Let’s begin by remembering how widely the effects of a disaster can be felt. If an individual company experiences a disruption, it can be devastating for the people who work in it or rely on its products or dividends. But imagine large-scale disasters, like the Japanese tsunami or the bush fires in Australia that put many businesses out of commission. If the companies cannot get back, up and running quickly, the effects are multiplied, consequently the tax base is affected and economic
Criticality of BCM
Business continuity management (BCM) is critical because it looks beyond dealing with the emergency itself. It takes into account what will be required to get the business up and running as soon as possible and keep it and its dependents working and contributing to the economy for the long term. The failure of BCM affects the company concerned, a number of people who will experience personal disasters when operations cease, as well as the government.
One could even argue that BCM is not only a risk management process, but also as a basic human right because it provides:
Employment continuity by making sure the employees have a job/workplace to return to after a disruption or disaster.
Confidence continuity by ensuring the staff and stakeholder retain their confidence in the ability of the business to recover from disaster.
Social continuity by ensuring that the state will not be negatively impacted financially through the non-collection of taxes.
BCM (or the lack of it) thus has far-reaching effects. In order to make it work, stakeholders across the business and its value chain all have to be involved: managers, process owners, strategic planners, project and procurement teams, key suppliers and directors all have to be involved in managing risk. It goes much deeper than just preparing for a major event—a flood, a terrorist attack or the like—but of preparing the business and its employees for anything. An effective BCM plan based on international best practice will generate the following six clear benefits:
Minimize the effect of a disruption on an organisation.
Reduce the risk of financial loss.
Retain company brand and image and give staff, clients and suppliers confidence in the organisation’s services.
Enable the recovery of critical systems within an agreed timeframe.
Meet legal and statutory obligations.
Measure the level of compliance to international business continuity standards from the Business Continuity Institute.
Benefits of business continuity planning
Business continuity planning is an essential part of running any modern organisation that takes its business and its clients seriously. With so many potential business disasters looming that can befall an organisation at any time, it seems unwise not to take actions to prepare for and try to prevent the devastating impact of such catastrophes.
There is a multiplicity of benefits in planning for business continuity within your organisation. Not only will your data, hardware, software, etc., be better protected, but the people that compose your organisation will be better safeguarded should a disaster occurs. In addition, the employees will be informed and rehearsed as to what actions to take to immediately start the recovery process and ensure business continuity if a disaster strikes.
Without this type of preparation, any unexpected event can severely disrupt the operation, continuity and effectiveness of your business. Disabling events can come in all shapes and varieties. They can vary from the more common calamities like hard drive corruption, building fires or flooding to the rarer, yet more severe and often longer lasting disruptions that can occur on a city-wide or even national basis; events such as disruptions in transport (oil crises, metro shut-downs, transport worker, strikes, etc.), infrastructure weakening from terrorist attacks or even severe loss of staff due to illness like a pandemic flu. All of these strike a blow at an organisation’s struggle for business continuity.
For smaller companies, the impact of the above-mentioned and even lesser disasters can hit much harder. For example, unexpected non-availability of key workers alone could be catastrophic, potentially causing as much disruption to business continuity as technological hardship, especially if it occurs during the height of the company’s busy season. If only one person is trained to do particular and/or essential tasks, their unexpected absence can severely disrupt productivity. Thus, putting business continuity plans into practice in your organisation now can prepare your business for most any potential disaster, help ensure that you will be able to maintain continuity of your business practices and reduce or even possibly remove the effect such calamities could have on your organisation.
In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, the following are also advantages of business continuity planning:
If not already, your organisation my soon be required to incorporate some type of BCM planning into its policies by either corporate governance or governmental legislation.
With an effective and practiced business continuity plan, your insurance company may well view you more favourably should some sort of disaster ever require you to call upon their services.
In creating a business continuity plan, the process of evaluating potential weakness and planning how to deal with what could possibly go wrong often offers management the chance to gain a better understanding of the minutia of their business and ultimately helps an organisation identify ways to strengthen any shortcomings. Frequently the greatest and most immediate value of the business continuity planning process is the awareness one gains of the details of his/her business and not necessarily the streamlining of how to handle disaster as an organisation. Business continuity planning can often create awareness of useful ways to improve an organisation, sometimes even in areas that had previously gone unconsidered.
Business continuity planning will make your organisation more robust. It can strengthen your organisation not only against large-scale problems; it can also help make smaller problems that might have caused continuity interruptions to become moot, through detailed planning.
Business continuity plan will show your investors that you take business seriously, that you are prepared and desire to maintain productivity regardless of difficulty. This preparation will also show your staff that you have their employment and personal well-being in mind. It will show that you care.
Informing your customers that you have a business continuity plan, that you have taken steps to ensure continuity of your productivity so that you can keep your commitments to them, lets them know that you consider the provision of quality service a high priority which in turns instils their confidence in your business.
A business continuity plan helps protect your organisation’s image, brand and reputation. Being known as a reliable company is always good for business.
And finally, a business continuity plan can significantly reduce your loses if ever you are hit by disaster.
BCM today has become a major concern to all industry sectors and has now been recognized as an integral part of good management and governance practice. It is increasingly required by compliance regulations and organisations that want to do business with you.
(Kamran Ziauddin is Associate Director at MSI Management Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd, Sri Lanka. Subject matter expert – risk and business continuity management. He is available on email: Kamran@msiconsultants.lk)