We use many different names: Disaster Recovery Plan, Failover Plan, Business Continuity Plan, and Business Continuation are a few of them. This is the plan we intend to invoke if a tornado hits the building or a flood washes us away. If you look at the last few years, you may have already recognized that the term disaster isn’t the right focus. There are bucket loads of things that can go wrong and disrupt your business. You need a strategy to identify the mission-critical elements of your business and a set of plans to invoke to ensure your survival.
To get started, think about what can go wrong.
There are weather events ranging from tornados and hurricanes to floods and blizzards. There are earthquakes that can be as light as a rumble or the type that damage buildings and take out utilities for months. They are messy, unpredictable, and you may not have much control over when you can re-open your business. You can suffer a malware attack that shuts your servers down and infects your business software. You can have a catastrophic machine failure that shuts you down until parts arrive.
Then there are the pandemics, supply chain issues, and staff challenges that can be just as difficult to manage. Machines need operators. Presses need substrate. Cutters need blades. If your supply goes to zero, you may need to close your doors.
If you think that your business insurance will cover it all and make you whole, it’s time to read your coverage and riders carefully. Most businesses discovered that losses from a government-declared pandemic shutdown were not covered by their insurance. Companies that have been through weather-related and malware events often discover the limitations of their policies that leave them with significant out-of-pocket expenses.
Thinking about what can go wrong uncovers a critical point
Disaster recovery is a small part of what it takes to get the business back into operation at the level of production required to continue to grow. Instead of disaster recovery – focusing on restoring the business and production systems – shoot for business continuity. The goal is the get the business back to running at full strength and positioned for growth.
To build a plan, you need to understand every element of the business. If you have done a recent business assessment, you have most of what you need. If you have a recent deep dive into your workflow and production floor, you are in even better shape. Your take-away should be that without these assessments, you are a couple of steps behind in building a plan.
You need a solid business impact analysis that identifies all the moving parts in the business, including staff and their roles, software, hardware, customer lists, products, and typical monthly work-in-progress. You need current customer information and the contact details for all suppliers. With this information, you will document your plans.
Start with an Emergency Response Plan,
Operations Plan, Restart Plan, and Recovery Plan.
Keep the Emergency Response Plan as simple as possible. This is your plan for notifying employees and gathering their status. Current phone numbers and an emergency contact number are critical. Where possible, ask for an additional emergency contact who is not local. These should be reviewed and updated at least yearly, but it is always a best practice to have employees keep their personnel record up-to-date with contact details. People move, change phone numbers, and create new personal email addresses; you may need that to activate your plan. All this information should be accessible from an online location.
In addition to knowing how to contact everyone, your plan should cover who will reach out to employees and who will determine the message to be delivered. This will differ based on the circumstances but identify the responsible parties and the chain of command in the plan, not at the time you need to use it.
Who will be talking to customers and suppliers? If you are responding to an emergency that impacts your local town or region, customers may be impacted, too. If you serve a national or global customer base, those are different conversations. Your supply chain may be paused if they are dealing with the same challenges. You will need a list so you can check status with everyone in your business circle.
Once you have that list, try to use it. Take a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon or an evening through the week outside of work hours and see if the phone numbers work as expected. You can let everyone know that you are going to practice and ask them for their feedback. From this exercise, you should have a good idea of how accurate your lists are and where you need to fill in gaps. You should also understand how much time it will take. Consider building sets of bullet points for several types of emergencies so that there is some consistency to the messaging.
Come back next time for the Operations, Restart, and Recovery planning! If you’ve used your plan, let me know how it went! Comment on this article or send me a note at [email protected]!