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Business Continuity Planning, Post Pandemic

Ashton’s clients have been in the process of returning to the office in varying forms: some are electing to phase their team back into the office, others have elected to continue remote work and to “hybridize” their team to allow for greater remote work flexibility indefinitely.  With this return, the technology questions are shifting from “How do we work remotely?”  to “How do we improve business continuity in the future?”  This is a major topic of discussion in our peer and industry groups, and one that we’d like to help keep on your radar to ensure you’ve got the necessary process, procedure, and systems in place to help you be better prepared the next time a major business disruption occurs, be it weather related or otherwise – developing a plan is the first step.

Developing a Business Continuity Plan

Developing a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is an excellent way to formally document your key business functions and develop an impact analysis which will help you to focus your energy on those processes, people, and functions that can bring your organization to a standstill.  This discovery process goes beyond just your technology systems and will help highlight key individuals who have responsibility for passwords, protocols, bank account authority, etc. What happens to your organization if those individuals (we hope you have more than one person with that info!) are incapacitated and have information that is not documented in a known location?

Like estate planning, it’s something that needs to be done for the sake of your team and your business relationships: How do you continue operating if you lose a key member of your team, a technology system, or an entire facility.

The Process

The BC process begins by outlining the who, what, and where of your business:

  • “What are our core, critical business functions?”
  • “Who is responsible for them?”
  • “How will we continue to deliver our services in the event of a disaster?” and
  • “Where are the plans, documentation, people, passwords, tools needed to accomplish this?”

Once these core processes, people, and tools are identified, the actual plan can be put together.  The plan focuses heavily on communication, both within your team and with your clients.  Clear lines of responsibility and communication are crucial for any BC plan to be successful.

  • Who is responsible for identifying and documenting each process and procedure?
  • Who will be on the “BC Team”?
  • Who will coordinate disaster response?
  • What will the communication plan be within the BC Team, and then with the rest of your team?
  • HOW will you communicate within your BC Team, your entire organization, and with your clients?
  • Where will this information be stored, and how will we ensure it gets updated on a regular basis?

From these basic questions you can start to visualize the details you’ll need to ensure a useful plan:

  • Identify and document the communication protocol
    • What tools will be used for communication? Are existing tools sufficient, or will new ones be required?
      • Example: If our phone system lives inside the office and we cannot access our building or the phone system is destroyed, how will we communicate?
    • Who declares an emergency?  How will the team be notified?
  • What key systems must be operational for us to continue work?
    • Document all technology such as applications and internal IT
    • How will these systems be accessed remotely?
  • What is the technology disaster recovery process?
    • How will we access data if the IT systems are destroyed, versus if we don’t have access to our facility?

Testing Your Business Continuity Plan

Plans are only useful if they’re up-to-date, accurate, and tested.  Our recommendation is to convene a quarterly meeting of the BC Team to review the plan and make sure any necessary updates are made.  Generally, most changes are for things like contact lists, tools, or systems that have been changed, etc.

Performing a stress test at least once annually is an excellent way to find holes in the plan before you actually need it.  You will quickly learn where the gaps are in your communication and technology.  Trust us, there will be plenty of gaps initially. A few that we have heard over the years:

  • “Oh shoot, Bob doesn’t get mobile phone reception in his house”
  • “Mary’s internet is only DSL speed and it’s too slow”
  • “Andrew has the bank deposit software installed on his desktop at the office and the bank requires authorization for us to set it up at someone’s house instead of the office”
  • “The court websites only authorize access if we’re logging in from the office – how do we do it from home?”
  • “Angie is on vacation and she’s the only one who knows how to setup new clients in our system”
  • “Where did we save the documentation for closing out case matters?”

Getting Started

We can assist you with the technology side of the BCP, but keep in mind that technology is only part of the solution: communication and documentation are crucial to its success.  For some additional reading and planning, please feel free to review the below links, then call us if you’d like to discuss your BCP and how Ashton can help you better position yourself for success during a stressful time.

https://www.ready.gov/business-continuity-plan

https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=4fbfcfc0-7f49-4df1-bfb4-99380184f8e4

https://www.cdotrends.com/story/14833/stress-test-your-business-continuity-management?refresh=auto

https://solutionsreview.com/backup-disaster-recovery/its-business-continuity-awareness-week-2020/

Please give us a call at 216-539-3686 with any additional questions or concerns you may have.

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