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- Business Continuity Plan Basics
- Understanding BCPs
- Benefits of BCPs
- How to Create a BCP
- BCP & Impact Analysis
- BCP vs. Disaster Recovery Plan
Frequently Asked Questions
- Business Continuity Plan FAQs
The Bottom Line
What is a business continuity plan (bcp), and how does it work.
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What Is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)?
A business continuity plan (BCP) is a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company. The plan ensures that personnel and assets are protected and are able to function quickly in the event of a disaster.
- Business continuity plans (BCPs) are prevention and recovery systems for potential threats, such as natural disasters or cyber-attacks.
- BCP is designed to protect personnel and assets and make sure they can function quickly when disaster strikes.
- BCPs should be tested to ensure there are no weaknesses, which can be identified and corrected.
Understanding Business Continuity Plans (BCPs)
BCP involves defining any and all risks that can affect the company's operations, making it an important part of the organization's risk management strategy. Risks may include natural disasters—fire, flood, or weather-related events—and cyber-attacks . Once the risks are identified, the plan should also include:
- Determining how those risks will affect operations
- Implementing safeguards and procedures to mitigate the risks
- Testing procedures to ensure they work
- Reviewing the process to make sure that it is up to date
BCPs are an important part of any business. Threats and disruptions mean a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. And businesses can't rely on insurance alone because it doesn't cover all the costs and the customers who move to the competition. It is generally conceived in advance and involves input from key stakeholders and personnel.
Business impact analysis, recovery, organization, and training are all steps corporations need to follow when creating a Business Continuity Plan.
Benefits of a Business Continuity Plan
Businesses are prone to a host of disasters that vary in degree from minor to catastrophic. Business continuity planning is typically meant to help a company continue operating in the event of major disasters such as fires. BCPs are different from a disaster recovery plan, which focuses on the recovery of a company's IT system after a crisis.
Consider a finance company based in a major city. It may put a BCP in place by taking steps including backing up its computer and client files offsite. If something were to happen to the company's corporate office, its satellite offices would still have access to important information.
An important point to note is that BCP may not be as effective if a large portion of the population is affected, as in the case of a disease outbreak. Nonetheless, BCPs can improve risk management—preventing disruptions from spreading. They can also help mitigate downtime of networks or technology, saving the company money.
How to Create a Business Continuity Plan
There are several steps many companies must follow to develop a solid BCP. They include:
- Business Impact Analysis : Here, the business will identify functions and related resources that are time-sensitive. (More on this below.)
- Recovery : In this portion, the business must identify and implement steps to recover critical business functions.
- Organization : A continuity team must be created. This team will devise a plan to manage the disruption.
- Training : The continuity team must be trained and tested. Members of the team should also complete exercises that go over the plan and strategies.
Companies may also find it useful to come up with a checklist that includes key details such as emergency contact information, a list of resources the continuity team may need, where backup data and other required information are housed or stored, and other important personnel.
Along with testing the continuity team, the company should also test the BCP itself. It should be tested several times to ensure it can be applied to many different risk scenarios . This will help identify any weaknesses in the plan which can then be identified and corrected.
In order for a business continuity plan to be successful, all employees—even those who aren't on the continuity team—must be aware of the plan.
Business Continuity Impact Analysis
An important part of developing a BCP is a business continuity impact analysis. It identifies the effects of disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses the information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.
FEMA provides an operational and financial impact worksheet to help run a business continuity analysis. The worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers who are well acquainted with the business. These worksheets will summarize the following:
- The impacts—both financial and operational—that stem from the loss of individual business functions and process
- Identifying when the loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impacts
Completing the analysis can help companies identify and prioritize the processes that have the most impact on the business's financial and operational functions. The point at which they must be recovered is generally known as the “recovery time objective.”
Business Continuity Plan vs. Disaster Recovery Plan
BCPs and disaster recovery plans are similar in nature, the latter focuses on technology and information technology (IT) infrastructure. BCPs are more encompassing—focusing on the entire organization, such as customer service and supply chain.
BCPs focus on reducing overall costs or losses, while disaster recovery plans look only at technology downtimes and related costs. Disaster recovery plans tend to involve only IT personnel—which create and manage the policy. However, BCPs tend to have more personnel trained on the potential processes.
