Business Continuity

Manchester bomb in 1996What Is Business Continuity?

Nearly 1 in 5 businesses suffer a major disruption every year. Hundreds of businesses were affected by the Manchester bomb in 1996 and the Buncefield Oil Depot explosion in 2005, and many of them never recovered sufficiently to resume trading.

More common are small scale disaster which don’t usually make the news but can be just as damaging.

Without effective recovery plans in place you have much less chance of survival, especially if you are a small business where even the slightest upset can have serious consequences.

Business Continuity (BC) may sound terribly boring and complicated, but it is simply understanding your business processes, identifying critical or time-sensitive areas, the risks which could affect them, and then making reasonable changes to ensure you get back to ‘business as usual’ following any disruption.

I’m only a small business, how can Business Continuity help me?

BC isn’t just for large corporations. In fact, small businesses probably need it more as they are most vulnerable if a disaster strikes. Regardless of the size of your organisation, an effective business continuity plan should:

  • Reduce financial losses from disruption;
  • Reduce insurance premiums;
  • Maintain your brand and reputation;
  • Build customer confidence;
  • Build staff confidence;
  • Prevent loss of business to your competitors;
  • Ensure you meet relevant legislative and regulatory requirements.

Think of BC in the same way as fire prevention and planning. You hope you will never have a fire, but you still install fire alarms, sprinklers, extinguishers, fire doors and hold regular fire drills to ensure that, if there was ever a fire, everyone would be safe and any fire damage would be minimal.

Now, if you are lucky enough to never have a fire, would you see your precautions as waste of time and money? Or would you see it as an essential investment in the success of your business through minimising the chance of a fire, increasing staff and customer confidence, and reducing you insurance premiums?

How much does BC cost?

Buncefield Oil Depot explosion in 2005

Creating a Business Continuity Plan should cost almost nothing as it simply identifies the areas which must be kept running, or recovered within a specific time frame. However, you may wish to implement additional processes or solutions to help with this such as IT back-ups or alternative locations, which you may have to pay for.

It is impossible to work out how much they will cost you until you know what your risks are, how seriously you might be affected and what you could do to prevent or recover from them. The question should really be “how much would not having it cost?”

How does BC fit in with the rest of my Business?

Business Continuity should not be done in isolation; it should be part of your normal business processes and should be weighed up against the risk of not having it in place, just like installing a fire alarm or buying a cycling helmet; is the risk worth the investment?

I’ve already got a Business Continuity Plan, what now?

The final stage of effective BC planning and one which should be done regularly is testing. Of course, you could wait for a real incident to see how good your plan is, but do you really want to find out during a crisis?

Make sure you conduct regular tests of the entire plan, or parts of it as necessary. This is so that you can be more confident it will work in reality, and that your staff know how to respond. Revise and update with any learning points as you find them.

Remember – in an uncertain world, you owe it to yourself to be an organisation that is confident of being back in business in the quickest possible time.

More information

If you need some more guidance on where to begin, Harlow Council's Property and Facilities team can point you in the right direction on 01279 446655, or visit some of the many online resources under external links to help you develop your Business Continuity Plan.