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How to create an effective business continuity plan

Ed Tittel and Kim Lindros | Nov. 15, 2013
Natural and manmade disasters underscore the challenges of seamless disaster recovery in the real world. Having a comprehensive business continuity plan isn't just an IT concern; though. Nothing less than the survival of your company is at stake.

It's also a good idea to conduct a full emergency evacuation drill at least once a year. This type of test lets you determine if you need to make special arrangements to evacuate staff members who have physical limitations.

Lastly, disaster simulation testing can be quite involved and should be performed annually. For this test, create an environment that simulates an actual disaster, with all the equipment, supplies, and personnel (including business partners and vendors) who would be needed. The purpose of a simulation is to determine if you can carry out critical business functions during the event.

During each phase of business continuity plan testing, include some new employees on the test team. "Fresh eyes" might detect gaps or lapses of information that experienced team members could overlook.

Finally, Review and Improve Your Business Continuity Plan
Much effort goes into creating and initially testing a BC plan. Once that job is complete, some organizations let the plan sit while other, more critical tasks get attention. When this happens, plans go stale and are of no use when needed.

Technology evolves, and people come and go, so the plan needs to be updated, too. Bring key personnel together at least annually to review the plan and discuss any areas that must be modified.

Prior to the review, solicit feedback from staff to incorporate into the plan. Ask all departments or business units to review the plan, including branch locations or other remote units. If you've had the misfortune of facing a disaster and had to put the plan into action, be sure to incorporate lessons learned. Many organizations conduct a review in tandem with a table-top exercise or structured walk-through.

How to Ensure Business Continuity Plan Support, Awareness
One way to ensure your plan is not successful is to adopt a casual attitude toward its importance. Every business continuity plan must be supported from the top down. That means senior management must be represented when creating and updating the plan; no one can delegate that responsibility to subordinates. In addition, the plan is likely to remain fresh and viable if senior management makes it a priority by dedicating time for adequate review and testing.

Management is also key to promoting user awareness. If employees don't know about the plan, how will they be able to react appropriately when every minute counts? Although plan distribution and training can be conducted by business unit managers or HR staff, have someone from the top kick off training and punctuate its significance. It'll have a greater impact on all employees, giving the plan more credibility and urgency.

 

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