The Complete Guide to Business Continuity Planning

The Complete Guide to Business Continuity Planning

This is the second in a 3-part series on hurricane preparedness and business continuity. 

Serious interruptions to productivity can be a catastrophe for unprepared businesses. Even a single day of downtime can cause a small or midsized business tens of thousands of dollars in lost opportunity, revenue, and reputation.

For larger businesses, IDC estimates that operational downtime can cost up to $100,000 per hour on average.

The most effective tool that businesses have to maintain their operations when a hurricane or other disaster strikes is a business continuity plan (BCP). We wrote this article to help Florida get started with the planning process, understand how it benefits them, and answer any questions they might have.

What is Business Continuity Planning?

Business continuity (BC) planning is a tested plan that outlines everything a business must do when it faces abnormal business interruptions, such as hurricanes and natural disasters, ransomware attacks, or human error.

It is a holistic process that covers every aspect of your business, including your network technology, communications, human resources, physical workspaces, and each of their dependencies.

Triggered before disaster even strikes, think of a BCP as your first-line defense against downtime. As opposed to reactive planning, such as disaster recovery, your BCP helps you proactively maintain normal business operations with as little operational downtime as possible.

The Elements of Comprehensive Business Continuity Plan

A business continuity plan varies from company to company. But here are the components that a successful BCP will contain:

Risk Scope Analysis
Developing a business continuity plan starts with understanding the risk’s scope. This means identifying which critical business functions you are trying to protect, and what dependencies each of those functions have that might be affected by a disaster.

Keep an open mind when thinking of “unprecedented events.” While natural calamities like floods and tropical storms are top of mind in Florida, you should also consider all other risks, such as technological outage, regulatory changes, cybersecurity, and human error as well.

The scope of your plan will be the foundation for all subsequent components of the BCP.

Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
Another major component of the BCP is a detailed analysis of how every identifiable risk will impacts the core business functions from the scope analysis. Running a BIA will help you understand in detail what must be done by whom to sustain those functions when a disaster strikes.

Unlike a risk assessment, which identifies threats and the likelihood of them harming your business, the BIA goes further to define the severity of each threat and how they affect your business operations and finances.

A BIA should analyze each threat in 5 dimensions:

  • Human resources
    People are central to your operations, so that your BIA must identify which workers and hierarchies are responsible for each core function and how those responsibility will be delegated when an unwanted event strikes.
  • Workspace analysis
    If you’re a multi-location business, how you leverage your reach is vital. Perhaps you may have to shift swiftly from one location to another. If you’re a single-location business, then planning redundant office or meeting spaces can facilitate the continuity process.
  • Business technology
    What technology will you use after disaster has struck? Will employees switch to their own personal devices, or will you distribute computers for them to use? What cybersecurity or compliance ramifications does this have? These are just a few of the many concerns that a BIA must address.
  • Service delivery
    Professional services firms can switch to online-only service delivery and shut down their physical location easily, like they did during COVDI-19 pandemic. However, many businesses, such as manufacturing firms, healthcare providers, and retail businesses, don’t’ have this luxury. Knowing exactly how service delivery will be impacted by a hurricane or natural threat will help you plan failover systems.
  • Health and safety
    The physical safety of your employees, partners, contractors, and customers is paramount during a crisis. You should dedicate a portion of your BIA to how you’ll ensure the health and safety of all stakeholders who are helping you stay operational during a crisis.

Communication Strategy
Communication is paramount when mitigating an unforeseen event. Your BCP should outline how employees should communicate with one another, their superiors, their subordinates, and third-party stakeholders.

In most cases, you can’t have to rely on the hierarchy you have during normal workdays, which means you may need to grant provisional autonomy to certain team members or restrict access to certain systems until your systems have been restored.

You may also choose to implement external communications and public relations as a part of your continuity plan so you can proactively manage your customer expectations and any reputational damage.

Controls and Mitigation
Disaster mitigation, among other things, requires quick decision-making. After analyzing the risks, affected personnel, location, and service delivery requirements, you can now create an action plan.

You need clear instructions on what must be done at the minimum level by every person involved in the mitigation process. The controls are also likely to vary for each disruption scenario.

Leave some room for improvisation. Since you can’t plan for everything well in advance, you should grant limited authority to your “boots on the ground” to work off the prescriptions as they see fit to meet the challenges they face.

Test and Refine Business Continuity Plan

After the continuity plan is in place, it’s time to test it. Run the teams through each disaster scenario as if your business was experiencing a real-life crisis. Repeated testing allows you to measure the plan’s effectiveness and iron out any weak points.

Testing isn’t a one-off event. Regular testing and refinement of the plan will help you achieve a more efficient and consistent result. Communicate the plan and its results throughout your organization so employees can get acquainted with each scenario and what you have in terms of expectations.

The Benefits of Having a Tested Business Continuity Plan

Business continuity planning may seem like a lot of work. But it’s well worth it, given the potentially ruinous costs of facing disaster unprepared. Here are some of the key outcomes that you can expect to reap from a well-tested BCP:

  • Minimize downtime
    Most businesses are either not prepared or underprepared to deal with unknown events. 54% of businesses said they’ve experienced at least 8 hours of downtime in the last 8 years. A BCP could have helped those firms pivot more effectively and saved countless hours in lost productivity.
  • Customer retention
    If you stay open during critical periods, there’s a good chance that retain or gain more customers than the competition that closes.
  • Increase brand trust
    When you can serve customers even in calamities, you enhance your value in the eyes of customers and investors. You become a trusted partner, not just another vendor, which directly increases your brand’s value.
  • Protect your bottom line
    All of the above factors trickle down to the bottom line. BCPs help generate more revenue, improve productivity, and cut losses.

Read the third blog of our 3-part series on hurricane preparedness and business continuity.

Florida’s Trusted Business Continuity Consultant

For 30 years, the LNS Solutions team has been helping businesses in Tampa defend against hurricanes and other natural disasters. If your business is struggling to discover the resiliency it wants, contact our helpful team any time at (813) 393 1626 or We look forward to speaking with you!

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