How to prepare for the unexpected: the keys to if-and-when planning

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Having a robust business continuity plan is of critical importance - here's how to create one...

From aggressive cyber attacks to large scale power cuts, a number of high-profile instances in the past year have highlighted just how paralysing unforeseen events can be to a business.

However, predicting when these events will strike next remains beyond the abilities of even the most well-resourced organisation and soothsayers – but a comprehensive business continuity plan (BCP) makes sure that those working in charities can respond quickly, and effectively, to minimise disruption.

Build on firm ground

With the effectiveness of any BCP relying heavily on its foundation, a thorough analysis of your organisation and operations is the best place to start.

Begin by mapping how the event of an outage or loss of service directly impacts each department, then dig deeper to get a clear idea of how this would interrupt interactions between departments and external partners. 

Also consult leaders and request an outline of the most immediate risks but  make sure there is collaboration and shared information. You don’t want to miss anything.

Can you fix it?

Once you’ve clearly identified the threats, the next stage is to assess them individually against the different hypothetical scenarios and understand the potential disruption against your ability to absorb it. For example, if your phones are down for only a matter of hours, the disruption might be minimal – but at what point does this become a critical issue?

After assessing each risk, prioritise which of the risks have the potential to cause the greatest disturbance. Establishing the likely impact through the lens of financial cost is a useful way of understanding which risks pose the biggest threat.

Restoration, restoration, restoration

When it comes to developing your strategy to recover from an unexpected event, the first and arguably the most important aspect is understanding your risk appetite. After all, it forms the basis of what level of recovery you aim to achieve. 

Returning to full working order might mean temporarily moving operations off-site  or using external contractors – you might even be able to establish a skeleton operation with your existing resources. Make clear what your minimum objective is and tailor your strategy to that.

Who does what?

Formalising a coherent plan comes next and must make clear to all involved what their tasks and responsibilities are.To avoid any confusion, keep technical language to a minimum and help implementation with checklists for each action, traffic-lighting issues in terms of importance.

To set out who is in overall control,the plan must provide a clear hierarchy of responsibility: – establish the reporting lines for each department and outline escalation processes so people at the top can hear about any problems during implementation as soon as possible.

It’ll be alright on the night… if you practise

For all the careful planning and strong strategy, nothing can better make you aware of aspects in need of improvement than putting it into practise before it is needed.So, carrying out frequent rehearsals is invaluable.

Desktop read-throughs among all the main actors keeps everyone on the same page, serving as an effective feedback exercise to iterate programmes. Assessing individual risks within a department or unit can also improve teams’ preparation.

A full rehearsal across the business may bring disruption and cost in itself but far less than if the plan is not up to scratch when trouble strikes. Use sparingly – but effectively.

Lastly, an effective insurance policy will also help organisations in the care sector to respond to unforeseen incidents that can paralyse a business. Markel’s specialist insurance cover for the care and charity sector has been created specifically for the risks faced by organisations operating within this space. 

For more information about Markel Care, a specialist insurance package which includes a range of sector-specific support services as standard, please contact your local broker. 

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