Decorative pattern

Best Practice Guide: Business Continuity Planning (BCP)

January 2022

We are living in difficult, unpredictable times, and for businesses, that means continuity measures are more vital than ever.

But how can organisations feasibly prepare for the unexpected? And what exactly does continuity planning involve?

Here, we’re taking an in-depth look at business continuity planning (BCP), highlighting what it is, why it’s important, and how to get it right. Use the links below to navigate or read on for the full guide.

Quick Links 

What is business continuity planning?

Business continuity planning (BCP) is a way to map out how your business will respond to major challenges, disruptions, and disasters. A BCP document should set out the action needed to mitigate risk and maintain business activity, even in worst-case scenarios when your operation is facing risk of collapse.

Not only is BCP essential for avoiding business capitulation, but it should also outline a roadmap to recovery. For this reason, it needs to be comprehensive and all-encompassing, detailing how every area of the business will be managed and controlled in the wake of a major incident.

BCP is designed to provide actionable contingency measures in the event of a broad range of serious disruptions which threaten operational continuity. Generally, when developing a BCP document, you need to think about three key areas, including:

  • Disaster recovery – the action needed to respond to a direct disaster, with steps outlining how you recover operational control and avoid major data and financial loss.
  • Operational continuity – the measures required to keep your operations ticking over, even in periods of severe disruption and uncertainty. Consider a plan B to guarantee operational integrity, with backups in place to keep the business moving forward.
  • Availability – this mainly concerns IT outage and recovery, particularly as it pertains to local network failures that could render your services inoperable. What technology and equipment do you need to keep processes going, and how will you ensure that IT personnel have access to the right hardware and software provision.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the things you’ll need to cover in your BCP document, but it can help steer your planning in the right direction. The measures you’ll need to consider and implement vary based on your unique operational position, so be sure to involve key personnel in the planning to ensure you have all bases covered.

Why is business continuity planning important?

Business continuity planning has, arguably, never been as vital. With all UK businesses facing major disruption and uncertainty in the wake of COVID-19, Brexit and energy shortages, continuity planning should be high on your list of priorities – irrespective of your business and sector.

But just why is BCP so important? And what does it safeguard against?

Below, we outline the importance of firming up contingency plans for your operations, and list some of the incidents it can help shield your business against.

  • BCP is essential for commercial survival. It effectively safeguards your business against a range of threats, including: Cyberattack, Epidemic illnesses, Natural disasters, Wars and social upheaval, Energy cuts, shortages, and leaks, Theft and associated criminal acts, Industry-wide disruption
  • Allows you to budget and plan ahead to cover the costs of keeping your business going in periods of disruption – something shareholders will want to see
  • Makes it feasible to run your business while dealing with major incidents, setting out an action plan to maintain continuity in the event of any eventuality
  • Essential for emergency situations, detailing how your business will deal with disasters and serious incidents, and who is accountable for this
  • Enables the business to continue trading as quickly as possible after an incident, picking up where you left off to maintain your commercial advantage
  • Covers you in the eyes of insurers; some policies may even require an evidence-based continuity plan to show that you are wholly committed to safeguarding your operations against emergencies, disasters, and outside threats

What to include in a business continuity plan?

So, we’ve set out why you need a continuity plan. The next thing is, what should you put in it?

Below, we list the essential factors to cover in your BCP document. Naturally, your requirements may differ depending on your industry area, so carefully consider your individual business needs as a priority.

  • A list of major business threats – this is a great starting point from which to base your BCP. Map out a list of current threats so you know what to prioritise and focus on in the future. These can range from natural disasters to cybercrime, so be as comprehensive as you can.
  • Impact statement – for every recognised threat, write an impact statement detailing how each risk could affect your operations. Potential impacts can include things like loss of income, delayed order fulfilment, fines, and penalties, or even loss of life or damage to physical infrastructure.
  • Resources and monetary considerations – this is where you list your resources and monetary options, which will help support the business in the event of disaster or disruption. An important part of budgeting, it also helps to clarify potential staffing issues, so you can ensure the business is adequately resourced in all situations.
  • Equipment and technology – what equipment and technology could your business feasibly run on in an emergency situation? And what software is essential to the continuation of key processes and workflows? Talk to your IT team and relevant parties to pin down exactly what would be required in an emergency.
  • Stock and inventory management – what would become of your stock if your business faced disruption? And how might this affect your current inventory management system? Consider every eventuality to prevent wastage and over-spending.

How much will your continuity plan cost?

Continuity plans don’t come for free, so you need to set aside enough money to cover the measures outlined in your BCP document. Of course, your insurance should cover you in the event of disasters and unexpected disruption, but accounting for other costs is essential to sustained, long-term continuity.

To budget for your BCP, work step by step through the plan and account for things like staffing, equipment, premises, stock, and increased marketing efforts. You also need to consider any areas in which you might make a loss, such as revenue, income, or stock wastage.

When budgeting, always go with the top end, worst-case option. That way you can mitigate against potential shortfalls, so you can be confident you have enough monetary resource in reserve.

We hope this guide helps you to develop a robust business continuity plan. For more business tips and advice, click here to read the Perivan blog in full. If you’d like to learn about our professional marketing and investor communication services, visit the homepage or contact our team today.