Business Continuity is different from Disaster Recovery. A disaster can come from any direction, disrupting business due to big weather events, earthquakes, or more mundane events like the accidental dismemberment of a utility line, power outages, or fires. You need a plan for how to recover, but that isn’t the topic for this episode. This time Business Continuity. The software elements to consider are the focus.
Software touches every element of the business, from the back office to the outbound shipments. From accounting to production, print to finish, applications and task-specific tools help to identify how to price jobs, manage sales, manage inventory, and manage production so that the business knows what revenue is coming in and what payables are in the queue. From Excel to preflight tools, CASS certification to color certification, the list of software used to manage the business is much longer than most print company owners realize. If those tools and the data they touch are no longer available, keeping the business afloat takes herculean efforts.
What Do You Know About Your Software?
At the start of every assessment, we ask the printing company to provide a list of all the software they use. We also ask for a directory listing from the IT team of everything installed on the servers or accessed from cloud services. It might seem invasive, but it tends to be an eye-opening adventure. We often find multiple versions of the same software in use as well as gigabytes of unused software still on maintenance plans. The low-hanging fruit is to eliminate the software that is no longer used and the maintenance plans dragging behind them. We don’t want to build a continuity plan that requires attention to unused software.
Start with a self-assessment of your current software.
- Take time to understand what is used, what process it supports, and the current version of the software.
- For tools that reside in the cloud, there is a tendency to think that everything will be fine if you need access from an offsite location but verify the protocols with your vendors.
- Uninstall unused software and take the time to verify that you aren’t still paying for it.
- Bring all software up to date. If there is push back with a claim that an updated version will break a workflow, investigate. Most software is built to encourage updates.
- Build a test directory with typical jobs that can run to verify software updates. Put it in the cloud, so you have access if you need to move to an alternative site.
- Document every software tool, the primary vendor contact, and what the tool accomplishes.
There is more to consider, but this is a good start. This information is required for a complete Business Continuity Plan.
What Do You Know About Your Business Continuity Software Needs?
There are as many approaches to Business Continuity Planning as there are companies. That isn’t a surprise because printing companies come in all sizes, niches, and management structures. Some are single sites, and others have multiple plants to fall back on.
If you operate a single-site printing plant, consider what would happen if you didn’t have access to the building and needed to move to a new site to stay in business. Set aside the question of hardware and inventory for a moment. They are critical, but for another conversation. For this exercise, what software does the team need to access to accept jobs, process jobs, get approvals, and get them invoiced? The hint is that we are talking about more than your web2print tools, color management tools, CASS certification tools, and your Print MIS (or equivalent. To continue operating, your plan must include how you will process orders, track job progress, report to customers, and handle the normal back-office processes.
Make a list of the tools you use for custom contact management, sales order processing, and managing your relationships with your vendors. You may have specific websites you use to place orders or integration with your internal systems – no matter how you manage it, document the processes, websites, passwords, and contacts for every touchpoint. In the heat of recovery, it will be hard to remember what you need to know.
If a list doesn’t come easily, follow a handful of jobs that represent your typical work. Note each touchpoint and each software tool. Excel, Word, accounting software, customer management software, estimating and quoting, business intelligence, reporting, HR management, time tracking, and everything else that keeps the business flowing should be on your list. You may have purchased some tools off-the-shelf and others from a vendor, so identify which falls into which bucket. If you worked with integrators to set up workflows or link software ecosystems, document who they are, what they did, and how to reach them.
You aren’t exempt from concern if you operate a multi-site print operation. Run the same exercise at each location to see if the same software tools and resources are available in each location, creating true hot sites. If you discover that everything is identical in every site, bravo! If you find differences, it’s time to decide if you want to spend time getting each plant to the software profile or if you are going to treat each plant as an independent business with an independent plan.
Make it a Project to Build or Update Your Plan
When Capital One asks, “What’s in YOUR wallet?” they aren’t asking about the pictures of the family or how much cash you carry. They are making the point that knowing what credit cards you have and understanding the perks, rewards, interest rates, and customer service options makes you a smarter consumer. They know that it takes time to evaluate every offer, but they want you to take the time and hold yourself accountable for getting the deal that works best for you.
In this episode, the question is, “What’s in YOUR Business Continuity Plan?” as it relates to the software tools you use to run the business. The problem is that plans don’t write themselves, and they aren’t self-updating. It would be great if they were! Who is accountable for your Business Continuity Plan today? When was the last time it was carefully reviewed and tested? What is your confidence level?
The best practice is to start with what you have, review it, update it, test it, and support it with good software tool hygiene. The process requires an owner and accountability. Remember that the plan isn’t written in concrete – it is a living document that requires constant care. This is a lot to digest. Have questions? Put them in the comments or send an email.
Editor’s Note: Need some help auditing what you have? Inkjet Insight members can download our worksheets for software requirements information gathering.