Most organizations recognize the importance of having a sound business continuity recovery plan, but many plans are undermined by the presence of overlooked weaknesses. In today’s post, we’ll look at 10 mistakes that companies commonly make in developing and implementing their BC plans.
Related on MHA Consulting: Sounds Like a Plan: The Elements of a Modern Recovery Plan
Everyone reading this blog will know that the business continuity (BC) recovery plan is something organizations create to help them quickly restore their essential operations in the event of an outage, minimizing the impact on the company.
Fewer will be aware that most plans are hampered in their ability to carry out this objective by hidden errors and omissions. Some faults occur more than others, and at MHA Consulting—where we have the opportunity to become familiar with lots of plans from a wide variety of organizations—we have noticed that 10 mistakes account for the majority of cases where plans break down.
10 Common BC Plan Mistakes
Here is our list of 10 of the most common mistakes organizations make with their recovery plans:
- Thinking that if they have a BC document then they have a BC plan. In everyday BC situations, it’s common to use the terms plan and document interchangeably, but it’s important for program builders to understand there is a difference. The BC plan is the more comprehensive and important; it’s the whole body of knowledge, procedures, training, and information the company has devised to help it restore its critical operations in the event of an outage. The document is a subset of the plan, a component that pins down in writing the essential action items and information. The document by itself is not sufficient. What’s needed first and foremost is the plan. The documentation is important but secondary.
- Not scaling their BC documentation to the size of their organization. Companies who have more documentation than they need risk burying the important material. Those without enough documentation might miss out on critical aspects. A company of 10 people might be fine with one recovery plan document eight or 10 pages long. An organization with 300 employees might reasonably have 10 separate documents, one for each department (these could also be separate sections of a larger document).
- Omitting the essential preparation. For a plan to work there are usually steps that must be taken ahead of time. Such steps might include downloading key information, assembling a piece of equipment, or notifying people that they will have a certain job in the event of an outage (such as being a runner). Many organizations’ plans fail in the moment because the needed preparatory steps were not taken ahead of time.
- Skipping the risk assessment. When companies don’t do a risk assessment to determine their most likely and impactful risks, they don’t really know what their recovery plan needs to do. Planning needs to be based on risk. Even if a seat of the pants approach can identify most risks, a systematic assessment is the best way to make sure no significant threats are overlooked.
- Not planning for the loss of third-party suppliers. Many planners make overly optimistic assumptions about the resilience of vendors providing them with essential supplies and services, including SaaS solutions. Organizations should look into the resilience of the companies they depend on and have workarounds ready or alternate suppliers lined up in case they go down.
- Failing to update critical information. Most plans are up-to-the-minute when first implemented and quickly fall out of date as internal staff, vendors’ representatives, business processes, and other data changes, as always happens. The information in a BC plan must be kept current in order for it to work when needed.
- Not pushing key information down to the front-line staff. Many plans fall short in telling the people the things they need to know to carry out the responsibilities envisioned for them. A viable BC plan doesn’t just assign people tasks, it makes sure they have the awareness, knowledge, and training needed to complete them.
- Making documentation overly wordy. We often see BC plans that are stuffed with policy statements and other explanatory material. Such material might have a place in a document’s appendix, but the core of any BC plan document should be succinct, actionable lists telling people what to do. Think of the information an airline pilot might encounter. A BC plan is like a pre-flight checklist for an experienced pilot, not a manual explaining how to fly a 787.
- Thinking of writing the document as the activity. This goes back to No 1. We see a lot of people get hung up on the documentation. “If we have a document, we’re done,” is something we hear a lot. Or people will call up and say, “We’d like you to help us write a document.” This emphasis is misplaced. The focus should be on creating a solid recovery plan, with the documentation being one component of that.
- Thinking that “remote work” amounts to a BC plan. Many companies mistakenly assume that if their staff is capable of working remotely, they don’t need a BC plan. “Remote is our plan,” they’ll say. However, while it’s true that having a remote-capable workforce increases resilience in some ways, remote work has vulnerabilities of its own. People’s homes can flood and regions can lose power. These vulnerabilities should be identified and addressed in the BC plan.
The Right Way to Craft a BC Plan
Now you know the 10 most common mistakes organizations make with their BC plans. These are mistakes that, in our opinion, you should strive to avoid when developing and implementing your own plan.
MHA Consulting CEO Michael Herrera and I have also written many posts that discuss building a BC plan in positive terms (describing what you should do rather than what you should avoid). To read about the right way to craft a BC plan, check out the links below under Further Reading.
Creating a Functional BC Plan
Most organizations accept that they should have a business continuity plan to ensure they can recover quickly from disruptions and minimize their impact on the company. Unfortunately many companies’ plans are hampered by a handful of common errors and omissions.
Among the most common mistakes organizations make with their BC plans are thinking that if they have a document they have a plan, failing to make needed preparations, not updating critical information, and making their documentation too wordy. The MHA blogs listed below set forth the steps needed to create a truly functional BC plan.
- Taking Care of Business: How to Write a Business Recovery Plan
- Sounds Like a Plan: The Elements of a Modern Recovery Plan
- Plan B: As the Recovery Plan Fades, What Will Take Its Place?
- Staying Current: Why You Need to Keep Your BCM Plans Up to Date
- Risk Assessment: The Best Way to Identify Your Biggest Threats