implementation of any plan will be fraught and doomed to fail from the outset.
Business Continuity Planning is a whole of organisation requirement. It may well be the case a single person or a business unit is accountable for the development, exercising, updating and implementation of a plan, however, other business units with particular responsibilities enabling continuity of services must support the accountable business unit. Therefore, there will always be other areas within an organisation that should be consulted and informed on aspects of the business continuity planning process. The input of a greater diversity of corporate knowledge leads to best practice solutions.
A siloed approach in developing business continuity plans denies an organisation the ability to use all of its intellectual and corporate knowledge to deliver optimal solutions. It also reinforces and perpetuates an unhealthy culture. The idea of business divisions operating independently and avoiding knowledge sharing is not a foreign notion. These limitations can be overcome through leadership, governance and systems.
The leadership of an organisation has the accountability to ensure the organisational goals are clearly spelt out and communicated to avoid any ambiguity and avoid teams making their own interpretations and defining what the organisational goals are. This is but one key action leadership can enact to promote a ‘joined-up’ approach.
The governance around business continuity planning is another lever that is important because of the high stakes and consequences associated with getting business continuity right. Governance mechanisms are critical to ensure the right outcomes are achieved. Some suggestions of good governance practice include, involving boards and board sub-committees in the development and exercising of these plans; regular discussions, exercising and reporting on performance associated with business continuity planning; reward and recognition programs for good performance and the engagement of an external body to provide independent assurance of the process and product.
Finally, the systems an organisation has in place to guide the conduct of the preparation, readiness, response and review of a business continuity plan are another important aspect. An organisation must have clear policies, standards, processes and procedures in place to ensure its systems are robust and clear to all.
Business continuity planning is a wise investment in managing organisational risk and Nuffield Group encourages all organisations to take the time to reflect on how their business is placed to manage a disruption.
So, you want to future proof your business to maximise a successful recovery in the event of an emergency or crisis. Where do you start?
Nuffield Group provides Emergency and Crisis Management services to its customers and one area we focus heavily on is the importance of planning for disruption from a wide range of natural and man-made causes.
Emergency Management is essentially made up of four pillars;
The first three pillars are generally understood. There are many examples of activities around planning prevention, preparing response, and responding to an emergency event. Most organisations undertake these three pillars in order to meet health, safety and environmental compliance as part of good governance programmes. However, the fourth pillar, recovery, is often seen as an outlier – something to tackle only when it is time to recover.
Governments and agencies have been developing their thinking about what makes for a good recovery and many have produced recovery frameworks based on key take-outs from actual emergency events.
What enabling factors assist a business in preparing recovery plans?
At the centre of every emergency event are people; Generally, these are your employees, contractors, shareholders, stakeholders, customers and community members who have varying levels of dependence on your organisation. All of these groups face consequences as the result of an emergency event impacting your organisation and some of these impacts can be very deep, affecting their lives, health and livelihoods.
Recovery is about alleviating the negative impacts of an emergency event on a business by enabling the people and removing any and all uncertainty. Through enabling, the organisation and those people impacted can collectively commence to rebuild, restore and resume a level of normality to their operations and their lives.
The question of how to activate enablers is a complex one and depends on many factors such as business values, priorities, strengths and weaknesses, leadership and history. But experienced emergency managers subscribe to six key principles of recovery:
Principles of recovery:
1. Understand the context
Successful recovery is based on an understanding of the business’ operating environment and requires adaptability.
2. Recognise complexity
Successful recovery is responsive to the complex and dynamic nature of the emergency and the business.
3. Use business led approaches
Successful recovery is business-centric, responsive and flexible, engaging with all stakeholders to move forward.
4. Coordinate all activities
Successful recovery requires a planned, coordinated and adaptive approach, between businesses and stakeholders, based on continuing assessment of impacts and needs.
5. Communicate effectively
Successful recovery is built on effective communication with and between all affected stakeholder groups.
6. Recognise and build capacity
Successful recovery recognises, supports, and builds on individual and organisational capacity and resilience. The capacity needs of a business are assessed and integrated with other risk management practices adopted by an organisation. Recovery management is a key element of any business’s risk management framework.
What does this mean for your business?
These six principles apply equally in your business as they will provide your organisation with the resilience it requires to manage the shocks and stresses an organisation will often face in an emergency event.
Establishing likely emergency scenarios on your business’s risk matrix can assist to inform your recovery plans ahead of time and help build your business continuity plan.
Above all else remember, recovery is not an afterthought.
Nuffield Group provides consultancy and advisory services and also has an online platform, GNTX, for the exchange of non-competitive information and tools allowing businesses to share, download and modify frameworks and documents for their own use. Find out more about GNTX here.