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Are You Ready for Disaster

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John Norton - Expert Author

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12 Dec 2012

Business Continuity

What would happen to your business if a digger went through your telephone connection, your premises were damaged by fire, or your warehouse manager was injured in a car crash? You may give some off-pat answers to those questions and some or all of them may actually work if the worst happened, but all too often when the chips were down you find that many of the emergency solutions thrown together when problems occur donít actually work well enough to save your business from substantial disruption or even eventual closure!

Business Continuity Planning or Disaster Planning is the process of developing, testing, training and reviewing plans which help a business to keep functioning in the event of a problem disrupting access to normal systems, processes, staff or premises.

All too often business continuity plans are poorly developed, often focusing almost exclusively on IT systems, are not tested, not disseminated and trained, or are left unreviewed and unrevised for many years.

To start the process have a brainstorming session with staff to think about all the things which could go wrong, possible alternative scenarios and potential problems with those also. For instance if a digger goes through your telephone cables people will often say ďweíll use mobilesĒ. Well how good is the signal? What is the cell capacity? How do customers ring in? Do your staff mind using their mobiles? What about your broadband connection?

The list of possible disasters and their consequences will vary from business to business but some generic areas are:

  • loss of key staff members Ė including the managers/owners
  • loss of access to key premises
  • loss of access to key processes, systems and documentation
  • loss of access to business materials (eg stock)

For each area which you have identified and discussed in your brainstorming session you should develop a workable solution. Depending upon your business and the scenarios you have come up with you will have to make a decision on how big the likelihood of a particular event occurring is and the cost of preparing an alternative. Remember though that the future of your business is on the line so donít discount everything on grounds of cost.

Having developed your plan and put it into place test that it works. You donít need to dig up that phone cable, but you could pick a quieter time or a weekend to turn off the phone and see if your alternative plan works. I can tell you from personal experience that these tests will highlight areas where things donít quite work how you thought they would and adjustments will need to be made.

Once everything has been tested properly make sure all your staff know of the existence of the plan, are trained in the bits they need to be part of, and that everyone has access to the full plan documentation in normal times AND when a disaster is occurring. That may involve printed copies or a separately hosted disaster intranet for use from mobiles, or some other method.

Once thatís done itís tempting to tick the box and move on. Donít. Review, test and retrain the plan at regular intervals. Remember to update it when procedures or key staff change.

Lastly a word about responsibilities. Make one senior manager responsible for putting the plan into action if needed, but make sure they have two fully responsible deputies. Remember any one of these may be a victim of the disaster. The first and most critical part of your Continuity Plan is to make sure everyone in the company and key customers and suppliers know whatís going on. Develop a communication cascade enabling lots of people to be kept up to date quickly.

Business Continuity Planning is one of those areas which small businesses will often ignore because they lack the time, staff or money to put plans into effect. Ironically itís smaller businesses which are most likely to be affected by typical disruptions. Please donít delay, make a start today, however small it may be. Get outside help if needed. Tomorrow may be too late. Good Luck!


About the Author

John Norton, is a senior business and finance professional with a big four, blue chip, software and technology background, and board level leadership experience in finance, IT, operations, customer service and general management.

He is owner of No Worry Web, which creates and manages small business web sites and social media presence, for an all-inclusive monthly fee. For further details see www.noworryweb.co.uk or call 0845 5191 275.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-07-05 09:10:19 in Business Articles

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