It’s important for businesses to remember how catastrophic a disaster can be, and how long its effects can be felt for. If a single organisation experiences an incident which causes disruption, it can have a negative effect on its employees or those who rely on its products.
However, think about a wide-scale catastrophe, such as the massive Tsunami of 2004, or the fires that wiped out thousands of acres of Australian bush. “Many hundreds of businesses had to close their doors. If a company cannot get back up and running almost instantly, there’s a good chance it will be closing its doors forever,” says Robert Brown, CEO of DRS, a Cognosec company.
He says research has revealed that approximately one quarter of organisations do not open in the aftermath of a significant event. “Bear in mind though, it’s not only a major disaster that can see a business shut down. Even minor incidents such as loss of customer data, power outages and loss of critical infrastructure can have the same effect.”
He says managing this risk by having a business continuity management (BCM) strategy in place is crucial to the survival of any business. “BCM is vital because it goes beyond handling the crisis itself. It looks at what is needed to get the company up and running as quickly as possible and keep the business and its employees productive in the long haul.”
BCM is much more than a risk management process. It not only allows staff to keep their jobs and earn a living in the event of a disaster, it helps maintain confidence among all stakeholders in the ability of the organisation to recover. “On the flip side, the lack of BCM has seriously negative effects.”
According to Brown, in order to make BCM work, all stakeholders across the organisation need to be actively involved. “This includes, managers, directors, shareholders, planners and even third-party partners. This goes beyond preparing for a specific event that might result in downtime. The business and its staff need to be prepared for anything.”
Having an effective plan in place, he says, will bring obvious benefits, such as reducing the negative effects of a disruption on the business. “It will also lower the risk of financial losses, help to maintain a positive brand image and instil confidence in the market, allow for the quick recovery of critical systems and infrastructure within a set timeline, and help the business meet regulatory requirements.”
There are a few misconceptions surrounding the necessity of a BCM plan, he adds. “Firstly, the erroneous belief that employees will just somehow know what to do in the event of a catastrophe. They don’t. Leaving staff to respond however they choose will only add to the confusion, and result in a ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ type of scenario. Having a plan in place, and staff trained to follow it, will ensure recovery happens in a quick, safe and organised manner.”
Another big mistake, he says, is to assume that having insurance in place is enough. “It isn’t. Having adequate coverage in place is a vital element of the plan, but it does not cover all damage. How do you quantify loss of business, or customer confidence, or loss of market share? You can’t. Rather have an understanding of how to minimise your damage and losses from the outset.”
Some businesses simply see developing a good BCM plan as being too time intensive. This is a foolish mistake, because having a plan in place will ensure that you are up and running quickly, Brown says. “Monthly bills for fixed costs will continue come in whether the doors are open or closed. The faster you can be up and running, the better your chances of recovering from the disaster.”
Businesses simply cannot afford not to have a BCM plan in place. “Having a solid, well thought out plan that communicates all steps and roles clearly will see your business responding effectively in the event of a disaster. Trust me, it’s one of the best investments your organisation can make.”