How modern communications are revolutionising BC Plans by hhab2910


									How modern communications are revolutionising BC Plans
The ongoing threat of a swine flu pandemic has prompted organisations to assess how they would cope in a
worst-case scenario, where staff absenteeism could reach 40%. Chris Jones, CEO of PageOne explains how Business
Continuity Plans (BCP) have always had to adapt to new threats and different styles of working, and while 53% of
British companies still don’t have a BCP, even those that do need to make sure it is up to date to factor in more
efficient lines of communication.

Business continuity planning needs to be as fluid as business itself and regularly rehearsed. Although bigger
organisations have had plans in place for many years, complacency can still set in and these plans may not
been tested to comply with the increasingly complex and technology-driven business demands of the current
environment. The earliest plans for certain large corporations were often paper-based. The BCP would have taken
the form of a physical document and reflected the business practices of the time. The big shift recently has been
faster and more available methods of communication. These shifts have lead to the real possibility of organisations
becoming almost “virtual” as and when required – such as when a highly contagious and severe disease such as
swine flu appears on the horizon.

The threat of pandemic disease is a relatively new consideration for UK-based businesses and joins the threat of
terror attack and natural disaster as aspects to consider when updating or implementing a plan for the first time.
With such risks to business it is frustrating that such a large number of businesses bury their heads in the sand and
continue to ignore these very real threats. Disease pandemic also offers a different set of criteria to that of terror and
natural disaster with the threat moving from generally physical and relatively local in nature to being invisible and
not limited geographically.

However, as the type of threat has changed, so has the working environment. Five years ago the majority of an
organisation’s workforce needed to be in the office to be productive, however modern communications have opened
up the work-space. Home working can be set up quickly and efficiently to offer more flexible working to employees
and the possibility for key staff to quickly restore/maintain work practices if the needs arises. Laptops have become
much cheaper and their portability means that one piece of equipment can be carried around by an employee and
used wherever required. Coupled with a mobile phone and with broadband costs tumbling, the cost of setting up
employees to relocate at short notice, or in the case of a disease pandemic, work from home is reasonable. Even
if the current swine flu pandemic doesn’t prove to be as severe as predicted, it should serve as a wake-up call to
organisations to make sure that they are fully utilising modern and cheaper communication methods to keep their
businesses running in times of crisis. It would be fool-hardy to believe that another pandemic will not surface at
some stage and there is no reason to be complacent.

There are two main obstacles at board-level that are often cited as blocking the implementation of a modern
business continuity plan. The first is cost; but it is actually fairly cost-effective to design and implement a BCP due
to the proliferation of competitively-priced methods of communication now available coupled with more efficient
working practices. It must also be noted that many aspects of BCPs can be used in everyday working practices to
improve efficiency and well-being of staff, such as the home-office concept. The second main stumbling-block is
a concentration on terrorist attack and natural disaster as the only type of threats to an organisation’s well-being,
rather than continual threats such as human pandemic disease, which according to the latest report by the Chartered
Management Institute and backed by the Cabinet Office, is one of the greatest concerns facing organisations. It is
understandable that threat of terrorist attack has dominated business thinking since 9/11, but other threats must
not be discounted or ignored. It is the job of an all-encompassing plan to ensure that all eventualities are covered.

The author of the plan must consider the aspects of the business that are fundamental and crucial to its ongoing
viability and concentrate on putting measures in place to protect them. The cost of implementing the BCP against
the value of employees’ well-being should be all the ammunition you need to take to the board – after all without
employees how can you successfully run a business? Primarily the author must identify the key people without
whom the business could not function and make sure that they are set up to work away from the workplace, or
should they fall sick with swine flu that there is adequate cover. The contact details of all crucial stakeholders must
be included; key staff, suppliers and customers and modern contact management software should ensure that it is
easy to keep all details up-to-date.
Ensure that a resilient form of communication is available to employees. An organisation cannot rely on mobile or
fixed-line telecoms networks as they can fail in times of crisis. Mobile networks can be easily overwhelmed with
people trying to make calls, as happened during the immediate aftermath of the 7/7 attacks on London and physical
attacks can take out landlines. At PageOne we provide inexpensive, resilient solutions to ensure that vital contact is
made in the event of an unexpected event. Areyousafe is a real-time staff check-in and acknowledgement service.
In the event of a crisis it allows employees to verify their status and location by calling a dedicated phone number.
We also have a solution called ‘Voiceblast’, a voice alert service that can quickly and simultaneously send thousands
of people within an organisation a personalised voice message to either their landline or mobile.

The next step is to include a business continuity “How-to” document giving step by step instructions on what to do
and how to do it for all core processes. That way, if a member of staff does leave suddenly due to swine flu, or is
otherwise unable to attend work at short notice, another member of staff should be able to take over their duties
and carry them out competently ensuring continuity in your business. As a final step, ensure you have backed up
all core documents and that they are stored and accessible off-site. Document storage is available on all PageOne’s
web based messaging services.

Business continuity planning has evolved and changed markedly in the last decade just as business and the threats
to it have. An agile BCP needs to be reviewed periodically and seen as a “living entity”, not something to be placed
on the shelf and dragged out when required. With BCPs now more tightly integrated with day-today functions,
keeping the plan up-to-date should be easier and more vital than ever. The design and implementation of a plan
shouldn’t be seen as a “cost”; it should be seen as insurance taken out to ensure that the organisation can continue
in a worst-case scenario and as an ongoing “health” monitor.

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