As the long hot summer rolls to a close with, according to some predictions, the coldest spell of August weather in 100 years we turn our thoughts ahead to the autumn and winter. Given the weather patterns seen in the last few years, the long term forecast is anyone’s guess but one thing we can be sure of is that unless we prepare we are going to get caught out.
Of course, the unpredictability of the weather means that the chances are that if we prepare for snow we will get torrential downpours of rain and vice-versa. But planning for disruption need not be so closely tied to specific events.
Take inability to get into the office, for example. It doesn’t really matter whether the roads are closed by snow, the car park is under three feet of water, the police have cordoned off the area due to an ‘incident’ or the office has had a fire. Whatever the cause, the result is the same; the temporary closure of the office. Those drawing up the organisational continuity plan therefore can set in place plans to mitigate the effects of closure with minor tweaks depending on circumstances.
Within any business continuity plan the key is to communicate. Communicate with staff to let them know what is happening and what their role is, communicate with customers and suppliers to arrange alternate meeting times and venues and communicate with the wider public in respect of any disruption. And often the key to that communication is the ability to access a phone system.
Let’s start with the basics: a virtual switchboard can be programmed from any PC, making it a simple matter to change voicemail messages and call routing. In fact, those with a fully functional hosted PBX instantly have access to full telephonic functionality; making it easy to check phone records, get in touch with contacts and keep the business ticking over.
When disaster strikes the first priority is to contact staff. A pre-programmed bulk SMS message can act as an alert and by monitoring message opening and click-through it is easy to keep track of those employees who have accessed the message and those who still have to respond. Similarly, opening up a company emergency information line will enable businesses to broadcast information to all callers. Add in PIN access and different messages can be played to customers, staff or suppliers.
Company emergency and other disaster plans can be put in place at any time and then sit dormant until such time as they are required. We may be enjoying the summer now but it may also be time to start to think about planning for the winter ahead.