Business Continuity Planning: Being Ready For Change
It seems like change is inevitable these days. In the business world, being ready for change is critical to long-term success - a situation can shift instantaneously, and if your business can’t roll with the punches then it’s as good as doomed. Your business is not typically given advance notice of major changes, and, unfortunately, it’s all too clear that anything can go wrong at any time.
Whether faced with disaster, rapidly changing consumer demand, a financial crisis, or simply accommodating significant industry shifts, your business has to be ready to adapt and evolve at a moment’s notice. Being left behind isn’t an option, there’s simply too much at stake.
The importance of a business continuity plan
A business continuity plan dictates how your organization will continue to operate in the event of a major change, such as an unexpected event which disrupts operations, the departure of key team members, major market changes, and supply chain issues. These plans outline how the business will adapt to changes and overcome adversity, how employees will continue to work in a productive manner, what technology will be used to enable their productivity, and how the business will go about restoring its affected processes and systems once the initial impact of the changes has subsided.
In short, it’s a plan that prepares your business for worst case scenarios and outlines how you will overcome, adapt, and continue operating successfully. Without a business continuity plan, the long-term success of your business in the face of challenges and changes is nearly hopeless - things happen, and it’s critical that you be ready to face the unknown.
Take for instance the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The overwhelming majority of businesses were affected by the pandemic, and those that had business continuity plans in place were able to operate remotely. They had the technology to allow employees to communicate, collaborate, and work productively, had a plan for how operations would continue remotely, and how the business could rebound once pandemic guidelines were relaxed. These plans allowed businesses to continue operating seamlessly, even in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic, and will ensure that these companies live to see another day.
Take everything into account and include all employees in decision making
In order for your business continuity plan to be effective and stand up to challenges, it should take all critical aspects of your business into account. Ask yourself some of the following questions, and use them to inform your business continuity planning process:
- What potential changes/challenges exist that could threaten your business and how will you respond to them?
- How will critical systems and processes be affected, and how will you go about adapting them as needed?
- What are the “must-haves” for your business to stay operational in the event of a crisis? What can be spared if necessary?
- Where will you and your employees work from if the office is no longer an option?
- What technology solutions will need to be used to promote collaboration and communication between colleagues?
- How will you communicate with team members and keep on top of productivity?
- Are all members of your team adequately trained to perform emergency tasks outside of their normal field of view?
- Are employees trained on how to effectively use workplace technology? Are all team members actually using this technology?
Every aspect of your business’s operations needs to be scrutinized in order to create a plan that will stand up to genuine threats and challenges. Identify your key business areas and critical functions and ensure that there’s a plan for them, identify and define how departments will be able to continue working together, contemplate whether a certain amount of downtime is acceptable for critical business areas and processes (you might not have a choice), and outline how operations can be maintained to the best of your ability.
Remember to include every member of your team in the decision making process - valuable insight can be gained from employees at all levels, from senior management to low level staff. Communicate with them about how to continue operating in times of turbulence, and assure them that in the worst case scenario, your management style and steady hand combined with a rock solid business continuity plan will guarantee that the organization can weather the storm. Start cross-department training for employees who feel that they can take on different responsibilities if the situation calls for it, and identify any continuing learning opportunities that could help them with their possible future role.
It’s also a good idea to run ideas past each department to find out if they think the continuity plans are realistic, and get a feeling for what these departments think they need in order to continue operating successfully. Some of your departments will rely on having direct contact with other departments, so it’s important to implement this into your plan - without the ability for various departments to communicate and collaborate in times of turbulence, the whole business could suffer.
Test your plan and start preparing today
The only way to know for sure if your business continuity plan will hold up is to test it. Whether you perform a pen and paper simulation or you attempt to actually simulate the effects of a crisis through live exercises, you’ll find out quickly whether or not the plan holds water. If things fall apart, take note and adjust accordingly - when aspects of your plan fail during testing, it’s a certainty that they’ll fail in the face of a real challenge.
Business continuity exercises should be performed regularly, simulating disruptions of some kind which force your teams to work remotely, take away essential systems, or make your team come together in order to solve major problems and work around systems experiencing significant downtime. With any luck, regular testing will prepare your team for the worst and build organizational confidence that your business can survive even the least desirable scenario.
Equally as important as testing is being proactive. If you notice that there are major holes in your plans which need to be addressed, start today - you might not be able to do so tomorrow. Ensure that cloud technology has been rolled out to allow your teams to instantly communicate and collaborate from anywhere.
Make sure that your data is secure and reliably backed up, preferably with an archive available for easy retention and eDiscovery. Focus on training your employees and giving them the confidence they’ll need to thrive under the pressures that come with major changes and challenges. If you anticipate having to work remotely, implement productivity intelligence tools that will allow you to see in real time how your team is working, reward high performers and give extra attention to those who need it, and be able to identify areas of improvement, at-risk employees, and major opportunities as they arise.
Be ready for anything, lead by example, and never get too relaxed. With luck, your business will be able to weather any storm thanks to your careful planning, expert leadership, and adequate training and workplace technology. Prodoscore is the world’s leading provider of productivity intelligence, giving employers and managers visibility into the productivity of employees based on activity within your favorite workplace tools like Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Slack, monday.com, Salesforce, Zoho CRM, and many more. To find out more about how Prodoscore can improve employee performance, enhance coaching, and streamline the employee experience, contact us for a demonstration today.