Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Preparing for the worst, whatever the weather

Deborah Higgins MBCI

Set against the background of the recent severe flooding that was affected or at least threatened to affect large areas of the UK, putting both business and homes at risk, there is no better time than now for businesses to think about how prepared they are to deal with such disruptions and to take the first steps towards preparing for the worst.

But how do we prepare?
Business continuity is all about having the capability to cope with disruptions no matter what they are.  So when there is calm before a storm, it is important that businesses take the time to develop and implement comprehensive business continuity arrangements to provide confidence in an organization’s resilience and ability to survive whatever the incident or weather. 
What do businesses need to do?
  • Understand what risks the business is vulnerable to – for example, are premises or assets at risk of flooding? Do all staff live locally and will they be impacted by the same event? Would the ability to communicate with staff, customers and suppliers be affected?
  • Determine the most urgent business activities – which activities must be continued in order to stay in business? Which activities could be temporarily put on hold and for how long?
  • Understand the impact of any disruption to the most urgent business activities – what could happen if these activities were lost or disrupted? 
  • Identify key suppliers for the urgent activities – which suppliers are critical to the delivery of key products and services? How might they be impacted by a disruption?
  • Understand the business impact of a supply chain disruption or supply failure - for example, even if the business is not directly impacted by the flooding, a supplier may be, so having an alternative arrangement in place (where possible) will minimise disruption to the ability to carry on delivering products and services.
  • Consider what alternative arrangements could be put in place to enable the business to carry on operating.
  • Make sure a well-rehearsed incident response plan is in place as part of business continuity arrangements.
There are good examples in the news today of a business whose competitor assisted them with continuing to make a product after their premises were disrupted by a fire. Another business owner who was severely affected by the riots in London utilised an arrangement with a neighbouring premise that was not affected and has now seen massive growth in his business as a result.  
Taking time to consider the potential impacts and making alternative arrangements in advance makes good business sense.
Business continuity is a way to help businesses become more resilient to the increasing number of risks and threats they are facing. Good business continuity practice means businesses will know ahead of time, what threats there are to their organisation and what the impacts of these could be. Even when we cannot predict the exact scope of a problem, we can at least plan to resume key activities in the speediest and most cost-effective manner.
So no matter what is predicted or what comes to bite us, we can be assured that we know what we will do when the time comes by adopting good business continuity practice.  

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