Mark Hoffman, CBCP
Founder, President, & Senior Managing Consultant,
Anesis Consulting Group
Cynthia Wenn, CBCA
Member of the Education Commission, DRI Canada
Lisa Maddock, ABCP
Board Member, DRI Canada
Small- and medium-sized businesses should leverage certified professionals to develop business continuity plans that allow for continued operations.
All small- and medium- sized businesses should ensure they keep things running with a proper business continuity plan that manages all risks along the way.
According to certified professionals, business continuity planning goes beyond simple disaster recovery. A good business continuity plan considers system crashes, supply chain disruptions, lack of physical access to work facilities, and personnel loss.
“Good business continuity strategies focus on the real needs of the company, rather than trying to apply a cookie cutter one-size-fits-all technique,” says Mark Hoffman, Founder, President, and Senior Managing Consultant at Anesis Consulting Group. “Not every organization that has a business continuity plan necessarily needs all four of those incidence types of plans.”
He adds that smaller organizations may face formulating a business continuity plan with a lack of time or resources. However, any disruption could mean further delays that could impact operations by way of costs, relationships, and reputation. This highlights the need to be proactive.
Taking a proactive approach
Insurance may cover some damages or losses, though policies may also differ in stipulations and circumstances, leading to unknown outcomes. Smaller businesses would feel a stronger impact in case of financial loss, but it’s the idea that a major disruption is unlikely that has been a prevailing refrain for some business owners, notes Hoffman.
“I would think that 2020 would have hopefully put some of that to rest,” he says. “What are you going to do if your systems crashed, or if you can’t get into the building, or you lose that key person, the only one in your company who knows how to do something important? Without giving that thought ahead of time and documenting what those steps would be to get you through that, you’re extending the amount of time it’s going to take to get back up and running. And time is money.”
Not planning for those contingencies is just another form of “winging it,” says Cynthia Wenn, a member of the Education Commission at the Disaster Recovery Institute (DRI). She sees insurance coverage as a way to financially rebuild after a disaster, but not as a way for a company to continue conducting business in the interim. “With the right guidance, there are some things organizations can do to plan for business continuity without a large investment,” she says.
Seeking out help along the way
Considering an alternate for each role is a way that small businesses can plan without spending, says Lisa Maddock, a board member with DRI Canada. Time-critical services, or the roles defined that way within the business, could benefit from cross-training employees so that more than one person could step in when a key person isn’t available, she adds. It’s a fairly inexpensive option compared to investing in an alternate workplace.
In addition to considering alternate roles, preparing staff for such potential incidents, much like a fire drill, is another approach to inexpensive planning. Training exercises, including those put together by business continuity planners and experts, would give employees an opportunity to practise in a non-threatening environment.
“COVID-19 has been an eye-opener for everyone because I don’t think many people realized they’d be working from home for this long,” says Maddock. “An important thing to do now, while it’s fresh, is to capture lessons identified from their experiences with the COVID-19 response. Policies and procedures may have changed and could be leveraged in the next iteration of their plans.”
Engaging a certified professional or accessing online training through DRI Canada can assist in the development of business continuity plans.
“This is a good time for people to do that certification and to take the courses because they’re all online and available to them,” says Wenn. “It’s an all-hazards approach to risk management, and the different options are like having a giant toolbox at your disposal.”