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Tips for business continuity beginners

By Doug Kavanagh

Without a business continuity program in place, even a minor disruption to systems, facilities or other key resources can potentially halt operations, impact customers or harm the financials of an organization.

Therefore, it’s essential for organizations to understand how an unplanned outage would impact their business and know the steps they need to take to respond effectively. This requires a holistic view not only of threats to availability but also threats to a business continuity program’s continued viability.

To provide a starting point for those new to the subject of business continuity the following list offers seven essential components of a successful business continuity plan:

1. Conduct a business impact analysis
Carry out a thorough analysis of people, information, application and other resources to build an understanding of the consequences – financial and operational – of losing vital components. Take particular care to uncover interdependencies across the organization that are critical to remaining operational. This analysis will provide a solid foundation for establishing recovery priorities and timeframes in your plan, allowing you to make informed decisions on where and how much to invest in business continuity.

2. Your business continuity plan needs to be a living document
Creating a business continuity plan is an important step, but not the end state. It takes more than words tucked away in a plan to enable readiness. Business continuity preparedness means having a living program – which is continually validated, communicated, tested, updated and improved. It also means having an organization that is ‘situation ready’: with skills honed through training and supported by robust planning tools to respond to a significant business disruption. It is important to remember that your business continuity plan needs to keep pace with new workflows, business applications and computer systems.

3. Don’t plan in a vacuum
You need to involve all key stakeholders in the business continuity planning process, including IT, business leaders, human resources, corporate communications, and physical and information security managers. Be sure that in planning you coordinate with other business units in your organization to avoid potential conflicts, such as multiple business units depending on the same facility as a secondary site in response to an interruption.

4. Bridge the gap between business and IT
The success or failure of a business continuity program hinges on having the entire organization on the same page. In order to be successful, IT professionals need to involve their business unit colleagues, garner executive support, and keep all parties involved.

5. Not all employees will be available
Betting the future of your business on the assumption that all key employees will be available is not the best course of action. Facing a disruption may cause some employees to focus on their home lives, or encounter obstacles that prohibit them from performing their jobs normally. It is critical that your organization communicates the business continuity plan to all employees and ensures that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities, even if they are not part of the ‘recovery’ team.

6. Test your business continuity plan
Many companies think they have an effective business continuity plan in place. However, the true effectiveness of a plan can only be fully understood after it is tested. Even if your company cannot arrange a full-scale exercise, look for smaller ways to test portions of your plan. For example, arrange a test of your company’s call tree or review recent organizational changes and assign new responsibilities based on the current structure and available resources.

7. Consider the benefits of business continuity management software
BCM software helps organizations develop planning strategies that simplify processes and manage the entire lifecycle of their continuity program – regardless of the technologies used for business continuity. BCM software is a tool built to accommodate change and address the unique demands of information availability. It can also be scaled appropriately to fit companies of any size, regardless of the maturity of their business continuity program or budget.

Author: Doug Kavanagh is a lead senior consultant at SunGard Availability Services.

•Date: 10th August 2012 • US/World •Type: Article • Topic: BC general

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