Develop Business Continuity Plan to Help Clients Mitigate Impact of Unexpected Disruptions

In this article, you will learn how to develop a business continuity plan with your clients to help them protect their business from the costly impact of unexpected disruptions.

Develop Business Continuity Plan to Help Clients Mitigate Impact of Unexpected Disruptions
Develop Business Continuity Plan to Help Clients Mitigate Impact of Unexpected Disruptions

You’ll also learn:

  • Advice on developing an emergency response plan for your clients’ business
  • Processes for developing a business continuity plan
  • A sample business process analysis report
  • Plus: Best practices for communicating with suppliers, partners and customers

Content Summary

Developing a comprehensive strategy for business continuity
Emergency response plan
Crisis communications plan
Business continuity plan
Sample business process analysis report

How to develop a business continuity with your clients to help them protect their business from the costly impact of unexpected disruption.

  • Advice on developing an emergency response plan for your clients’ business
  • Processes for developing a business continuity plan
  • A sample business process analysis report
  • Plus: Best practices for communicating with suppliers, partners, and customers

According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of businesses close due to the impacts of an emergency or disaster. A solid emergency response plan and business continuity plan can help mitigate the impacts of an unexpected disruption.

This article presents advice and processes for developing comprehensive business continuity strategies with your clients to help their business better cope with natural disasters, equipment failures, on-site emergencies, and more. It includes a sample business process analysis report that you can use with your clients to define the operational and financial impacts to their business from unexpected downtime.

Developing a comprehensive strategy for business continuity

There are 3 key components necessary to developing a comprehensive strategy to handle emergencies and disruption to a business:

  • Emergency Response Plan: This is your clients’ plan to respond to an emergency – plans for evacuating, sheltering in place, handling injuries, etc. Look to your clients’ local emergency response agency, such as a fire department, to help you and your clients develop this plan.
  • Crisis Communications Plan: Determine what your clients tell customers or partners when a disruption occurs and who will deliver that message.
  • Business Continuity Plan: This is your clients’ plan for continuing operations during a disruption. You and your clients should define what actions need to be taken before, during and after the disruption and who will handle those. You should also consider how they will support the needs of their employees in the aftermath of the disruption.

This document provides advice and best practices for developing each of these 3 components.

Emergency response plan

Identify possible emergency scenarios

An emergency response plan documents how a client will respond to various types of emergency situations. Your first step in helping a client develop a solid plan is identifying the types of emergencies that could happen in their area, including:

  • Natural disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, etc.
  • Fires or floods
  • Chemical spills, explosions, terrorist acts or other human-caused emergencies
  • Injuries or death
  • Vehicular accidents

Engage with local emergency services agencies

Work with your client’s local emergency services agencies to understand how they will receive notification of emergency events and what types of instructions to expect. You’ll want to have your client assign someone in their business to be the main point of contact for these notifications, and your client will need to understand who they need to contact when an emergency occurs on their premises. You and your client should also discuss emergency planning with their insurance agency and legal representation. Depending on the type of emergency, they might recommend that your client contact them at the time of the event or document the situation. For instance, if an employee is injured on the job, your client may need to contact their insurance agency and legal counsel for help with a possible workers’ compensation case.

Identify available resources

Once you know what types of emergencies might occur and how your client might be notified, you’ll want to help your client document all of the available resources at their disposal.

These would include:

  • Their employees
  • Special skills and expertise those people have
  • Facilities that they can use during and after a disruption – their office buildings, remote work locations, etc.
  • Safety features of their facilities – alarm systems, fire protection systems, first aid stations, etc.
  • Communications equipment – desk phones, CBs, mobile phones, wi-fi connections, mobile hotspots, etc.
  • Other materials and supplies – first aid kits, fire extinguishers, food/water, machinery and equipment that might be leveraged during a disruption

You will also use this same list of resources when planning your client’s business continuity strategy.

Document your client’s emergency plan

Once you and your client have their list of emergencies and their list of resources, you can start helping your client define the actions they will take in the event of each emergency. Their first goal in any emergency is the safety of their workforce. Once they help ensure that all of their employees are safe, the next step is containment and stabilization.

Your client’s local emergency services agency may be able to assist in this process.

In defining your client’s plan, you might discover gaps in their protection gear or in special skill sets that might be needed in an emergency. You can now help your client work with their local emergency services agencies to get equipment such as fire extinguishers or first aid kits installed at their site or to schedule first aid and CPR training for their employees.

Crisis communications plan

In the event of a disruption, your client may need to contact customers, suppliers or partners to inform them of the situation and their plans for continuing (or not continuing) business activities.

You’ll want to help your client identify which people in their organization are authorized to speak on behalf of the company and which audiences will need to be addressed.

We recommend that you help your client develop a communications strategy in tandem with their business continuity strategy, because their message might change depending on the type and length of disruption. For instance, if there’s a gas leak at their site and they have to evacuate for a day or more, their message to suppliers might be different than what they tell them if there’s a power outage for a few hours.

Business continuity plan

Your client’s business continuity plan starts with the list of resources you made when you helped your client develop their emergency plan. Once you have those resources identified, you and your client need to determine which areas of their business would be most critically impacted by a disruption.

Analyze business processes and disaster scenarios

Conduct an analysis of your client’s business processes to determine how time-sensitive they are and how critical they are to the survival of the business. Think about all of the consequences that could arise if a given process were delayed or taken offline by a disruption. This might include:

  • Lost or delay of revenue, sales or bonuses
  • Regulatory fines or the risk of non-compliance
  • Angry customers, partners or suppliers
  • Fines or penalties for breach of contract
  • Added expenses (e.g. overtime, bringing in additional labor, expedited shipping costs)
  • Negative press or media attention

You’ll want to map out these consequences for your client in terms of how long a disruption lasts. For instance:

  • If a power outage lasts an hour, how much revenue would your client lose if they couldn’t receive incoming orders from customers?
  • If a gas leak shuts their office down for a whole day, how much cost will they incur in expedited shipping to make sure customer orders arrive on time?
  • If a fire destroys the building next door and your client has to evacuate and use alternative work sites for a week, how does that impact their ability to fulfill customer orders or conduct business meetings?

When you and your client conduct the analysis, consider each of the following disruption categories:

  • Hardware failure (such as phone systems, email and file servers)
  • Power outage
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Storm/severe weather
  • Theft
  • Accident
  • Sabotage

You’ll find a sample business process analysis report at the end of this document that you and your client can use when creating their report.

Define recovery strategies

For example, if the power goes out, their lights, internet connection and phones could all be down. They won’t know how long the outage will last, but they will likely want to make sure their sales and support teams can continue selling their services and supporting their customers. That means having working phones and Internet connections.

For the first 1-3 hours, your client can have employees stay at the office and switch to mobile phones to make calls. That might require your client to compensate those employees for their mobile bills. For Internet connectivity, your client might have to deploy mobile hotspots around the office.

Your client can then plan that at the 3-hour mark, they’ll send their employees home to work. If that’s the case, their employees might need VPN connections to access company files, and your client might have to cover part of their ISP bill. Or, they could send their employees to another office site, in which case, your client will need to provide an area in that office for them to work, and may require your help to do so.

Identify and alleviate resource gaps

Developing detailed recovery strategies for the disruption scenarios that might impact your client’s business will help you and them determine where they have resource gaps that will require attention. And your client may also find that the cost of keeping a business process up and running outweighs the cost of having that process go down for a certain length of time.

For instance, paying for the equipment to deploy mobile hotspots could be cost-prohibitive for disruptions that last less than 1 full working day. So you might recommend that your client have customer sales calls go to voicemail for a few hours as it won’t critically damage their business.

Or you might suggest they move their phones and other IT services to the cloud to help ensure that they remain operational during a disruption like a power outage. As you research possible recovery options for your client, it’s worth exploring technology tools, like cloud-based phone systems, that can provide significant continuity benefits. You may also find that these technology solutions provide your client with cost savings and other benefits beyond business continuity.

Document your client’s recovery strategies and communications plan

Now that you’ve defined your client’s recovery strategies for all their possible business disruption scenarios, it’s time to get a formal plan written. You’ll want to provide your client with one final document that they can distribute to all of their managers. This will become the manual they will use when a disruption occurs.

You’ll want to help your client clearly assign roles and responsibilities where necessary and then distribute their plan to their employees so that everyone knows who is responsible for performing what functions during a disruption.

This is also the point in time where you define your client’s crisis communication plan. You’ll want to help your client craft audience-specific messaging for each business disruption scenario and assign personnel to deliver the message.

Distribute the emergency and business continuity plans and conduct disaster drills

Once you have your client’s plans documented, they should distribute them among their employees. Conduct training sessions with your client to educate employees on what their various responsibilities will be in the event of a disruption or emergency.

You’ll also want to help your client conduct disaster drills to test out the recovery strategies and make sure everyone is comfortable with performing their duties. You might want to help your client:

  • Run regular drills for fire or hurricanes
  • Bring in someone from the local fire department or Red Cross to do first aid drills
  • Have their equipment manufacturers conduct safety training

As you and your client run tests, you might find that you need to help them modify their plans. That’s to be expected. It’s also good to review the plans at least once a year to make alterations as needed. As examples, you might find that your client has a new employee with valuable medical skills that could be of benefit in certain emergency scenarios or that a new technology has been developed that could speed recovery from certain types of disruptions. As resources change or gaps emerge, the plan will need to evolve to reflect those changes.

Sample business process analysis report

Sample business process analysis report
Sample business process analysis report
Chart for business process, length of disruption, timing of disruption and business impact.
Chart for business process, length of disruption, timing of disruption and business impact.

Source: Intermedia