Business Continuity

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.