Business Continuity Plan: Best Laid Plans

Dwight Eisenhower famously said in the run-up to D-Day that plans were useless, but planning was essential. As the Covid-19 crisis continues to develop, there is a growing understanding not only of the interruption and disruption it may cause but also the measures that businesses can (and in some cases, must) take to minimize the potential damage to their ongoing operations.  

Use this handy checklist to check whether your business continuity plan is up to scratch: 

Spot it

The plan should focus on key risks and exposures. Start by listing the main areas of concern if normal business operations are interrupted. For instance, for some the list might look something like this: 

  • Loss of sales and income 
  • Increased costs 
  • Customer engagement and loyalty drops 
  • Service delivery delayed or compromised product quality 

This list will help you formulate your response both in the short term and beyond. 

Say it

Communication during a period of crisis is critical. Usually, however, the crisis will affect a smaller number of people – an individual business, perhaps, or a sector. But the current situation affects literally every person and business on the planet. That’s why it’s so important to get your comms right.  

Firstly, make a list of those who will need regular updates. The list will almost certainly have customers at the top. Beyond that, it may also include: 

  • Suppliers and distributors    
  • Contractors and service providers 
  • Banks and legal advisors 
  • Consultants, especially those in IT  
  • Utility companies 
  • Insurance providers 

Once the list is compiled it’s then a question of what to say. The last few months have thrown up some clear lessons in how to do this effectively – and how not to. The business continuity plan should have some existing messaging to be used in an emergency in order to alert key stakeholders to your continued existence, explaining how you plan to manage through the crisis. Beyond that, it’s important to get the tone and frequency right: be clear, be realistic (don’t promise business as usual if your warehouse has just burnt down, for instance), and make sure you update key stakeholders when necessary.  

Manage it

A good business continuity plan will take into account all the potential risks the business faces. But following on from that should be a comprehensive list of actions to take.  

And arriving at that will require some scenario planning. The only certainty about any projection is that the actual future position will be different, so don’t limit your thinking to just one scenario- the future position is determined by the interplay of a wide variety of factors and current business conditions are so uncertain that you must consider a range of outcomes. 

A good plan will consider a range of realistic scenarios and have a clear response to each, and will – crucially – put a named person in charge of each response to ensure an effective reaction and clear accountability.   

Perfect it

Business conditions are fluid and changing rapidly. Today’s assessment might be very different from tomorrow’s. It is important to use the output from the business continuity plan as a tool for discussion and as a way to share thinking. In short, the plan should change constantly and should not simply be filed away as “our coronavirus plan”.  

Instead, treat the output from this exercise as a working tool and constantly challenge yourself and other team members about how the scenarios and assumptions should be updated to meet the latest situations. 

To download the above checklist, click here.

Find out how we can help your business planning and support you during this period by contacting us today.