… or Best Laid Plans!
Writing this, I’m sitting in a country faring badly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns, curfews, restrictions on personal freedoms, mask wearing and armed police on the streets … not to mention the strain on mental health and, of course, risk from the virus.
However, one thing I am NOT worried about is our business.
Why is that? Simple: we have a well-constructed, flexible, simple, tested Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan.
What is BCDR?
Put simply, it is two processes a business can put in place if the worse happens, the processes being Business Continuity (BC) and Disaster Recovery (DR). Most importantly, it is about mitigating risk!
Businesses need to be able to ensure that they can survive regardless of how tough it gets out there, and. no matter what the disaster scenario, the business has a plan of how to recover from it.
A flood, cyber-attack, armed attack, political unrest, and, yes, a pandemic!
At Payara Services, we have thought about all these events and more, working from the possible to the very improbable and discussing and planning our reactions to the events, as well as how to work our way out of them following pre-planned processes. We created a BCDR group of Senior leaders who were responsible for invoking the processes if disaster strikes. We agreed that our processes would involve creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) that would cover the health and safety of all our staff and premises and also our business infrastructure, as we are a remote working tech company.
The BCP has two time sensitive stages – within the first 24 hours, and time after that. Obviously, in the first 24 hours our priority is the health and safety of our staff, then the service we provide to our customers. Once staff wellbeing has been assured, we need to focus on ensuring our service level continuity to our customers. During the first 24 hours the BCP aims to ensure the emergency checklist is carried out, an assessment of the critical functions and the recovery processes has been made, daily briefings created and communication channels are working. It is at this point the BCDR group may begin delegation of responsibilities to other team leaders and the Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is formed.
So how did we get to this point?
As a business we have invested time in looking internally at just what is critical to our business continuity- from identifying key people, to looking at what we consider critical functions of the business. We identified our customer service delivery, payment of payroll and accounts receivable/payable as the critical functions that would need to be fully functioning as soon as possible.
After analysing this information, we worked to ensure we had ‘back up’ or ‘fail overs’ in place to mitigate the risks of critical function failure.
In any disaster situation, you can’t rely on the documentation of the processes being available (our process, template docs and essential information is created on an internal wiki – which may be unavailable due to the disaster), so it’s essential the BCDR information is available in other formats/ locations and can be accessed when needed.
At the start of 2020 most businesses would never have envisaged the toll the Covid-19 virus would place on their operations and many may not have thought previously about mitigating against it as a business risk, so it’s saddening and shocking to watch the collapse of whole industries as the ripple effects of the actions taken to suppress the virus impact on them – travel, tourism and hospitality have been very badly affected but those individual businesses that survive may have done so due to pre-planned actions they took as part of their BCDR plan.
A well thought out and planned BCDR process can help mitigate risk because prior to the disaster the business has considered some of the potential ripples and tried to put in place protections. Sometimes, to migrate risk, businesses only have to make small simple changes, but other larger systemic changes may be more costly to introduce; for example, ensuring all staff have the kit and knowledge to carry out flexible/remote working. Businesses have to be able to balance the likelihood of the risk against the cost or investment needed to mitigate against it. Time spent working on BCDR within an organisation can help judge risks and advise around mitigating actions
Life is unpredictable
We generally live in a predictable society – today is likely to be much the same as yesterday – but we can be lulled into a false sense of security by this ‘sameness’. Taking time to think, talk through and create a tested plan for the time when ‘life gives you lemons’ is a sensible and worthwhile business activity which, although no one wants to resort to, may end up saving the day.