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10 Best Practices for Effective Business Continuity Strategy

Published on November 30, 2023

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Businesses can face unexpected challenges that could disrupt their operations significantly. These events can be so severe that they might threaten the stability and resilience of an organisation, potentially leading to a cessation of critical business operations. It's then essential to develop a robust and effective business continuity strategy, which is a proactive plan to ensure that a business can continue its critical functions during and after a disaster.

The key is in building a BC plan that's not just a generic template but a strategy specifically designed to address the unique risks and challenges your business might face.

What Is Business Continuity Strategy?

A business continuity strategy is a planned series of actions for maintaining critical business functions during a disruption. Any business continuity strategy should align with a disaster lifecycle, which is the various stages a business goes through before, during, and after a disaster.

The lifecycle typically includes the following phases:

  • Prevention: Before a disaster strikes, this stage involves taking proactive measures to prevent or minimise the impact of potential disasters. This could include infrastructure improvements, risk assessments, and implementing safety protocols.
  • Preparedness: This stage focuses on preparing the organisation to handle an impending disaster. It involves creating and updating disaster recovery plans, training employees, and ensuring backup systems are in place.
  • Response: This is the immediate action taken during a disaster to ensure safety and minimise damage. It includes activating the disaster recovery plan, mobilising response teams, and providing immediate relief and support.
  • Recovery: After the immediate threat has passed, this stage involves restoring business operations to a normal or new state. It includes repairing physical damage, restoring IT systems, and implementing lessons learned from the disaster.
  • Mitigation: This phase overlaps with the others and involves ongoing efforts to reduce the risk and impact of future disasters. This can include revising policies, improving infrastructure, and updating plans based on recent experiences.

Here's how to develop your business continuity strategies and ensure your organisation is prepared for, can effectively respond to, and recover from any disaster, while continuously working to mitigate future risks.

business continuity strategy

1. Assess risks and impacts for a robust continuity plan

A thorough risk and impact assessment is key to any effective business continuity plan. This involves identifying potential threats that could disrupt operations, ranging from natural disasters to cyber-attacks. Each business, even within the same industry, faces unique challenges and vulnerabilities. The assessment should include a detailed analysis of how these risks could impact various aspects of the business, such as revenue, customer satisfaction, and employee safety.

This step is crucial for understanding which areas of the business are most at risk and need prioritisation in the continuity plan. By evaluating both the likelihood and potential impact of different scenarios, businesses can develop more targeted and effective strategies to mitigate these risks.

2. Develop a comprehensive plan covering all critical functions

Developing a comprehensive plan involves identifying and safeguarding critical business functions that are essential for maintaining operations during a disruption. This process requires a deep understanding of the business's operational framework. Critical business functions include, for example, key customer services, supply chain management, IT infrastructure, and employee safety protocols.

The plan should outline procedures for maintaining or rapidly restoring these functions in the event of a business disruption. This could involve diversifying supply chains, implementing redundant IT systems, or establishing alternative operational procedures. The goal is to ensure that the business can continue to operate, even in a reduced or modified capacity, during a crisis.

3. Involve key stakeholders in the planning process

Input from stakeholders – including employees, staff members, customers, suppliers, investors, and local communities – can provide valuable insights into potential risks and practical recovery strategies. Engaging stakeholders helps to align the continuity plan with the expectations and needs of those it will affect.

This collaborative approach can also ensure that the business has access to necessary resources during a crisis and fosters a sense of shared responsibility and commitment to the plan. Regular meetings and communications with stakeholders can keep the plan aligned with changing expectations and business environments.

4. Train employees on their roles in the continuity plan

Employees should understand the potential risks the business faces and their specific responsibilities during a crisis. Hence, BC training should cover essential crisis management and emergency response procedures, emphasising coordination and communication within the team.

Employees should be comfortable with their roles and understand how their actions can impact the overall recovery effort. Regular drills and training sessions can help employees stay prepared and ensure that the business can respond effectively to a crisis. Such preparedness not only boosts the employees' confidence but also enhances the overall resilience of the organisation.

business continuity training

5. Test the plan regularly to identify weaknesses

BCP testing should simulate various disruption scenarios to evaluate how the business and its employees would respond. This process helps to reveal potential weaknesses in the plan, such as resource shortages, communication breakdowns, or logistical challenges.

