When Something Goes Wrong – Business Continuity 102

By Pat McGrew / Published:

How common is business disruption? It’s a good question! Perhaps it is so rare that you don’t need to plan for it!

Unfortunately, that is not the case. In June 2021, the team at Security Magazine noted that in their regular survey 73% of respondents had a failure at some point. Two-thirds of them had lived through a system outage in the previous 12 months. FEMA brings an interesting spin to the story. Their numbers indicate that 90% of small companies and 40% of all companies fail within a year of a declared emergency unless they can resume operations within five days. The European Union countries report similar data and note that impacts from earthquakes and floods can consume 10% or more of the GDP of member states. It’s sobering.

Then add in the malware attacks. The average downtime, according to CoveWare who track outages, is 23 days but in the print industry we know of outages that have taken months to resolve. If you started by reading the last episode, you have an idea of what you need in your hands to build an Emergency Response Plan. That is only one of the plans you need to maintain business continuity if something goes wrong that takes your business offline.


In addition to contacting your employees and suppliers, you need a plan for the work you do. Start with these three questions:

  1. What are the production tasks that rely on one or two employees? Who are they?
    -Even in a fully automated workflow, you may have gatekeepers, Quality Control People, and others essential to your workflow. In manual or semi-automated workflows, there may be more than one or two that you consider essential.
  2. What are the key jobs that always require intervention to move through production?
    -We are looking for those jobs that, even if sent to a partner to run, will need the attention of a key staff member to run successfully offsite.
  3. What are the mission-critical procedures known and understood by only one or two key individuals?
    -Consider everything from color management for specific clients to the arcane fun of mailing.

According to a Gartner Group report, 87% of executives answered yes to one or more of these questions. Gartner considers that a sign that these companies are not prepared to continue operations in the event of a challenge to their business. How would you answer?

As you build an Operations Plan, think about the mission-critical work you do. Do you have an agreement with a partner site to take on overflow work or work in case of an emergency? If not, you should. Talk to your hardware vendors, who will know what sites have similar equipment. Remember, not all inkjet devices are configured in the same way – you will want a partner who can take your work as easily as possible. Talk to peers in your association and networking groups. Find one or two companies that you are culturally compatible with and work on a plan.

Your plan will need to include some detail that you may not have considered. Do you have a record of the source file name for every component of your production documents? Some companies have it all tucked neatly into a management system, while others rely on a directory structure where the files may not be as well organized. Where are you on the continuum?

Can you identify application owners? Can each CSR identify their key customers and their work?

This will be essential information if you need to move to a partner site. You will need to identify any special stock you normally use or unique finishing and build a plan for how to execute that work. And, if you host your website on your own on-premise server, is there a backup?

Start with these questions as you build the plan. Others will crop up along the way. Document everything and ensure it will be accessible when you need it. And practice! Work with your identified partner to run a drill to make sure they can print for you if needed. Have the conversation about postage accounts and consumables. Know before you need it.

Restart and Recovery

You need a plan for restarting to focus on getting the staff and work back to the plant. Depending on what you are recovering from, this plan may need to account for long time frames, rebuilding, machine replacement, and staff augmentation. Your best plan is one that has a high-level overview of every department and system that will need to be addressed, even if you don’t fill in all the detail. A solid strategy with bullet points to guide the decision-making is a good plan.

Once you can bring all operations back online, update the continuity plans with all learnings. You may find that, despite all practice drills, some things didn’t work, or conditions required other types of solutions. Make notes, so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

When it’s time to declare that you met the brief and operations are back in full swing, think about the steps to full recovery. Do you need to expand partnerships? Do you need to run exercises more often? Do you need to think about expanding into additional locations or change the way you use additional locations?

There is no good metric that declares recovery. You can decide during your planning what recovery looks like for you. You might say that you are recovered when you have grown 10% from the point of the emergency. You might declare recovery when you are at that original baseline. Recovery might be that point where you can begin to address the projects, upgrades, and feature expansions that were on the project list before the world stopped.

If you’ve used your plan, let me know how it went! Comment on this blog or send me a note at [email protected]!

About the Author

Pat McGrew


Pat is a well-known evangelist for inkjet productivity. At McGrew Group, she uses her decades technical and marketing experience to lead the industry toward optimized business processes and production workflows. She has helped companies to define their five-year plans, audited workflow processes, and developed sales team interventions and education programs. Pat is the Co-Author of 8 industry books, editor of A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge, and a regular contributor to Inkjet Insight and WhatTheyThink.com.

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