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The Don'ts of BCP

Business Continuity Planning is an interesting juxtaposition: It is one of the few things you spend lots of time on with the hope that you’ll never actually need to use it. It will be both hypothetical and very, very real. It often measures a business function’s worth by measuring the potential for loss.

In keeping with this duality, we have created a few Do’s and Don’ts that should help you and your organization create a complete and effective business continuity plan. To start, let’s go through a list of things that you want to make sure you aren’t doing.

DON’T: Ignore Business Continuity Planning

Does your organization have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan?   If you are like most middle market companies, the answer is likely “no.”  Or perhaps, you are one of the few who do have a formalized plan, but likely that binder has been sitting on a shelf collecting dust.  

A business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan cannot be ignored.   An organization should have a dynamic plan, thoughtful and efficient and understood by the team and approved by the board of directors.   There needs to be accountability, awareness, and understanding throughout the organization. Your business continuity plan needs to be treated like a child; change it when it needs changing, and never leave it alone for very long.

DON’T: Leave Business Continuity Planning solely to the IT department

10-15 years ago, the focus was more on disaster recovery, and IT departments took care of system recovery planning. This led to IT departments with amazing IT recovery plans, but no sound model for getting the larger business back up and running.

The business objectives, not the technology, need to guide how the business continuity plan takes shape. This is why BC plans start with a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). The BIA is meant to determine the critical business functions, the impact to your business if those functions are interrupted, the resources needed to support those functions, and the necessary timeframe for recovery. With this information, it immediately becomes evident what business objectives the BCP should be protecting, and what parameters the organization can work within before significant losses. At this point, the business can turn to the IT department (who may still be responsible for implementation of the BCP) and say “here’s what we require”. The situation is now open to collective dialogue about how those requirements are met.

DON’T: Confine your plans to regional disasters

There have been some pretty devastating natural disasters in recent years.  It’s easy to imagine business continuity and disaster recovery plans creating contingencies for the Next Big Thing of natural disasters. However, data tells a different story. In a 2013 study, the top 4 causes of downtime were as follows:

55% - Hardware failure

22% - Human error

18% - Software failure

4% - Natural disaster

Let’s also not ignore the continual increase of Denial of Service attacks and other cybersecurity issues that can cause downtime. People often forget that, statistically, the causes of business disruptions are location specific, not related to regional events. Be sure your plan considers the many different types of business interruption.

Through each of these potential disasters, plan for the worst case scenario. What does this look like? Likely, it will be a situation that severely impacts your ability to service your customers, while your customers expect you to be running normally. These outages are less likely to be regional. If everyone is being impacted by an outage, your customer will probably be pretty understanding while you’re trying to recover. If you’re the only organization down, they might not be as sympathetic, and losses to your reputation (as well as your revenue) could be significant.

Business continuity planning is no easy task, and there are many mistakes that could be made in your effort to protect your organization from crippling downtime. Now that you know some things NOT to do, check out some DO’s!

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