Regular testing also ensures that all employees are familiar with their roles and responsibilities in the event of an actual disruption. These tests can range from tabletop exercises to full-scale drills. Feedback from these tests should be used to refine and update the plan, ensuring it remains relevant and effective.

6. Update the plan periodically for current business needs

The business environment is constantly evolving, with new risks emerging and existing risks changing in nature. Therefore, it's essential to update the business continuity plan periodically to reflect these changes. This could involve adapting to new technologies, regulatory changes, or shifts in the market. Regular reviews should be scheduled to assess the plan's relevance and effectiveness in the current business context.

These updates should also consider feedback from stakeholders, lessons learned from past disruptions, and changes in the business's structure or operations. An up-to-date plan ensures that the business is always prepared for the most relevant and likely risks it faces.

7. Communicate the plan to all employees and stakeholders

Effective communication of the business continuity plan ensures that all employees and stakeholders are aware of their roles and the procedures to follow during a crisis. Clear and transparent communication helps to build confidence and ensures a coordinated response to disruptions.

Your crisis communication strategy should include regular updates, training sessions, and accessible documentation of the plan. It's best to use a variety of communication channels to reach all parts of the organisation and its external partners. In addition, the plan should include protocols for external communication with customers, suppliers, and the public to maintain trust and reputation during a crisis.

8. Ensure backup systems and data recovery processes

Ensuring robust backup systems and data recovery processes is vital to any business continuity plan. This step is crucial for protecting against data loss, which can have devastating effects on operations, financial stability, and customer trust.

Backup strategies should include regular backups of critical data, applications, and systems, ideally in multiple locations, including off-site or cloud storage. This ensures that in the event of a physical disaster, such as a fire or flood, critical data remains safe and can be quickly restored. Regular testing of backup systems and recovery processes is also essential to ensure they actually and effectively work when needed.

business continuity plan

9. Collaborate with partners for aligned continuity plans

Collaborate with business partners, such as suppliers, distributors, and service providers, who can provide support and resources during a crisis to maintain or quickly restore essential functions. Collaborating with partners can involve aligning continuity plans, sharing resources, or establishing joint response strategies.

This collaboration ensures that all parties are prepared and can work together effectively in the event of a disruption. Regular communication and joint exercises with partners can also strengthen these relationships and improve the overall resilience of the supply chain and business operations.

10. Review and improve the strategy post-disruption

After any disruption, consider conducting a thorough review of the business continuity strategy. This review should assess how effectively the plan was implemented, what worked well, and what could be improved. It's an opportunity to learn from the experience and refine the plan for future incidents.

This process should involve all key stakeholders, including employees, management, and external partners, to gather a comprehensive perspective. The insights gained from this review can be invaluable in adjusting strategies, updating training and resources, and improving overall preparedness. Regularly incorporating lessons learned from actual events ensures that the business continuity plan remains robust and relevant.

Streamline your business continuity planning with C2 Meridian BCMS

As new technologies emerge rapidly and risks are ever-present, businesses need to be one step ahead and stay prepared for any disruptive events.

C2 Meridian BCMS allows BC and resilience professionals to create, store, manage and distribute business continuity plans through smart automation and data collection. Take full advantage of different modules, from Business Impact Analysis (BIA) and Risk Management to the latest Operational Resilience solutions. Our industry-agnostic solution is completely configurable to meet your organisation's unique requirements.

See an easier way to achieve business continuity for yourself. Book a demo today.

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Written by Lisa McStay

Chief Operating Officer at Continuity2

As a proud COO of Continuity2, Lisa strives to provide intuitive and innovative solutions for the Business Resilience market and reshape the industry as we know it today. Lisa has been in the industry for over 10+ years, helping clients achieve their Business Continuity and Resilience objectives for continuous growth and success.

C2 Author Lisa 1
C2 Author Lisa 1

Written by Lisa McStay

Chief Operating Officer at Continuity2

As a proud COO of Continuity2, Lisa strives to provide intuitive and innovative solutions for the Business Resilience market and reshape the industry as we know it today. Lisa has been in the industry for over 10+ years, helping clients achieve their Business Continuity and Resilience objectives for continuous growth and success.