Why Is Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Important?
Businesses are prone to a host of disasters that vary in degree from minor to catastrophic and business continuity plans (BCPs) are an important part of any business. BCP is typically meant to help a company continue operating in the event of threats and disruptions. This could result in a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. And businesses can't rely on insurance alone because it doesn't cover all the costs and the customers who move to the competition.
What Should a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Include?
Business continuity plans involve identifying any and all risks that can affect the company's operations. The plan should also determine how those risks will affect operations and implement safeguards and procedures to mitigate the risks. There should also be testing procedures to ensure these safeguards and procedures work. Finally, there should be a review process to make sure that the plan is up to date.
What Is Business Continuity Impact Analysis?
An important part of developing a BCP is a business continuity impact analysis which identifies the effects of disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses the information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.
FEMA provides an operational and financial impact worksheet to help run a business continuity analysis.
These worksheets summarize the impacts—both financial and operational—that stem from the loss of individual business functions and processes. They also identify when the loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impacts.
Business continuity plans (BCPs) are created to help speed up the recovery of an organization filling a threat or disaster. The plan puts in place mechanisms and functions to allow personnel and assets to minimize company downtime. BCPs cover all organizational risks should a disaster happen, such as flood or fire.
Federal Emergency Management Agency. " Business Process Analysis and Business Impact Analysis User Guide ," Pages 15 - 17. Accessed Sept. 5, 2021.
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What Is A Business Continuity Plan? [+ Template & Examples]
Published: December 30, 2022
When a business crisis occurs, the last thing you want to do is panic.
The second-to-last thing you want to do is be unprepared. Crises typically arise without warning. While you shouldn't start every day expecting the worst, you should be relatively prepared for anything to happen.
A business crisis can cost your company a lot of money and ruin your reputation if you don't have a business continuity plan in place. Customers aren't very forgiving, especially when a crisis is influenced by accidents within the company or other preventable mistakes. If you want your company to be able to maintain its business continuity in the face of a crisis, then you'll need to come up with this type of plan to uphold its essential functions.
In this post, we'll explain what a business continuity plan is, give examples of scenarios that would require a business continuity plan, and provide a template that you can use to create a well-rounded program for your business.
Table of Contents:
What is a business continuity plan?
- Business Continuity Types
- Business Continuity vs Disaster Recovery
Business Continuity Plan Template
How to write a business continuity plan.
- Business Continuity Examples
A business continuity plan outlines directions and procedures that your company will follow when faced with a crisis. These plans include business procedures, names of assets and partners, human resource functions, and other helpful information that can help maintain your brand's relationships with relevant stakeholders. The goal of a business continuity plan is to handle anything from minor disruptions to full-blown threats.
For example, one crisis that your business may have to respond to is a severe snowstorm. Your team may be wondering, "If a snowstorm disrupted our supply chain, how would we resume business?" Planning contingencies ahead of time for situations like these can help your business stay afloat when you're faced with an unavoidable crisis.
When you think about business continuity in terms of the essential functions your business requires to operate, you can begin to mitigate and plan for specific risks within those functions.
Business Continuity Planning
Business continuity planning is the process of creating a plan to address a crisis. When writing out a business continuity plan, it's important to consider the variety of crises that could potentially affect the company and prepare a resolution for each.
A fire broke out in the break room. Do you have a fire alarm that alerts employees it's time to vacate? Do your employees know where the fire extinguishers are located in the building? Do they know where to evacuate to? What plans do you have in place post-fire in case the worst is realized for your physical office?
Ultimately, you have to protect your staff and create an environment where they can do their best work instead of worrying about threats to their person. The image above is an example of how employers can help their employees prepare for both family emergencies as well as business ones.
Here are examples of safety risks your business continuity plan should account for:
- Occupational hazards, injury, and death
- Workplace emergencies such as gas leaks or fire
- Health hazards such as a pandemic
- Incidents of violence
6. Business Continuity Plan Example for Property Hazards
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Business Continuity Planning
Organize a business continuity team and compile a business continuity plan to manage a business disruption. Learn more about how to put together and test a business continuity plan with the videos below. Please note the Business Continuity Plan Generator is no longer available.
