For more information on business continuity management and organisational resilience, please see other mistofmanagement.net articles on business resilience and continuity planning, including:
- What is Business Continuity? An introduction to Business Continuity as a concept and programme of work
- Preparing your business for emergencies and disruption – key tips and ideas for improving the resilience of any business or organisation for disruption and emergencies
- What is Organisational Resilience? – an exploration of ‘organisational resilience’ as a concept and how it complements Business Continuity Planning
- Free Business Continuity Plan template (BCP) – A free template BCP and general advice for any organisation seeking to develop a Business Continuity Plan
(I started this article in February, just as the Coronavirus was gaining a foothold in Europe to share some basic good practice on preparing businesses for disruption. Better late than never).
Keep it simple
Resilience that complements, not duplicates or imposes
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not more so.”Don’t make resilience complicated, keep it simple and make it work for you. Too often I’ve seen resilience consultants impose new and separate reporting structures, introduce new technical language, sell complex business continuity management IT systems and seek to make organisations act in ways that are alien to them and their cultures. The most effective approach is to build resilience into your business so that works for the organisation and its culture. Resilience should complement what you do, not duplicate or impose on it. If your organisation has management practices and structures that work for you, stick to them. Use what’s familiar, just support it to adjust to the urgency of an emergency situation. Larger, more complex organisation will need more thorough preparations, so don’t leave it too late.
(Albert Einstein, 1916)
Preparation is in the planning, not necessarily the planThe most important element in preparing for emergencies is in the planning – not necessarily the plan itself. Bringing people together, discussing what could happen and how you’d deal with it and practising. The plan is the cherry on top; the value is in initiating the conversation, and then keeping it going.
Get to know your business
Identify your ‘critical functions’ and ‘single points of failure’Critical functions are the processes that are essential to your business’ continued operation. In simplest terms, if you stopped doing these things your business would go bust. Often, you’ll know what these are immediately. If you don’t, this can be a helpful exercise to streamline your business and help you understand what’s really important to it. Examples may include:
- paying bills
- creating a specific product
- providing a certain expert service
- communicating via a particular medium, like a website (or blog)
- maintaining a reputation with specific customers or groups
- paying your staff
- providing accurate answers to enquiries from the public
- paying grants to community groups and charities on time
- maintaining and updating the website and social media every day
- ensuring their call-centre remains operational with acceptable waiting times
- paying staff on time)
Core infrastructure – the backbone of your businessYour core infrastructure is the backbone of your business – such as Facilities, IT, HR, Finance – they touch all parts of your organisation. If these fail your business will most probably fail unless you can get them back fast enough; so they’re a good place to start if you want to build resilience.
- People – you, your co-workers, managers, staff. Particularly susceptible to sickness, transport disruption, weather and civil disturbance related incidents
- Place – the places you work, meet, engage with clients, store your equipment and inventory. Directly susceptible to physical damage (fires, floods), water leaks, lost keys, power failures, criminal activity, or indirectly through anything that denies you access, like police cordons, gas leaks, or just really bad traffic
- Money – Cash flow – for most, money going out has to equal money coming in, otherwise bills go unpaid, salaries don’t get paid, and debt increases. This concerns outgoing payments as well as incoming revenue from charges and sales. Susceptible to IT failure, cyber-crime, cash-flow, economic crisis
- Technology can be a double-edged sword; increasing resilience through reducing reliance on other core infrastructure (e.g. enabling flexible working) whilst creating a critical vulnerability that your whole business relies upon. We rely so heavily on technology that if we were to lose it suddenly, the impact would be immediate and catastrophic. Susceptible to loss of facilities, physical damage, infrastructure and utilities failure, human error, cyber-crime/malicious activity… and so much more…
- Decision making (and communications) – your business’ ability to make decisions quickly and communicate these effectively. Decide who’s in charge! And their back-ups. An emergency is the time you need senior managers to step-up and earn their pay – assessing the situation, problem solving, planning, communicating, implementing, monitoring and driving delivery. Susceptible to personnel loss, human error, technological failure.