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Twelve tips for business continuity management in a recession

Managing business continuity (BC) during a recession can be difficult. Every day, headlines in the media remind us of the impact of the recession on business and personal

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activities. Concern about where this is headed inhibits both planning and confidence. But suppose your organization recently had a large fire or flood, or a cable was damaged and you had no electricity for three days. Incidents that can threaten a business occur in any economic climate. This article provides useful tips to help you leverage business continuity management as you deal with the recession.

Recession responses

The presence of a recession can increase the likelihood of disruptive impacts. For example, a key supplier of your firm can fail. Or, you've outsourced your data center operations or disaster recovery services and that firm suddenly went out of business or was acquired by another firm. What can you do to minimize disruptions to data center operations?

Understanding real business needs and where business continuity fits in

Risk assessments and business impact analyses (BIA) can identify where you are at risk, and what would happen if a serious situation occurred. Results of the analyses may show that for some situations you may not need to respond. Conversely, if the results suggest that you need a recovery strategy for specific situations, you'll have time to prepare for them. Considering that a growing number of private companies, public companies and government agencies look for evidence of business continuity initiatives in their business partners and suppliers, this is another good reason to invest in BC now.

Using an established business continuity standard like BS 25999 can provide a structure within which you can systematically analyze all critical activities and dependencies in terms of the operational impact. It is then possible to prioritize what matters most and develop specific business continuity plans to minimize disruptions.

Tips for business continuity professionals

The following business continuity tips can help you optimize the use of business continuity in a recession, as well as in business as usual.

1. Use a business continuity management (BCM) activity, such as a risk assessment, vulnerability assessment or BIA, to identify potential problems and improve business processes.

2. Consider promoting the fact that you have a BCM program, the fact that your plans are regularly exercised and that you have extensive data protection capabilities; this could be an important competitive factor.

3. When other firms are considering your firm for work, and are asking about your BC programs, be ready to provide copies or extracts of your plans, an extract of your company policy on business continuity, or audit reports, as this evidence could also improve your competitive position.

4. A full-scale business continuity management program might be deleted due to budget restraints, so see if you can scale back the project into smaller sub-projects that can be spread out over time and will attract less attention from budget-cutting staff.

5. Use a standardized business continuity format which can be found in established standards (BS 25999) and frameworks (Resiliency Management Model), so that your efforts can provide the desired results with minimal guesswork.

6. Identify, evaluate and prioritize exposures, such as dependency on a single vendor for critical equipment or management services, single points of failure in your network infrastructure or even the use of a single bank for all your banking needs, so you can proactively address issues that could directly affect your bottom line.

7. Review outsourced work to ensure that it will not be adversely affected by disruptions.

8. Review your current staff, and make sure that you will have sufficient and trained staff available to maintain business operations.

9. Discuss emergency financing options with your banks and other financial institutions to ensure availability of funds in a disruption.

10. Review business insurance coverage with your broker(s) to ensure that you have sufficient coverage for identified outages or disruptions.

11. Even if your budget prohibits you from developing a full-scale business continuity management program, make sure that whatever you do is consistent with one or more business continuity standards.

12. Partner with local first-responder and other public sector agencies to ensure you are adequately prepared for a disruption.

About this author: Paul F. Kirvan, FBCI, CBCP, CISSP, has more than 20 years experience in business continuity management as a consultant, author and educator. He is also secretary of the Business Continuity Institute USA Chapter.

This was first published in September 2009

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