Business Continuity Plan Supporting Resources
- Business Continuity Plan Situation Manual
- Business Continuity Plan Test Exercise Planner Instructions
- Business Continuity Plan Test Facilitator and Evaluator Handbook
Business Continuity Training Videos
Business Continuity Training Introduction
An overview of the concepts detailed within this training. Also, included is a humorous, short video that introduces viewers to the concept of business continuity planning and highlights the benefits of having a plan. Two men in an elevator experience a spectrum of disasters from a loss of power, to rain, fire, and a human threat. One man is prepared for each disaster and the other is not.
View on YouTube
Business Continuity Training Part 1: What is Business Continuity Planning?
An explanation of what business continuity planning means and what it entails to create a business continuity plan. This segment also incorporates an interview with a company that has successfully implemented a business continuity plan and includes a discussion about what business continuity planning means to them.
Business Continuity Training Part 2: Why is Business Continuity Planning Important?
An examination of the value a business continuity plan can bring to an organization. This segment also incorporates an interview with a company that has successfully implemented a business continuity plan and includes a discussion about how business continuity planning has been valuable to them.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: What's the Business Continuity Planning Process?
An overview of the business continuity planning process. This segment also incorporates an interview with a company about its process of successfully implementing a business continuity plan.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 1
The first of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “prepare” to create a business continuity plan.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 2
The second of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “define” their business continuity plan objectives.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 3
The third of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “identify” and prioritize potential risks and impacts.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 4
The fourth of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “develop” business continuity strategies.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 5
The fifth of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should define their “teams” and tasks.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 6
The sixth of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “test” their business continuity plans.
Last Updated: 09/29/2023
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Business continuity planning
Business continuity planning helps your business respond to unexpected events and situations which can interrupt your operations.
Developing a business continuity plan will help your business minimise the impacts of these events and continue trading.
What is a business continuity plan
A business continuity plan is a document that explains the actions you should take before, during and after unexpected events and situations.
It is designed to help you:
- identify, prevent or reduce risks where possible
- prepare for risks that are out of your control
- respond and recover if an incident or crisis occurs.
Continuity planning for resilience
Business continuity planning is the process of creating a system in your business that helps prevent, minimise and recover from threats to your operations.
All businesses deal with risk. At any time, your business may experience:
- natural disasters (floods, storms, cyclones)
- power outages
- supply chain failures
- staff shortages
The aim of business continuity planning is to return to trading within the shortest period of time. This planning helps your business be more resilient and continue with minimal interruptions.
Examples: why continuity planning is important
A fire has destroyed all your stock in your warehouse. To continue to trade, could you:
- replace the stock quickly, or find another way of meeting the needs of your customers?
- replace stock quickly with your current suppliers?
- buy excess stock from your competitors?
- find a warehouse or other space to store stock if your own warehouse is unavailable?
- ship straight from the supplier to your customers (dropshipping)?
Imagine you were not able to run your business or communicate with staff and stakeholders for 6 months.
- Would your staff be able to run your business?
- Do you have a document or plan in a secure place that staff and stakeholders could access (e.g. in the cloud)?
- Does your plan include all the information needed to operate the business successfully in your absence?
Develop a business continuity plan
A typical business continuity plan has the following elements.
This section outlines the key objectives on your plan, and who needs to use it. It should also include information to help your staff to understand it.
In this section:
- executive summary
- distribution list
- glossary of terms used in your plan documents.
This section identifies possible risks to your business, and ways to manage them or minimise their impact on your business.
- identified risks
- preventative actions
- contingency plans
- business insurance details
- data security and backup strategies.
Learn more about:
- identifying and managing business risk
- business insurance
- IT risk management .
This section uses the risks identified in section 2 to review your critical business activities, forecast the impact of a disruption and work out how long it might take to recover.
Learn more about identifying and managing business risk .
This section describes how and when you'll activate your plan in response to a critical incident.
- immediate response checklist
- evacuation procedures
- emergency kits
- roles and responsibilities
- key contact lists
- preparing an incident response
- preparing for a natural disaster .
