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Business continuity planning

It’s always important to have a BCP in place – but in these unprecedented times, you might need to make some revisions.

Even the most robust business continuity plan (BCP) couldn’t have envisaged the environment we’ve found ourselves in due to the Coronavirus. Many Australians are now working from home, client meetings are being held remotely, and businesses are struggling to maintain their cashflow while the world has effectively come to a standstill.

 

If you already have your BCP in place, that’s a great start. Now is the time to review it and make some revisions so you can feel confident that you’ve thought through every eventuality. Having a comprehensive BCP will help you make informed decisions about the best course of action for your business, employees and clients. You may also want to share this information with your small business clients to help them manage through these challenging times.

 

Here are some of the things to think about.

Identify core services, employees and clients

In the event of a crisis, or even just a minor disruption to your business, it may not be possible to operate in the same way you usually do. You may have to run your business at a reduced capacity – and that means identifying the core services you want to continue to offer, the clients you want to maintain a relationship with, and the employees you want to retain.

 

Next, work out which systems and resources you’ll require in order to ensure business continuity for these key services and people. Assign roles and responsibilities to your employees, and decide who to delegate authority to in case you find yourself in a position where you’re not able to make business decisions. And don’t forget to talk to your suppliers about their own BCP, so you can understand how you can continue working together during a disruption.

Make sure your team has adequate tools and support

We’ve all been thrust into a remote working environment more rapidly than anyone could have expected, and you may be finding that some of your team are struggling to do their job effectively while working from home. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do your employees have the right hardware (for example, laptop and modem) to be able to work from home effectively?
  • Do they have sufficient internet capacity for video conferencing and other high-usage functions?
  • Are your files able to be accessed and shared securely?
  • How are you ensuring that your systems and data can’t be accessed by unauthorised users?
  • Does your team require training on how use your remote working systems and tools?
  • How will you communicate with your team day-to-day?
  • Does your team know how to contact you in an emergency?
  • Do any of your employees need to change their working hours or days to take care of family members?
  • Which of your employees do you need to check in with regularly to see if they need additional support?

Develop a communications strategy

Rather than scrambling to put together communications when the need arises, it’s always a good idea to have a strategy in place so you know who you need to speak to and what you need to say. While you can’t predict the future, there are key messages that your employees, clients and suppliers will need to hear from you regardless of the event.

 

You will need to cover what’s happened, how your business has responded so far, the steps you have taken or will take to ensure your business can continue to operate, and what this means for your employees or clients. Remember that it’s always better to communicate early, even if you don’t have all the answers yet.

 

Specifically for the Coronavirus, you may want to prepare some communications about what will happen if your or one of your key employees becomes ill and can’t continue working.

Consider all outcomes

If there’s one thing the Coronavirus has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected. While it’s never fun to think about the worst case scenario, doing so will allow you to identify any weak spots in your business. Then you can work out what you need to do to address them. Here are some scenarios you may want to consider:

  • Disruption or complete breakdown of your IT infrastructure
  • Cyber attack on your business systems and/or your clients’ data being compromised
  • Significant and prolonged downturn in revenue
  • Natural disaster causing property damage, unsafe working conditions or power outages
  • Some or all of your employees, or yourself, being unable to work due to family commitments or health issues.

 

Work through each of these scenarios one by one to determine what impact they would have on your business and how you would respond. Develop workaround solutions (for example, manual processes) that would allow you to continue to operate your business if any of these scenarios occurred. Don’t forget to also factor in a plan for ‘down time’, where you and staff can still be adding value through additional training and CPD hours.

Keep on top of the changes

With everything changing so quickly, it can feel like a full-time job keeping up with the latest news and announcements. Identify a couple of sources that are reliable and updated regularly – such as business.gov.au and Colonial First State’s adviser hub – and check them daily so you’re informed about any developments. And remember to provide regular updates to your employees and clients to keep them in the loop too. Lastly, try to be as flexible with your business as possible. These aren’t ordinary times, and that means you may need to make changes much more rapidly than what you’re used to.

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