This post is part of our 8-part series exploring the role of data in business recovery and planning in the era of COVID-19. Read the rest of the articles here.
Entrepreneurship is about taking risks. It is about keeping your business sustainable. It is also about continuity planning so that your business can rise above unexpected circumstances and thrive amidst market uncertainties.
It’s a well-known fact that a large percentage of budding businesses wind down within just a few years of starting operations. This may be put down to different reasons - a lack of vision, inability to interpret market trends, or poor leadership. But consider this, the underlying cause for many of these collapses is a failure to anticipate pitfalls and prepare adequately for unexpected calamities.
What is continuity planning?
As a business leader, you need to think of how to ensure that your business can survive any anticipated, unforeseen, or sudden dangers. Threats to day-to-day operations may come from natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, fire. Or manmade ones like terrorism, theft, sabotage, or error. Businesses must build resilience and create contingencies to ensure business continuity in the face of adverse circumstances. Operations must not collapse at the first sign of disruption, and if they do, core activities must be brought back up as rapidly as is safely possible.
A business continuity plan, therefore, is one of the most important ways to safeguard your business against anticipated or unexpected circumstances. It is essential for every modern organization.
Continuity planning ensures that businesses can meet such challenges with confidence, minimize downtime, and cut down revenue losses. Disaster can strike at any time, so you must always have a business continuity plan ready to stay proactive.
What aspects of the business should you cover in continuity planning?
When building your continuity plan, you need to consider what the plan should cover to protect and ensure business survival.
What is most important to the bottom line?
Which processes or practices are required at the very minimum to keep your company rolling?
Which personnel are critical to restarting the operations?
And how can you best communicate the next steps to these individuals or teams?
Data lies at the heart of continuity planning
An effective continuity plan cannot be built out of thin air. You will need to base it on a robust collection of data points. Moreover, continuity planning is not a one-time activity. After the plan has been created, it needs to be reviewed at regular intervals to reflect changes in business processes or market conditions.
Business data from a variety of external and internal sources is collated to arrive at a comprehensive plan. The use of a feature-rich data analytics platform will ensure that you have the ammunition to build a data-driven continuity plan.
For example, an analytics platform like InsightOut provides powerful scenario analysis and forecasting capabilities to help you walk through the steps in your business continuity plan. An effective business planning tool such as InsightOut can yield data that tells the unique story of your business—right from the big-picture, drilling down to a granular level to reveal underlying trends and insights.
Why is continuity planning important for your business?
When faced with a crisis, your employees need clear and concrete directions on the immediate steps they must take. A business continuity and disaster recovery plan will:
- Prepare your employees to respond rapidly to a crisis, major service outage or disaster.
- Ensure that employees do not break down in panic when faced with sudden adverse conditions, thus minimizing losses.
- Help the business to remain flexible and adapt to changes.
- Produce immediate and significant positive results, boosting employee confidence, and keep business rolling.
5 benefits of a well-designed business continuity plan
Let’s look at the benefits your organization and employees can expect when they have a robust business continuity plan in place:
1) Prepare for the unforeseeable and protect your business interests
Having a concrete plan in place is not just a smart business strategy – it is essential for ensuring the survival of the business during and immediately after a disaster. Your level of preparedness determines if you can stay in business and resume operations as soon as possible.
2) Insure your business against expensive downtime
A continuity plan is like an insurance policy – the time and effort you invest in it pays you back when you need it the most. It is a safeguard you put in place to help you tide over adverse circumstances. An adverse event, such as a data hacking episode or loss of data due to a disaster like fire, could lead to downtime for your business. In a world where a majority of business processes use IT tools, any system downtime can bring operations to a standstill. The cost of IT downtime is extremely high. Shutting down of operations can prove expensive for your business.
You need to protect your IT systems from malicious attacks, hacking attempts and data theft. Customer data stored in your offices or on your servers must be protected. It is one of the most valuable assets your organization owns, and you need to safeguard it. For some businesses like banks, even the physical safety of customers present on their premises during a disaster is an important aspect that needs to be covered in a business continuity plan.
3) Enable your business to bounce back
One of the primary benefits of a continuity plan is rapid recovery. This also gives you a competitive advantage: If your business can get back up on its feet before your competitors do so, you may walk away with valuable business wins and maintain the confidence of your customers.
Contingency strategies and backup solutions have saved organizations millions of dollars. Moreover, if your business resumes operations rapidly, it helps boost employee morale and the confidence they have in your organization.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to shut down their premises. Companies that successfully adapted to online processes and work-from-home modalities were able to recover quickly. In a bid to protect their jobs, employees enthusiastically adapted to new working conditions with increased determination and maintained high productivity.
4) Focus on the most important business processes
What matters most for your business? When it comes down to survival, you are forced to cut out the superfluous parts and sharpen your focus on operational priorities. Simulating a crisis is a good idea, as it brings to the surface the most critical processes.
Remember to establish a clear line-of-command to be followed in an emergency and pinpoint responsibility for each area to a particular individual. The simulation also helps to identify effective communication channels amongst employees and between teams. With a well-designed plan in place, you’ll have peace of mind as a business owner, and your employees will have a high level of confidence in the organization’s ability to deal with adverse circumstances.
5) Preserve your company’s brand value and reputation in the market
Customers want assurance that your business is stable and reliable. They want to be assured that your business will not collapse and that their interests will be safeguarded. Stakeholders depend on your organization’s ability to manage adverse circumstances effectively.
With a strong business continuity plan in place, your business can bounce back quickly and customers, vendors, partners, and stakeholders are bound to notice your ability to get back to business.
For this reason, having an effective continuity plan can help you preserve your company’s image in the market and safeguard your brand value.
Creating a detailed business continuity plan requires an investment of time and resources. However, this is an investment that pays back manifold in the event of a crisis. Base your plan on concrete data points that bring important processes into sharp focus.
InsightOut is a business planning tool that consolidates data from a variety of sources and provides you with automated insights into your business operations. Harness the power of your data to build a continuity plan that ensures you and your organization can dust off the effects of any crisis and get back to business.