This section describes the methods you will use to recover quickly.
- recovery plan
- incident recovery checklist
- recovery contacts
- insurance claims
- market assessment
- staff mental health assessment.
Learn more about developing a recovery plan .
This section details how you'll test your systems and procedures. Use these reviews to evaluate and update your plan to be better prepared.
- training schedules
- review schedules.
- business processes, procedures, and standards
- industry codes of practice from WorkSafe Queensland, which set out work health and safety drill requirements (e.g. fire drills).
Business continuity plan template
The business continuity plan template will help you develop a:
- risk management plan
- incident response plan
- recovery plan.
Download the business continuity planning template .
Best practice in managing disaster risk — the PPRR model
The prevention, preparedness, response, recovery (PPRR) model is a cyclical way of handling disaster risk within your business. It's a useful example for your business continuity planning.
Reproduced from materials available on Prevention Preparedness, Response and Recovery Disaster Management Guideline published under a Attribution 4.0 International . © State of Queensland, 2022
This diagram shows the starting point of the model is prevention and mitigation, then moves to preparedness, followed by response, and finally recovery.
Use the PPRR model to:
- assist in developing your business continuity plan
- assist when conducting regular drills and rehearsals of emergency events
- identify gaps and areas for improvement
- ensure you are as prepared as possible.
The PPRR model is commonly used by Australian emergency management agencies because it is simple to understand and easy to remember and act on.
Small business examples of the PPRR model in practice
These examples help identify potential scenarios to consider for your business continuity plan.
Steps to prevent or eliminate risks
Example 1: Floods
When selecting a suitable premises for your business, check your local council's online flood maps and choose a location above flood levels of past floods.
If your premises is likely to be flooded, try to locate your building and structures above potential flood levels. Build accessible paths and driveways to allow continued access.
Learn more about preparing your business for natural disasters .
Example 2: Finances
Protect your finances by enabling additional security measures on your bank accounts and authorisations on payments. Set up a procedure to check all invoices, accounts and transactions regularly.
Contact your suppliers prior to payment to ensure the bank details listed on invoices are correct. These simple measures prevent fraud from within your business and theft through external cyber fraud.
- security and crime prevention
- managing financial risks .
Prepare your business to respond to and recover from an incident
Example 1: Bushfires
Identify what impact a bushfire might have on your business operations. This will not only include impacts to your business premises (e.g. loss of buildings and stock) but also wider impacts, such as how your local suppliers may be affected (e.g. limited orders, road or transport closures).
Develop emergency evacuation plans, and contact your local council for bushfire preparedness information for your area.
- preparing for a natural disaster
- bushfire preparation for small business .
Example 2: Losing a major customer
Losing a major customer can have a significant impact on your finances and may have implications for your staffing.
Consider how you could diversify products and services, or build your client base to ensure you're not reliant on the business of 1 customer.
Your response to contain and control an incident
Example 1: Economic downturn
An economic downturn is a normal phase in the business cycle. Customers may reduce spending and you may have to look at reducing stock or staffing levels.
A planned incident response will allow you to take immediate action to stabilise your business. Consider changing staff hours or renegotiating supplier contracts.
Learn more about surviving an economic downturn .
Example 2: Electrical fire
An electrical fire on your business premises needs a rapid response including making sure all staff are safe, evacuating and contacting emergency services.
A go-to kit with response checklists and contacts will help manage the incident.
- incident response
- emergency preparation for small business .
The steps and timelines to fully restore your business operations
Example 1: Drought
Recovering from drought in a rural area may require many steps to recover business customers and revenue, and is likely to take time.
Recovery could include attracting tourism to the area and broadening products and services. It may also require seeking financial assistance from the government and other sources.
- recovering after drought
- developing a recovery plan .
Example 2: Reputation loss
Reputation loss can be very difficult to recover from. You could consider engaging a public relations adviser, running a media campaign, retraining staff in customer service, and changing some products or services.
- recovering from a reputation incident
Train your staff
Include key staff when you develop and review your business continuity plan. This will help ensure your plan is comprehensive across all areas of your business, and help staff effectively respond to incidents. Make sure you introduce your plan to new staff as part of induction processes.
