Four common business continuity misconceptions

Published: Wednesday, 09 September 2020 08:32

For any business leader considering implementing business continuity for the first time - or indeed anyone who has a plan and would like to improve it - it’s important to address four common misconceptions that can cause confusion and limit effectiveness says Jeff Keyes.

Introduction

Whatever the cause, unexpected situations test the competitiveness and capability of a company. If a business handles crises effectively, its market value and reputation can thrive.  

It’s crucial for all businesses to have business continuity plans in place to help restart their business operations quickly through a systematic plan of prevention and recovery. Being certain of exactly what constitutes a business continuity plan (BCP) is clearly an important first step, and for most this may seem obvious. But there is sometimes confusion regarding the difference between a business continuity and a disaster recovery plan. The main function of a disaster recovery plan is the recovery of a company’s IT infrastructure after a crisis, in contrast with business continuity which includes disaster recovery but also other aspects such as securing employees and the processes they use.

Misconception #1: Employees should make all the decisions in the moment of a crisis

While employees are undoubtedly every business’ most valuable asset, relying on them during an emergency to make the right decisions when they have little time to think or collaborate with others is very risky. No manager could be expected to know and understand every single aspect of the company they work for. In addition, leaving employees to decide how to handle a disaster may add to the confusion. Each of your key employees is likely to tackle the problems differently. Therefore, it is crucial to educate and train your employees using the procedures outlined in your business continuity plan.

This assures an organized, safe, and, hopefully, quick recovery for your company. Business continuity plans should also assign every recovery activity to a specific employee who will be trained on particular procedures for their area of expertise. It’s unwise to expect all employees to be trained on every step in the BCP, as this could once again create confusion in the event of a disaster – as the saying goes, “too many cooks spoil the broth”. Having everyone trying to help everywhere simply causes more chaos.

Misconception #2: Lost revenue is covered by insurance

It is not uncommon for business leaders to assume that their insurance policies will cover revenue lost due to a disaster. But while good insurance coverage still plays an important role in business continuity plans, insurance alone is not a business continuity strategy. It is very unlikely to help recover significant damages caused by interference with the release of a new product, loss of market share, or loss of customers due to a disaster, for example. Hence, it is very important to consult with your insurance agent to understand the terms and conditions of your insurance policy, and be confident in exactly what it does and does not cover.

Misconception #3: Business continuity plans are a waste of time

Yes, it does take some time and effort to develop a good business continuity plan. But overall it costs very little to take it from the idea stage to a formalised plan, from which point employees can learn to follow it with practice and training. It’s also important to remember that time spent now determining an effective BCP will no doubt save your team time further down the road when a disaster strikes and everyone knows how to restore the business to normal function quicker than they could have before.

Misconception #4: Testing a business continuity plan is unnecessary

Having business continuity plans is one thing but, without regular testing, it’s impossible to know if it will work when it needs to. Some teams argue that testing is difficult and expensive. But if your BCP is hard to understand, that should be a red flag. Your plan should always be easy to understand by the people who will use it, with clear steps to recover each particular operation. If you follow that guideline, testing it should be simple, and should be carried out around two to four times per year depending on the turnover of key roles and any changes to the BCPs.

Additionally, testing your plan is necessary to find any flaws or missing steps. You don’t want to end up in a disaster situation where you lack certain information or steps needed to restore services quickly. Essentially, it’s worth investing some time in testing your business continuity plan thoroughly, or else you risk the plan letting you down.

Business continuity plans should be part and parcel of business operations, and for many this will already be the case. But even when a plan is in place, common misconceptions may still impact its effectiveness. To get the full value from your BCPs, invest the time now with all employees to ensure they are fully reliable and cover every aspect necessary. You will thank yourself in the future if you do.

The author

Jeff Keyes, VP of Product at Plutora.