The economic climate is unpredictable and ever-changing. Unexpected events like natural disasters or power failures that disrupt normal operations can happen at any time. That’s why it’s more important than ever for companies to have mitigation strategies that help them stay operational should a disaster strike. This is where a business continuity plan (BCP) comes in handy.
What is a business continuity plan?
A BCP is a document that outlines the steps an organization should take to ensure it can continue operating during and after a disruption or crisis. It includes comprehensive information about backup systems, risk assessments, emergency response protocols, and communication plans.
By having an effective BCP, you can minimize any potential financial losses and protect critical assets, personnel, operations, and customers. However, for a BCP to remain effective, it needs to be regularly reviewed and updated.
How often should businesses review their BCP?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The frequency at which a BCP review should be conducted varies from business to business and depends on a number of factors.
Size of the organization
The bigger an organization, the more complex the BCP usually is since it involves more employees and facilities, which are sometimes even spread over a broader geographic area. Because of this, larger enterprises typically need to review their BCPs more often than small- and medium-sized businesses do.
Nature of the business
The type of work an organization does will also impact how often the BCP needs to be reviewed. For example, companies that rely on complex supply chains or have some operations in other countries will usually require more frequent BCP reviews. This is so they can better ensure that their BCP addresses dependencies, vulnerabilities, and changes that affect continuity along the chain.
Organizations that are part of highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and financial services, may also need frequent BCP reviews to remain compliant with ever-evolving relevant regulatory requirements.
Business continuity technologies used
Many newer business continuity technologies can streamline and automate certain processes, such as data backup and email archiving. Some of these technologies even offer a centralized management console for quick and easy BCP maintenance. In such cases, companies may not need to review their BCP as often since these technologies can help them quickly identify areas that need to be updated or changed.
Establishing a BCP review schedule
After considering the aforementioned factors, you can now create a schedule for reviewing your company’s BCP. Many businesses aim for a BCP review schedule like this:
Checklist review: Twice a year
This high-level check lets you see if the current BCP still meets all the set objectives. If it doesn’t, then you’ll need to make the necessary adjustments and recirculate the updated BCP to all stakeholders.
Emergency drill: Once a year
This drill helps ensure that everyone knows what to do before, during, and after an emergency. Make sure to conduct an annual emergency drill to keep everyone’s skills sharp, including new hires who may not be aware of the BCP protocols.
Tabletop review: Every other year
Since business objectives and priorities change over time, it’s important to conduct a verbal walkthrough of the BCP together with all the key stakeholders, business leaders, and the business continuity response team. By doing so, you’ll be able to uncover gaps, inconsistencies, or outdated details in the plan.
Comprehensive review: Every other year
This type of review involves undergoing a new company risk assessment and impact analysis so you can update your BCP accordingly. The updated BCP must also reflect any changes to the company, such as its structure, operations, or location.
Recovery simulation: Every two or three years
This comprehensive test involves simulating a disaster and going through your entire BCP. This enables you to determine if your company can actually restore operations quickly after a major disruption. After a recovery simulation, you’ll be able to identify any vulnerabilities in your plan and help staff and other stakeholders feel confident in their respective business continuity roles.
Conducting unscheduled BCP reviews
You may need to conduct a BCP review outside of your established schedule if such events occur:
- Major system outages or security events that expose gaps in your BCP that need to be addressed right away
- Numerous staff movements or changes, which may lead to an overall lack of awareness of the BCP
- Major digital transformation initiatives (e.g., migration from on-premises services to the cloud, new email system) that introduced new hardware or software, dependencies, or business processes, among others
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