Use workplace simulations with staff to test and review your plan.
Workplace simulations of possible risks can help by:
- identifying how prepared you and your staff are
- revealing how quickly your staff can locate the plan, enact the incident checklists and put recovery actions in place
- identifying gaps and problems with the plan.
Your business experiences an IT outage. Many systems are affected including all your computers and telephones.
- Is your business continuity plan accessible in another location (e.g. a hard copy onsite, in the cloud accessible by a mobile phone)?
- Does your plan have a checklist of what to do including who to contact?
- Does your plan provide instructions on how to contact customers?
- How rapidly did the staff deal with the emergency and recover the business?
A team debrief after the simulation opens up discussion for review and changes based on staff feedback.
- Find out about identifying and managing business risk .
- Read about IT risk management .
- Visit the small business disaster hub to learn about managing natural disasters and other threats to your business.
- Last reviewed: 24 Nov 2022
- Last updated: 24 Nov 2022
How to Write a Business Continuity Plan Step-by-Step: Our Experts Provide Tips
By Andy Marker | October 21, 2020 (updated August 17, 2021)
In order to adequately prepare for a crisis, your company needs a business continuity plan. We’ve culled detailed step-by-step instructions, as well as expert tips for writing a business continuity plan and free downloadable tools.
Included on this page, find the steps to writing a business continuity plan and a discussion of the key components in a plan . You’ll also find a business continuity plan quick-start template and a disruptive incident quick-reference card template for print or mobile, and an expert disaster preparation checklist .
Step by Step: How to Write a Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan refers to the steps a company takes to help it continue operations during a crisis. In order to write a business continuity plan, you gather information about key people, tools, and processes, then write the plan as procedures and lists of resources.
To make formatting easy, download a free business continuity plan template . To learn more about the role of a business continuity plan, read our comprehensive guide to business continuity planning .
- Write a Mission Statement for the Plan: Describe the objectives of the plan. When does it need to be completed? What is the budget for disaster and recovery preparation, including research, training, consultants, and tools? Be sure to detail any assumptions about financial or other resources, such as government business continuity grants.
- Set Up Governance: Describe the business continuity team. Include names or titles and role designations, as well as contact information. Clearly define roles, lines of authority and succession, and accountability. Add an organization or a functional diagram. Select one of these free organizational chart templates to get started.
- Write the Plan Procedures and Appendices: This is the core of your plan. There's no one correct way to create a business continuity document, but the critical content it should include are procedures, agreements, and resources.Think of your plan as lists of tasks or processes that people must perform to keep your operation running. Be specific in your directions, and use diagrams and illustrations. Remember that checklists and work instructions are simple and powerful tools to convey key information in a crisis. Learn more about procedures and work instructions . You should also note who on the team is responsible for knowing plan details.
- Set Procedures for Testing Recovery and Response: Create test guidelines and schedules for testing. To review the plan, consider reaching out to people who did not write the plan. Put together the forms and checklists that attendees will use during tests.
A business continuity plan is governed by a business continuity policy. You can learn more about creating a business continuity policy and find examples by reading our guide on developing an effective business continuity policy .
How to Create a Business Continuity Plan
Creating a business continuity plan (BCP) involves gathering a team, studying risks and key tasks, and choosing recovery activities. Then write the plan as a set of lists and guidelines, which may address risks such as fires, floods, pandemics, or data breaches.
According to Alex Fullick, your best bet is to create a simple plan. “I usually break everything down into three key categories: people, places, and things. If you focus on a couple of key pieces, you will be a lot more effective. That big binder of procedures is absolutely worthless. You need a bunch of guidelines to say what you do in a given situation: where are our triggers for deciding we’re in a crisis and we have to stop doing XYZ, and just focus on ABC.”
“Post-pandemic, I think new managers will develop more policies and guidelines of all types than required, as a fear response,” cautions Michele Barry.
Because every company is different, no two approaches to business continuity planning are the same. Tony Bombacino, Co-Founder and President of Real Food Blends , describes his company’s formal and informal business continuity approaches. “The first step in any crisis is for our nerve center to connect quickly, assess the situation, and then go into action,” he explains.
