No business is immune to disruption. Organizations across industries are at risk for cyberattacks, natural disasters, workplace violence, supply chain interruptions, mechanical failures and countless other disturbances. Disruptions are often more than a mild inconvenience because they typically cost companies significant money and long-lasting damage to brand reputation.

Disruptions don’t need to turn into crises if you have an effective business continuity plan in place. If your organization is looking to create or revamp its business continuity plan, be sure to avoid these five common pitfalls.

1.   Not Having a Proactive Plan

A reactive response to disruption can turn a minor incident into a full-blown crisis. An effective business continuity plan enables organizations to be proactive about avoiding or mitigating disruption. When there is a clear plan of action in place, organizations can continue operating throughout nearly any emergency. 

If your organization doesn’t have a business continuity plan in place, the first step is to form a planning team that will consider a range of scenarios and strategize how to act in each situation. After a series of planning sessions, your team should recommend tools and procedures that will help your organization continue functioning during a disaster.

Immediately implement any systems that contribute to a proactive response, including critical communications, emergency supplier contracts and emergency stockpiles.

The plan should include a backup workplace in case of a natural disaster or building hazard, as well as a way to backup any company data. Make sure the plan is digitally accessible to all relevant stakeholders so everyone can access the plan during an emergency.

2.   Not Including All Relevant Stakeholders

Organizations too often forget to consider all stakeholders when developing a business continuity plan. For example, your organization may have a way to alert employees about an emergency, but have you considered how you would alert customers, clients and guests who happen to be on the premises when an incident occurs?

Organizations should make an effort to include a range of perspectives during both the planning and implementation stages. Representatives from all major business functions should be involved in the planning process, and all stakeholders should be considered when forming the plan. If you’re a governmental or community-facing organization, don’t forget about poor and underserved populations, who are too often overlooked when disaster strikes.

3.   Not Using Data to Drive Decision-Making and Planning

Business continuity planning without data is a bit like driving blind. If you’re not using accurate and up-to-date information to guide your planning and decisions, you’re much more likely to make dangerous assumptions. Access to accurate and comprehensive data can help avoid assumptions in the planning process and instead allow your team to create a business continuity plan based on reality.

Systems that visualize the location and severity of threats and their proximity to people and company assets can also improve decision-making immediately before and during an emergency.

4.   Not Utilizing Artificial Intelligence

It’s become nearly impossible for personnel to monitor threats without the help of artificial intelligence (AI). AI-powered risk intelligence enables teams to track tens of thousands of data sources and sift through the noise to pinpoint relevant threats to an organization. This technology can monitor local, national and global news sources, government alert systems, weather reports and other online data, and then cross-check that information to ensure accuracy. AI can save security teams time and enable personnel to focus on higher-level tasks, strategize thoughtfully and address threats early.

5.   Not Testing and Reevaluating on a Regular Basis

Without testing, you don’t know if your plan and systems will work under pressure or in real-life situations. Business continuity plans should be tested and evaluated regularly, at least once a year. Conducting walkthroughs of various emergency scenarios will allow your team to develop muscle memory for how to react during a disruption. If the first time your team carries out a plan is during an emergency, there’s a chance someone will panic and forget best practices.

If you have a critical communications system in place, you should also send out test messages to make sure all stakeholders are receiving alerts. In the message, ask everyone to respond to verify they’ve gotten the message and incentivize personnel to sign up for alerts. 

Every year or immediately following an emergency or disruption, your team should evaluate their response and make any necessary changes to the business continuity plan. Review reporting data to see who received emergency alerts and on what devices to analyze the effectiveness of the system. If you find that messages are not reaching everyone, encourage stakeholders to update their contact information in the self-registration portal. Communication is essential during a disruption or emergency, and your business continuity plan will be completely ineffective without it.

Maintaining Resilience During Emergencies

From massive wildfires and global pandemics to active shooters and cyberthreats, organizations in today’s world have to be prepared for anything. Resilient organizations are not only able to survive unplanned events, but they can also even bolster their reputations and set an example for other companies. Discover how your organization can better prepare for anything in the ebook, “Critical Event Management 101 for Business Continuity Leaders.”

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