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A business continuity program is a plan that helps keep a business or organization prepared in the event of an emergency. Business continuity programs are meant to ensure that normal operations continue or experience as little disruption as possible due to any potential internal or external crisis. A business continuity program may outline the correct behavior to respond to disruptions to supply and demand chains, loss of key staff members, disaster preparation, and information technology (IT) disturbances.
There are several reasons why a business continuity program is a useful tool in risk management planning. First, it can provide for the safety of employees by creating a cohesive plan in the event of a physically dangerous situation such as a robbery, natural disaster, or incident of workplace violence. Second, it protects the customers or clients by creating contingency plans that will enable them to get at least the most basic services even in the event of a crisis. Third, it protects the reputation of the company by ensuring that most foreseeable crises can be met with an already-existent plan of action, giving the appearance of readiness and allowing a business to maintain an image of confidence in adverse circumstances.
The mechanics of a business continuity program will vary based on the risk assessment for the company, which is determined by analyzing the potential vulnerability of the business to certain types of danger or risk. Businesses in California, for instance, have continuity plans that tell employees where to go and how to proceed should an earthquake occur, since the region is prone to seismic activity. A chain of command is often a primary concern in any type of business continuity program, since having a designated list of leaders can help the workplace from dissolving into chaos.
Monetary analysis plays an important part in how a business continuity program is formulated. Risk analysts or company personnel need to be able to measure the potential impact of any major risk, in order to prioritize spending on continuity plans. Analysts must take into consideration not only the short-term impact of lost income or delayed production, but also the public relations hit that may be caused by an internal crisis. Understanding the potential impact size can help a business determine how much money should be reserved for the management of each risk.
Having a functioning business continuity program can be as vital as having a fire escape route from a house. Experts recommend that plans should not only be formulated, but training and tests on implementation should be scheduled on a regular basis. Making continuity programs part of the work routine can help stem panic in a crisis and allow workers to maintain confidence and a cool head, whatever the situation.