“Our sales manager and our marketing manager might discuss what’s going on, and say, ‘Are we going to say anything on social media? Do we need to reach out to any of our customers? The key things, like maintaining stock levels or what if somebody gets sick? What if there's a recall?’ Those plans we have laid out. But we're not a 5,000-person multi-billion-dollar company, so our business continuity plan is often in emails and Google Docs.”
“I've done planning literally for hundreds of businesses where we've just filled out basic forms,” says Mike Semel, President and Chief Compliance Officer of Semel Consulting . “For example, noting the insurance company's phone number — you know, on the back of your utility bill, which you never look at, there's an emergency number for if the power goes out or if the gas shuts off. We've helped people gather all that information and put it down. Even if there's no other plan, just having that information at their fingertips when they need it may be enough.”
You can also approach your business continuity planning as including three types of responses:
- Proactive Strategies: Proactive approaches prevent crises. For example, you may buy an emergency generator to keep power running in your factory, or install a security system to prevent or limit loss during break-ins. Or you may create a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy and offer training for remote workers to protect your network and data security.
- Reactive Strategies: Reactive strategies are your immediate responses to a crisis. Examples of reactive methods include evacuation procedures, fire procedures, and emergency response strategies.
- Recovery Strategies: Recovery strategies describe how you resume operations to produce a minimum acceptable level of service. The recovery plan includes actions to stand up temporary processes. The plan also describes the longer-term efforts, such as relocation, data restoration, temporary workaround processes, or outsourcing tasks. Recovery strategies are not limited to IT and data recovery.
Quick-Start Guide Business Continuity Plan Template
If you don’t already have a business continuity plan in place, but need to create one in short order to respond to a disruption, use this quick-start business continuity template. This template is available in Word and Google Docs formats, and it’s simply formatted so that you can focus on brainstorming and problem-solving.
Download Quick-Start Guide Business Continuity Plan Template
Word | PDF | Google Docs | Smartsheet
For other most useful free, downloadable business continuity plan (BCP) templates please read our "Free Business Continuity Plan Templates" article.
Key Components of a Business Continuity Plan
Your company’s complete business continuity plan will have many details. Your plan may differ from other companies' plans based on industry and other factors. Each facility or business unit may also conduct an impact analysis and create disaster recovery and continuity plans . Consider adding these key components to your business plan:
- Contact Information: These pages include contact information for key employees, vendors, and critical third parties. Locate this information at the beginning of the plan.
- Business Impact Analysis: When you conduct business impact analysis (BIA), you evaluate the financial and other changes in a disruptive event (you can use one of these business impact templates to get started). Evaluate impact in terms of brand damage, product failure or malfunction, lost revenue, or legal and regulatory repercussions.
- Risk Assessment: In this section, assess the potential risks to all aspects of the organization’s operations. Look at potential risks related to such matters as cash on hand, stock levels, and staff qualifications. Although you may face an infinite number of potential internal and external risks, focus on people, places, and things to keep from becoming overwhelmed. Then analyze the effects of any items that are completely lost or need repairs. Also, understand that risk assessment is an ongoing effort that works in tandem with training and testing. Consider adding a completed risk matrix to your plan. You can create one using a downloadable risk matrix template .
- Critical Functions Analysis and List: As a faster alternative to a BIA, a critical functions analysis reveals what processes are critical to keeping your company running. Examples of critical functions include payroll and wages, accounts receivable, customer service, or production. According to Michele Barry, with a values-based approach to critical functions, you should consider who you really are as a company. Then decide what you must continue doing and what you can stop doing.
- Trigger and Disaster Declaration Criteria: Here, you should detail how your executive management will know when to declare an emergency and initiate the plan.
- Succession Plan: Identify alternate staff for key roles in each unit. Schedule time throughout the year to observe alternates as they make important decisions and complete recovery tasks.
- Alternate Suppliers: If your goods are regulated (i.e., food, toy, and pharmaceutical manufacturing), your raw resources and parts must always be up to standard. Source suppliers before a crisis to ensure that regulatory vetting and approval do not delay supplies.
