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Business Continuity Management helps Build Resilience in SMEs

“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” This much quoted phrase is associated with the US Postal Service but has its origins as a description of  the postal service set up by the Persian King Darius the Great to ensure quick communication throughout its empire. It was revolutionary in its time.

It’s also a great example of the concept of business continuity –  how to keep a business running at all times  no matter what the situation or circumstances.

Business Continuity Management is specialist area of Risk Management designed to address and deal with disruption to business activities and processes.It involves making and validating business continuity plans to ensure you can respond to and recover from potential threats as effectively as possible.


Difference between Emergency Management and Business Continuity Management

Emergency preparedness, emergency management, crisis response and communication and business continuity are terms that are are often discussed as if they are synonyms that all refer to the process of responding to and mitigating a crisis event. In reality, they are designed for different situations.

So, what distinguishes emergency preparedness and business continuity?

Let’s take a look at their key differences:

  1. The main goal.

The main goals are actually quite different. Emergency management seeks to safeguard people from harm, while business continuity is focused on the continuity of key business operations. Sure, effectively managing an emergency will impact business continuity efforts, but the two are not identical.

Emergency management most often manifests as the procedures and actions that are taken immediately after a crisis occurs. The business continuity team on the other hand, takes steps to maintain or restore the organization to its pre-crisis state.

  1. The key tasks.

In reality, emergency preparedness and business continuity involve very distinct tasks.

Emergency preparedness often involves directing people and resources away from danger, evacuating facilities and working with first responders to ensure all stakeholders make it through a crisis safe and sound.

Business continuity tasks include establishing and maintaining redundant systems and support teams, restoring IT systems and ensuring employees are able to return to their daily work tasks following an emergency.

  1. Preparation and planning.

Safety of critical personnel at site in an emergency that may require evacuation – fire, failure of plant and equipment, earthquake, robbery, violence, or hostage taking.

The team will hold regular drills or exercises to ensure that the entire business is aware of these threats and knows what to do in case of an emergency.These plans benefit from being practiced via table top exercises and drills.

Meanwhile, the business continuity team develops plans to avoid potential business-disrupting problems such as external threats, flooding or another weather related threat that prevents personnel from coming to work or a failure in IT systems disruptions in supply chain for product inputs.

A key component of the business continuity management system will involve impact assessment – that is to say, what would be the impact of the disruption.

For example what would be the impact of  a three day nationwide flood or a shutdown at the major shipping ports on business operations?  What are the financial and legal consequences to the business if you miss delivery dates?

Based on that assessment then you can determine how you would want to deal with those risks to the business, are they risks that can be insured against or can they be mitigated? Business continuity management and the development of BCPs can mitigate or reduce the impact of these risks – you are ready and prepared to activate plans to keep the business running.

The three key components of a Business Continuity Plan are resilience, recovery and contingency.

An organization can increase resilience by designing critical functions and infrastructures with various disaster possibilities in mind; this can include staffing rotations, data redundancy and maintaining a surplus of capacity. Ensuring resiliency against different scenarios can also help organizations maintain essential services on location and off site without interruption.

Rapid recovery to restore business functions after a disaster is crucial. Setting recovery time objectives for different systems, networks or applications can help prioritize which elements must be recovered first. Other recovery strategies include resource inventories, agreements with third parties to take on company activity and using converted spaces for mission-critical functions.

A contingency plan has procedures in place for a variety of external scenarios and can include a chain of command that distributes responsibilities within the organization. These responsibilities can include hardware replacement, leasing emergency office spaces, damage assessment and contracting third-party vendors for assistance.


Why is it important for SMEs to consider Business Continuity Management?

An understanding of the critical risks to your business and having a  system in place to manage same is critical to any business. No one wants the entire operations to be taken out with no opportunity to recovery or a very delayed restart in operations – being proactive is worth it in the long run. It saves money and  time.

Advance planning ensures that everyone is aware of their role and what they need to do in the event of a disruption and  it shares the responsibility for restart among  all the personnel in the business.

Having a Business Continuity plan helps the organization to build resilience and demonstrates ability to manage risks and threats effectively. It can save precious resources such as time and money, enhance the reputation of the enterprise and ultimately all these elements increase shareholder value and the value of the business overall.

Posted in Blog, Business Continuity