Testing Business Continuity Plans

With winter’s icy grip holding sway across large sections of the UK, it is a fair bet that there are a number of business continuity plans being well and truly tested as employees are unable to get to business premises and supplier deliveries are held up. But once the current crisis is over, will those plans be stuffed back on the shelf until next time or will businesses take the time to review and strengthen them.

For many businesses, continuity plans are simply there to be used as required and ignored the rest of the time. But, crisis or not, they should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

Ideally, as a minimum, risk or continuity plans should be reviewed and tested annually, with interim reviews taking place in the event of a change in circumstances such as new premises, a change in supplier or a fresh product line. The nature of the test will depend on the business itself but will generally cover areas which are perceived as potentially having the greatest impact on an organisation. For many businesses these may well include areas such as the premises being unavailable, a failure of IT or other communications or a hold up in supplies. 

Whilst plans vary across organisations; one key element of all plans is that of communications. When a crisis occurs, the better the communication plan, the more a business will be able to manage the recovery.  Whether simply advising employees that the office is closed, or keeping in contact with suppliers and customers; robust communications equal a measure of control and stability.

Because communication is so important it may well pay a business to scope and set up a communication pathway which will then kick in in the event of a crisis. Once in place, the communication service can be tested and then simply sit dormant until needed. Key elements of a risk communication plan may include:

  • Bulk SMS texts to advise employees and others of the nature of the crisis.
  • A company emergency information line. This can be PIN protected so that employees can hear one message and customers or suppliers hear another.
  • A hosted PBX which can take over in the event of the company’s own switchboard being out of action.
  • Group divert to switch calls to an alternate centre or to individual phones or mobiles.

From ice and snow to floods and droughts, whatever the weather throws at us, it is reassuring to know that a robust plan can help Britain’s businesses to survive.

Written by Alison