- Operations Plan: Describe how your organization will resume and continue daily operations after a disruption. Include a checklist with such items as supplies, equipment, and information on where data is backed up and where you keep the plan. Note who should have copies of the plan.
- Crisis Communication Strategy: Detail how the organization will communicate with employees, customers, and third-party entities in the event of a disruption. If regular communications systems are disabled, make a plan for alternate methods. Download a free crisis communication strategy template to get started on this aspect.
- Incident Response Plan: Describe how your organization plans to respond to a range of likely incidents or disruptions, and define the triggers for activating the plan.
- Alternate Site Relocation: The alternate site is the location that the organization moves to after a disruption occurs. In the plan, you can also note the transportation and resources required to move the business and the processes you must maintain in this facility.
- Interim Procedures: These are the critical processes that must continue, either in their original or alternate forms.
- Restoration of Critical Data: Critical data includes anything you must immediately recover to maintain normal business functions.
- Vendor Partner Agreements: List your organization’s key vendors and how they can help you maintain or resume operations.
- Work Backlog: This includes the work that piles up when systems are shut down. You must complete this work first when processes start again.
- Recovery Strategy for IT Services: This section details the steps you take to restore the IT processes that are necessary to maintain the business.
- Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO): RTO refers to the maximum amount of time that a company can stop its processes and the length of time without access to data before productivity substantially drops. Determine RTOs for each unit, factoring in people, places, and things.
- Backup Plans: What if plans, processes, or resources fail or are unavailable? Determine alternatives now, so you don't have to scramble. Decide on a backup roster for personnel who are unavailable.
- Manual Workarounds: This section details how a business can operate by hand, should all failsafe measures break down.
- External Audit Details: For regulated organizations, external audits may be compulsory. Your scheduled internal audits will prepare you for external audits.
- Test and Exercise Plan: Identify how and when you will test the continuity plan, including details about periodic tabletop testing and more complex real-world scenario testing.
- Change Management: Note how you will incorporate learnings from tests and exercises, disseminate changes, and review the plan and track changes.
Key Resources for Business Continuity
To fix problems, restore operations, or submit an insurance claim, you need readily available details of the human resources and other groups that can assist with business continuity. (Your organization's unique situation may also require specific types of resources.) Add this information to appendices at the back of your continuity plan.
Fullick suggests broadening the definition of human assets. "People are our employees, certainly. But we forget that the term ‘people’ includes executive management. Management doesn't escape pandemics or the flu or a car crash. Bad things can happen to them and around them, too."
Use the following list as a prompt for recording important information about your organization. Your unique situation may require other types of information.
- Lists of key employees and their contact information. Also, think beyond C-level and response team members to staff with long-term or specialized knowledge
- Disaster recovery and continuity team contact names, roles, and contact information
- Emergency contact number for police and emergency services for your location
- Non-emergency contact information for police and medical
- Emergency and non-emergency contact numbers for facilities issues
- Board member contact information
- Personnel roster, including family or emergency contact names and numbers for the entire organization
- Contractors for any repairs
- Client contact information and SLAs
- Insurance contacts for all plans
- Key regulatory contacts.
- Legal contacts
- Vendor contact information and partner agreements and SLAs
- Addresses and details for each office or facility
- Primary and secondary contact and information for each facility or office, including at least one phone number and email address
- Off-site recovery location
- Addresses and access information for storage facilities or vehicle compounds
- Funding and banking information
- IT details and data recovery information, including an inventory of apps and license numbers
- Insurance policy numbers and agent contact information for each plan, healthcare, property, vehicle, etc.
- Inventory of tangibles, including equipment, hardware, supplies, fixtures, and fittings (if you are a supplier or manufacturer, include an inventory of raw materials and finished goods)
- Lease details
- Licenses, permits, other legal documents
- List of special items that you use regularly, but don't order frequently
- Location of backup equipment
- Utility account numbers and contact information (for electric, gas, telephone, water, waste pickup, etc.)
Activities to Complete Before Writing the Business Continuity Plan
Before you write your plan, take these preliminary steps to assemble a team and gather background information.
- Incident Commander: This person is responsible for all aspects of an emergency response.
- Emergency Response Team: The emergency response team refers to the group of people in charge of responding to an emergency or disruption.
