21 Things Companies Do Wrong When Executing Business Continuity Plans

falling dominoes - executing business continuity plan pitfallsA business continuity plan is essential for preventing and recovering from emergencies and incidents that can disrupt a business.

We recently shared our top 13 priorities for a strong BCP. While not having a BCP is a sure-fire pitfall to successful business continuity, there are other things to keep in mind. Here are some of the common pitfalls to look out for when executing business continuity plans.

Business continuity preparation

  1. Lack of education and clarity about business continuity: Staff is unclear and unaware of what business continuity is and what to do in a crisis.
  2. Lack of BCP testing: Although there is a plan, it is not robustly tested. Therefore, the organization isn’t ready to deploy it.
  3. Limited work from home capability: Staff is unable or has limited potential to work from home.

Leadership

  1. Lack of clarity regarding who leads and who supports BCP: Successful BCP execution requires clearly defined leaders and support personnel to take ownership of the plan.
  2. A limited distinction between leaders and BCP leaders: Role clarity is essential. Staff need to know whom to follow and who is doing what during a disruption.
  3. Inability to quickly deploy a rapid response team: In a crisis, a predefined team should be deployed to tackle the most immediate problems.

Communication approach

  1. Ineffective external communication: Customers need the same clarity as employees. Without it, customers may feel anxious and lose trust in the brand. It is essential to use various channels to inform customers, e.g., online, IVR, email.
  2. Ineffective internal communication: In a crisis, it’s crucial to hear concise and decisive messaging. Staff must know what the organization is doing and what they need to do. Communicate through multiple channels, e.g., in-person (if possible), video/audio call, email and social media.
  3. Staff contact information is out of date: Maintain up-to-date contact information so you can quickly and easily reach staff via multiple communication methods.
  4. Uncertainty around which staff have and haven’t received communication: Some staff may not receive emails if they are on leave or travelling when a crisis occurs. Track BCP emails and reach out to anyone who hasn’t opened or received the emails.

Processes

  1. Inability to process customer transactions when systems are down: Ensure customer transactions can still be processed, even if systems failures delay the transactions. Establish back up procedures for all customer transactions, then define, document and train staff on them.
  2. Lack of activity prioritization: Companies should triage processes based on their impact on the customer. Then consider additional implications, such as cost, revenue and brand loyalty.
  3. Ineffective workload management: Companies should plan for a sustained increase in workload. Deploy measures to increase staff and triage customer transactions based on priority.
  4. Ineffective channel utilization: If physical locations are unavailable, re-direct customers to digital, self-serve channels. Test self-serve channels to ensure they have the capacity for increased traffic on servers and networks. Communicate across mediums to promote how you are providing service.

Staff

  1. Absence of a succession plan: Who will perform which roles and responsibilities if a critical resource is unavailable or if that role is strained with reduced capacity? Establish a failover plan for all jobs.
  2. Lack of governance: Ensure the BCP plan identifies who does what during a disruption. Role clarity is paramount to maintain calm and establish a sense of control. Define BCP roles.
    • Who will act as a point of escalation?
    • Who is responsible for decision making?
    • Who will provide support and reassurance?
    • How is scheduling determined in a BCP?
  3. Lack of awareness of staff feelings: Be in tune with your staff, especially for highly stressful disruptions, like COVID-19. Establish regular touchpoints and ensure leaders are aligned and consistent with their messaging to sustain engagement and provide support. It’s okay to have fun to reduce tension and foster comradery, even during a crisis. Just be thoughtful and considerate.

Systems Failover

  1. Inability to retain power for key systems: In the event on a power failure, the absence of a UPS and cutover to a back-up generator makes working on-site impossible. Be aware that HVAC support is often excluded on backup power, even with a generator.
  2. Ineffective system redundancy: Systems failover is not in place. Systems failover is ability to leverage back up servers or a plan to shut down one system in favour of starting up another. Define each system and its impact on performing customer transactions.
  3. Lack of capacity: Critical systems crash or slow down during a disruption because there is not enough server capacity to deploy additional resources.

Budget

  1. Not having reserve funds in place: There are many variables that can occur during a business disruption that require additional funds. An increase in customer demand might require an increase in staff hours. A natural disaster might require a company to move to a different location. Maintaining a cash reserve helps a company to cover unplanned and unexpected costs.