(CNN) -- "In the last few years, there has been considerable media attention around the potential dangers to a business, such as flooding or the breakdown of IT systems. How do I make sure that our business continuity is robust and fit for purpose?"
Jo Causon, Director, marketing and corporate affairs, Chartered Management Institute
As you have pointed out, there has been considerable attention to business continuity in the media over the last few years, especially in the wake of extreme weather conditions, such as flooding, and various terrorist attacks.
With so many threats to business continuity in the current environment, it can be difficult to assess how robust and effective your planning will be in the event of a disaster.
There are various resources to help you keep a check on the effectiveness of your continuity planning. Indeed, the Chartered Management Institute and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, within the Cabinet Office, produce an annual report on threats to business including best practice advice on implementing business continuity plans (BCP).
This year's BCP report shows that loss of IT, telecommunications and people are likely to have the most significant impact on business in the current environment. Although, increasingly, extreme weather is also affecting businesses with almost half of individuals saying that it has caused disruption over the past year, a figure that has risen from one in five in 2002.
With this in mind, it is important that your policy puts processes in place so that a pre-determined level of business activity can continue if, for example, the IT system goes down.
Another major question that your continuity policy should consider is whether suppliers, especially ones that are business-critical, are also prepared to face threats. There is no point protecting your own business if external organizations which you rely upon would be unable to function in the event of a disaster.
Before working with any organization, make sure they also have a business continuity plan, and that they carry out regularly exercises to make sure it is effective.
Testing your business continuity plan is crucial. One of the most significant findings to come out of the Institute's research was that one in three organizations that have a plan in place, do nothing to check if it works effectively. This becomes even more concerning when we consider that the majority of those who do rehearse their plans, revealed various shortcomings to the plans which needed improvement.
BCP must take into account the changing nature of business threats to be effective. If you want to ensure that your plan is fit for purpose, it should be regularly reviewed, tested and changed to meet the needs of today's environment.
Director, marketing and corporate affairs
Chartered Management Institute
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