- Information Technology Recovery Team: This group is responsible for recovering important IT services.
- Alternate Site/Location Operation Team: This team is responsible for maintaining business operations at an alternate site.
- Facilities Management Team: The facilities management team is responsible for managing all of the main business facilities and determining the necessary responses to maintain them in light of a disaster or disruption.
- Department Upper Management: This includes key stakeholders and upper management employees who govern BCP decisions.
- Conduct business impact analysis or critical function analysis. Understand how the loss of processes in each department can affect internal and external operations. See our article on business continuity planning to learn more about BIAs.
- Conduct risk analysis. Determine the potential risks and threats to your organization.
- Identify the scope of the plan. Define where the business continuity plan applies, whether to one office, the entire organization, or only certain aspects of the organization. Use the BIA and risk analysis to identify critical functions and key resources that you must maintain. Set goals to determine the level of detail required. Set milestones to track progress in completing the plan. "Setting scope is essential," Barry insists. "You need to define the core and noncore aspects of the business and the minimum requirements for achieving continuity."
- Strategize recovery approaches: Strategize how your business should respond to a disruption, based on your risk assessment and BIA. During this process, you determine the core details of the BCP, add the key components and resources, and determine the timing for what must happen before, during, and after a disruptive event.
Common Structure of a Business Continuity Plan
Knowing the common structure should help shape the plan — and frees you from thinking about form when you should be thinking about content. Here is an example of a BCP format:
- Business Name: Record the business name, which usually appears on the title page.
- Date: The day the BCP is completed and signed off.
- Purpose and Scope: This section describes the reason for and span of the plan.
- Business Impact Analysis: Add the results of the BIA to your plan.
- Risk Assessment: Consider adding the risk assessment matrix to your plan.
- Policy Information: Include the business continuity policy or policy highlights.
- Emergency Management and Response: You can detail emergency response measures separately from other recovery and continuity procedures.
- The Plan: The core of the plan details step-by-step procedures for business recovery and continuity.
- Relevant Appendices: Appendices can include such information as contact lists, org charts, copies of insurance policies, or any supporting documents relevant in a crisis.
Keep in mind that every business is different — no two BCPs look the same. Tailor your business continuity plan to your company, and make sure the document captures all the information you need to keep your business functioning. Having everything you need to know in an emergency is the most crucial part of a BCP.
Disruptive Incident Quick-Reference Card Template
Use this quick-reference card template to write the key steps that employees should take in case of an emergency. Customize this template for each business unit, department, or role. Describe what people should do immediately and in the following days and weeks to continue the business. Print PDFs and laminate them for workstations or wallets, or load the PDFs on your mobile phone.
Download Disruptive Incident Quick-Reference Card Template
Expert Disaster Preparation Checklist
Business continuity and disaster planning aren’t just about your buildings and cloud backup — it’s about people and their families. Based on a document by Mike Semel of Semel Consulting, this disaster checklist helps you prepare for the human needs of your staff and their families, including food, shelter, and other comforts.
Tips for Writing a Business Continuity Plan
With its many moving parts and considerations, a business continuity plan can seem intimidating. Follow these tips to help you write, track, and maintain a strong BCP:
- Take the continuity management planning process seriously.
- Interview key people in the organization who have successfully managed disruptive incidents.
- Get approval from leadership early on and seek their ongoing championship of continuity preparedness.
- Be flexible when it comes to who you involve, what resources you need, and how you achieve the most effective plan.
- Keep the plan as simple and targeted as possible to make it easy to understand.
- Limit the plan to practical disaster response actions.
- Base the plan on the most up-to-date, accurate information available.
- Plan for the worst-case scenario and broadly cover many types of potential disruptive situations.
- Consider the minimum amount of information or resources you need to keep your business running in a disaster.
- Use the data you gather in your BIA and risk analysis to make the planning process more straightforward.
- Share the plan and make sure employees have a chance to review it or ask questions.
- Make the document available in hard copy for easy access, or add it to a shared platform.
- Continually test, review, and maintain your plan to keep it up to date.
- Keep the BCP current with organizational and regulatory changes and updates.
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