Organisations often fail to prepare for events that can have significant impact on their operations.
Businesses are accustomed to assessing and planning for commercial risks, such as the sudden loss of an important customer or supplier, a bad debt or industrial action. But increasingly, a wider range of events can also have a major impact on their prosperity or even survival.
Global events over the last decade and more have shown that terrorist or climatic events can increasingly impinge on businesses. For example, 58 per cent of UK businesses report that they were disrupted as a result of 11 September 2001, with one in eight severely affected.
Companies often fail to prepare for events that can have a significant impact on their operations. Fire safety measures may be commonplace but flood mitigation measures are rare. However, possibly due to the influence of global warming, the risk of a flood or other severe weather event is higher than that of a fire.
Apart from terrorist activities and flooding, other unexpected events include:
- Natural disaster (e.g. extreme weather)
- Interruption to power supplies
- Shortage of essential resources or raw materials
- Infectious disease outbreaks
Business Continuity Management
The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 places a responsibility on the Council to give advice and assistance to businesses and voluntary organisations in relation to Business Continuity Management or BCM.
BCM is the planning an organisation can do to assess the risks, identify its vulnerable areas and key functions, and to plan its response to an adverse event. This is important to ensure the impact of an incident is kept to a minimum and that the business can return to normal operations as quickly as possible.
Organisations that have business continuity arrangements in place are more likely to stay in business after an incident, as they are more prepared and equipped to help themselves. It is an increasing expectation of insurance companies that organisations will have these preparations in place.
Larger businesses may need to access sources of specialist assistance from professional consultants. Further information is available from the Business Continuity Institute website.
Business Continuity Plans
With good planning you can take steps to minimise the potential impact of any business interruption.
Business Impact Assessment and Risk Assessment
Identify all aspects of your business activities and resources required to carry them out. This should include items such as staff, premises, suppliers, IT systems, customer records etc. You should consider the risks, both local and general, that may affect your business. This information will enable you to evaluate your priorities and assess your specific business continuity risks.
Developing a Business Continuity Plan
Once you have identified priorities you need to identify alternative strategies to mitigate against the loss of these critical services. Produce a document with these alternative strategies which should include items such as:
- Process for activating the plan - when will it be necessary to do so? Whose responsibility is it to activate it?
- Roles and responsibilities - what is each person's role in the case of a business interruption?
- Checklist of actions - what action is each role responsible for and a short checklist for these roles.
- Contact details - these must include the details of those in the plan and also to aid in the recovery e.g. staff details, suppliers' details, important clients etc.
- Important business information - detailed information to aid in the recovery process e.g. insurance details, IT equipment and software specifications.
Is the Plan fit for purpose?
Your plan needs to be tested to see if it actually works. A plan must be tested to be valid. There are many different types of plan testing so you can choose which is best for your organisation.
- Live exercise - a complete run through of the plan like a dress rehearsal
- Desktop exercise - desktop scenario with possible walk through of the plan
- Element specific - testing part of the plan e.g. the contact list, activation.
The most important element at this stage is to identify lessons learned from the exercise and update the plan with these improvements.
Embedding the Plan
Your plan needs to be embedded into the organisation. It is important that all staff are trained in the plan and are fully aware of their roles and responsibilities. A programme of training and awareness-raising is important for your staff. This will help embed the plan and raise your staff's confidence in their ability to deal with a business continuity incident.
Maintaining the Plan
It is important that your plan is tested, reviewed and updated frequently. Businesses can change, so it is important to reflect those changes in the plan. Identify a member of staff to take ownership of the plan and arrange a comprehensive review of the plan to take place periodically.
The following links contain further information on BCM:
www.londonprepared.gov.uk - London website providing generic advice on BCM.
www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk - Cabinet Office advice on Business Continuity
www.legislation.gov.uk - text of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.
www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/news - Civil Protections Business Continuity Guide
If you are responsible for a business or voluntary organisation based in the Vale of Glamorgan and would like to
discuss these matters please contact: