What is a Business Continuity Plan?

Disruptions in service due to unforeseen events, natural disasters, accidents, or even supplier shortages can have a debilitating impact on your business. What’s more, such incidents rarely happen without notice, giving you little to no time to react. If your business is not prepared for a potentially damaging situation, it may not be able to pull through.

That’s where business continuity plans come in. A business continuity plan is a guide specific to your organization which outlines the steps you must take in the case of an unforeseen event. For example, if your company were to be subject to a catastrophic cyberattack, what would you do next? Similarly, if a fire were to burn down your office, what contingency plans do you have to ensure your business can continue to function?

A business continuity plan should comprise a checklist that outlines the key human and physical assets of your company. This includes things like equipment, servers, data backups, and key personnel assigned to each. For example, in the case of a cybersecurity breach, your systems administrator should be assigned more critical responsibilities than the HR manager, for instance. A business continuity plan should include strategies for both short-term and long-term outages to your business.

Business Continuity Plan Checklist

When developing a business continuity plan in Singapore, you must start by identifying the following things:

  • The scope and purpose of the plan
  • Overall objectives
  • Risk reduction parameters
  • Mission-critical operations and services
  • Emergency contact details of staff members
  • External stakeholder coordination

As mentioned before, each business continuity plan is specific to the company. So if you’re an ecommerce entrepreneur, a potentially damaging situation is if there’s a fire that engulfs your warehouse or if you face supply constraints.

Hence, your business continuity plan will be different than that of a construction or software company.

Essential Steps to Create a Business Continuity Plan

Here are four essential steps to keep in mind when putting together a business continuity plan. 

Step 1: Create the team

When first starting out, it’s good business practice to put together a team that will prepare a detailed emergency response plan. This team should have a leader that assigns responsibilities to other members of the team and is responsible for ensuring stakeholder buy-in. The leader will also act as the main point of contact with other departments to ensure all communication is streamlined.

Step 2: Identify critical functions and processes

Once the team is set up, the next steps are to determine the essential services your business needs in order to be able to continue serving its customers. Can your employees work from home if the office is unavailable? How quickly can you pivot to a new warehouse if your current one is unserviceable? What communication tools are essential and how can your staff access them?

The answers to all these questions (and more) should be obtained after interviewing department leaders. This helps collate essential information and understand potential risks to the organization, helping with the next stage.

Step 3: Undertake a Gap analysis

After you have collected all the necessary information about what is crucial for your business, the next task is to identify the gaps. An analysis of your existing deficiencies helps you realize where you might be lacking and which areas require support. For instance, is your customer support team well-equipped to work from home if needed? Do you have backup suppliers if your existing one goes out of business? 

A Gap analysis helps plug the holes in your business and enables you to pivot quickly in the case of an unforeseen event.

Step 4: Write and implement the plan

The final stage is when you put it all together. Your team has identified its leader, undertaken the necessary internal research, and identified the areas that need to be addressed. Now you must prepare a plan for each essential function which could some or all of the following:

  • Description of service and function
  • Personnel responsible for implementing the plan
  • Backup personnel
  • Action items such as communication, staff relocation, resource requirements, and escalation levels

It is also necessary for the implementation planning team that they get stakeholder buy-in and acceptance. That means once the team has made its initial findings and recommendations, it should get approval from the C-suite executive team. It’s possible that the organization’s leaders will have their own suggestions and comments to the business continuity plan; a plan can only be considered final once it has written sign-off.

Periodically Review Your Business Continuity Plan

Business environments and operating conditions are never static. Technology keeps evolving and the threats morph into different ones. A Covid-19 business continuity plan would have involved different things, for instance. 

Get into the habit of reviewing your business continuity plan at regular intervals. This helps you assess whether there are new factors you may need to take into consideration or an additional line of business that you haven’t made a plan for. Either way, it's a sound business strategy to do so.

Frequently asked questions about a business continuity plan

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan is a guide specific to your organization which outlines the steps you must take in the case of an unforeseen event. Such events can be a natural disaster, a cybersecurity breach, or something that prevents your business from functioning normally.

How should the plan be developed?

Ideally you want a dedicated implementation team to take ownership of the project, which is then developed with the consultation of internal stakeholders. Strategizing and developing a business continuity plan can take several months.

What is the most important thing in a business continuity plan?

While all aspects of the business continuity plan hold weightage, it is important to state that the plan helps you identify your mission-critical resources and how they might be vulnerable. Keeping the organization running is of paramount importance, so your gap analysis should address the deficiencies and ways of managing them.