Five elements of a successful business continuity plan

Although each business disruption is unique and many decisions will have to be made as situations unfold, a business continuity plan provides a framework and preparation to guide these decisions, as well as a clear indication of who will make them. A successful business continuity plan includes the following elements.

Define a team structure

  • Develop a clear decision-making hierarchy, so that in an emergency, people don’t wonder who has the responsibility or authority to make a given decision
  • Create a core business continuity team with personnel from throughout the organization, including executive leaders, IT, facilities and real estate, as well as physical security, communications, human resources, finance and other service departments
  • Create supporting teams devoted to related functions such as emergency response, communications, campus response and business readiness

Establish a plan

  • Identify potential business disruptions that can affect any of your organization’s locations, such as power outages, epidemics and fires
  • Base your plan on worst-case scenarios rather than multiple graduated versions of each incident, to keep the number of scenarios manageable
  • Prioritize the most essential operations, who will perform them and how work will be redirected if key people are unavailable
  • Update your plan annually to reflect changes in the criticality and dependency of applications, business priorities, risk management, business locations, operations and other considerations

Test for business continuity and disaster recovery

  • Conduct full emergency simulations annually, including crisis communications, safety drills, and workplace recovery processes
  • Measure your test results and strive for continuous improvements, whether they are application availability goals or personnel safety assurances

Create a crisis communications strategy

  • Establish emergency notification procedures, incorporating both push and pull systems to communicate quickly
  • Identify all the stakeholders for emergency communications, including employees, contractors, clients, vendors, media and executive management
  • Prepare scripted communications that can be easily updated and ready to transmit immediately

Educate people on safety procedures

  • Train your workforce so that they are aware of the processes they should follow in the event of an emergency and so they know where to find resources for help
  • Consult with local and federal agencies for emergency response training and other guidance for your program
  • Conduct employee drills to help personnel become familiar with procedures, such as finding emergency exits

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