By Sara Harrup
23 years ago I was a nurse working in the operating theatre of a large public hospital. One day whilst assisting with surgery on a man whose life was hanging in the balance, all the power went down. There were a few seconds where everything went quiet (except the sound of my heart thudding in panic) and then suddenly the emergency generators kicked in and the power went on again. There had been a major gas leak on the road outside and the electricity provider had shut down the whole grid. That was, at the age of 20, my first introduction to business continuity planning. If the hospital didn’t have plans in place in case of a shutdown of their major equipment, lives would be lost.
In business it doesn’t have to be a matter of life and death but imagine what would happen if the things you need to run your operation were suddenly taken away from you? How would you operate? How would you communicate with staff and clients? Where is your information stored? How would you access it?
In large organisations business continuity drills can happen almost as often as fire drills. In smaller organisations, particularly in not for profit organisations, there may be no business continuity plan at all. A business continuity plan is essential for all types of business, not just the large ones. The plan outlines exactly how your organisation will continue to function if your operations are disrupted or disabled for a period due to events outside of your control.
The first step is to identify the known and unimaginable (it won’t happen to me) risks. These could be things like power failure, flood, theft, bushfire, equipment failure or even injury or illness to key staff members which may affect how the business functions. The next step is to work out if there are any ways you can prevent any of these events from occurring.
It is important, once risks and prevention of risks has been covered to find the main things your business needs to be able to run. Each of these things should be given a priority. Identify a person or team responsible for enacting the business continuity plan. This should also include a backup person, in case the event causing disruption has also caused loss of contact with the main leader of the business.
You should draft an action plan which details exactly how you would act to restore operation of your services. What external supports would you need and what are their contacts? Where is your critical documentation? Do you have an alternative physical location to operate from?
It is critical (and fun) to do a trial run every six months, where you run a mock disruption to services and see if your action plan works. Remember that when you make changes to your business you should also check your business continuity plan to see that it reflects those changes.
Cause and Effective can take your organisation through a powerful, engaging and exciting workshop which sees you walk away with a business continuity plan tailored to your operation. This workshop also serves as a great way to build your team, as you collaborate together on how to keep your business afloat in troubled times.
If you and your team are prepared to invest 4 hours in preparing for when your organisation may be “rained upon” contact us here.
Image credit: 123RF
About Sara – Sara Harrup is a Cause and Effective Associate and Director of Focus and Flourish. She is a former not for profit CEO who now focuses on organisational performance and executive health and wellbeing. You can contact Sara here