How to build a business continuity plan (template)

The pandemic has clarified several things about business and the economy. The most important lesson is that, despite how optimistic the situation seems to be, everything can take a drastic turn in a short amount of time. 

According to the World Bank, Covid-19 has introduced the globe to the fastest and steepest economic downgrade consensus growth projection since 1990. In just a matter of months, record numbers of jobs were lost, and businesses closed. Micro, small, and medium enterprises were the hardest hit. 

Why are we taking this dark trip into the recent past? Because, unfortunately, it can happen again. 

Any number of downturns or catastrophes, whether local or global in scale, natural or artificial, can cause irreparable damage to your business. Whatever difficult times ahead will hit harder without the right business continuity plan, especially for small businesses.

This article will help mitigate this risk by providing a business continuity plan template that your company can adopt. It will discuss what is needed to develop a coherent and implementable plan in an unforeseen disaster. It will also look into the possible threats you may end up facing. 

Business continuity planning

Business continuity planning is the process of creating a system that will help companies recover from a major disruption in the shortest amount of time. The plan provides essential policies and guidelines in times of uncertainty. It protects the personnel and assets of the company and ensures that operations can resume in some capacity as soon as possible. 

Business continuity plans generally have the following objectives:

  • Determine arrangements for the organisation to respond quickly to emergencies
  • Ensure the safety of employees
  • Protect records, equipment, facilities, and other assets
  • Identify key parties to initiate a response
  • Minimise business downtime
  • Provide support to stakeholders

Having an operational business continuity plan gives businesses several benefits, including the following:

  • Safety – You can ensure the safety and wellbeing of members of your organisation by anticipating potential threats. By conducting safety training courses and drills, allocating resources to safety measures, and laying out and communicating a comprehensive plan, you can minimise the risk of injury or loss of life
  • Costs – By ensuring the safety of your staff and assets, you reduce the potential costs of any disruption. It also ensures that the organisation can recover quickly after minimal downtime, lowering costs. At the same time, depending on the industry, your company may beat competitors in being the first to offer products and services
  • Confidence – Having a solid plan in the event of catastrophe improves employee morale. It lets the team know contingencies have been made and their safety and employment are secure. This can also affect consumer confidence in your products and services

Business continuity template (for UK organisations)

The business continuity plan template is divided into three parts – organisation, impact analysis and strategies. Each part represents a section in the actual plan. These sections can be considered chronological steps for implementing the plan. The steps will also include objectives and requirements that should be fulfilled. 

This business continuity plan template is created to be as general as possible, so organisations across different industries may adopt it. 

Business continuity organisation

In this section of the business continuity plan (BCP), the main objective is to identify the responsibilities of the organisation members in the event of a disruption. It starts with the creation of a central management team that will take charge once there is disarray. 

The composition of this BCP management team depends on the size of your organisation and your immediate goals right after the disruption. Having members from the human resources and facilities management departments, for example, can help in immediately checking the situation of personnel and assets.

This part of the template should include a list of names, contact information, and immediate responsibilities. 

The BCP management team generally has the following positions:

  • SponsorThis individual is likely part of senior management. They carry the overall responsibility and accountability of the team and the continuity objectives. They are also the person that makes high-level decisions whenever required. The adoption of the plan, however, is deferred to the manager
  • ManagerThe manager is in charge of implementing the strategies outlined in the plan. They are directly responsible for business continuity. They liaise with other departments and ensure that all the parts of the BCP come together
  • Admin AssistantThis person is tasked with supporting the entire team. Their duties are closely associated with fulfilling each step and objective in the continuity plan. They work with the manager and other potential members of the group

Depending on the nature of the disruption and the business, the BCP management team may also require the participation of other departments within the organisation. A good continuity plan must have potential points of contact in the following departments:

  • LegalSomeone from the legal team is necessary to discuss if there are legal implications and ramifications
  • SecurityIf the disruption involves dangers to the safety and security of personnel and assets, someone from the security team should be on standby
  • Human ResourcesThe HR team keeps an updated database of the organisation’s personnel. It includes critical pieces of information such as contact details and addresses
  • Public RelationsThe PR team is the organisation’s voice. They have the means and the training to reach out to customers, vendors, and other stakeholders. At the same time, a person from PR may also have better access to essential and accurate information from outside the organisation

Communicating the plan to members of the organisation can be as important as building the plan itself. This responsibility can be part of the duties of the BCP manager. If there is a corporate or internal communication team, it may fall upon them. What and when to disclose will be determined in the following sections of the plan. 

Business continuity impact analysis

After a significant disruption, one of the first and most important steps to take is to evaluate the effects on the organisation, its personnel and assets. This is the objective of the impact analysis section. 

Here, you will have a checklist of your company’s assets and functions. The items on the checklist can be as specific as needed, depending on the nature of your business.

The most critical pieces of information that should be included in this section are the following:

  • Assets or functions affecteda list of the organisation’s assets and resources that the disruption has impacted 
  • Impacts – details the nature of the operational or financial effects of the disruption
  • Operational status – describes how the assets and functions are in terms of operational readiness

The key pieces of information that should be found in this section are the following:

  • Affected functions or processes with the highest impact to be prioritised for restoration
  • Functions or processes that can resume operations at the soonest time possible

Business continuity strategies

This section of the plan consists of two major strategies that aim to safeguard remaining assets, bring back essential operations, and begin to offer the business’ products and services in some capacity. 

  • Crisis response strategy This strategy includes the essential first steps right after a major disruption. It includes the activation of the BCP team, the communication of the plan to stakeholders, and the initial evaluation of the assets and personnel. It would be helpful if essential infrastructure, such as private APN connections, were prepared in advance.
  • Recovery strategyThis strategy includes steps of business recovery. This may include setting up remote work arrangements, looking for supply chain workarounds, and seeking other incidental and applicable solutions. 

Potential business disruptions

The following are some possible events that can cause significant business disruptions. It is essential to keep these in mind when building a business continuity plan because they will inform the kind of response needed:

Natural disasters

These can be anything from inclement weather to powerful earthquakes. These are difficult to predict and prepare for. That said, having emergency protocols in place should be a top priority. Natural disasters can cause massive damage to business assets and disrupt supply chains. 

Power interruption

Power outages can cause anything from minor annoyance to massive profit loss. Regardless of how likely these outages occur, it is best to have backups in place in terms of power source and internet connection. 

Cybersecurity breaches

A report published on the UK Government’s website states that 39% of businesses have had cybersecurity breaches in the 12 months leading up to March 2021. This figure is staggering but not entirely surprising. Business continuity plans should also account for the prevalence of these attacks. 

Conclusion

Business continuity should be a priority for all enterprises, especially MSMEs, which are more prone to lasting damages from major disruptions. The business continuity plan template featured in this article can serve as the foundation of an effective and comprehensive system to alleviate risk and recover in the shortest possible interval. 

For more information about business continuity and how reliable connections can help, send us an email at [email protected]. You can also visit our contact page for more information on how to get in touch. Gamma is an award-winning provider of Unified Communications as a Service or UCaaS. We help businesses stay connected and operational through disruptions.