The benefits of business continuity planning
Authored by Allianz
Life has a nasty habit of throwing you a curve ball when you least expect it, and it’s no different for businesses. Natural disasters, machinery failures and cyber attacks can happen at any time, but when you’re prepared for them, a disruptive event which might have meant disaster becomes just another bump in the road.
Take what happened with one of our suppliers for example. A fire broke out at Paragon's document management facility in Leicester, where our Allianz Commercial documentation is sent for scanning and processing. All employees were safely evacuated and fortunately there were no casualties. Ordinarily this would have been a catastrophe, but because Paragon had planned for this eventuality, it was able to activate its business continuity plan (BCP).
Employees were relocated to a secondary site and clear and effective communications were shared with all impacted parties. A small number of claims documents were lost in the fire, but other than that, business continued as usual and the impact to the customer was minimal.
Why is business continuity planning important?
In recent years, business interruption claims have increased dramatically and as evidenced by the event at Paragon, fire/explosion is the biggest cause of loss. Research shows that 80% of businesses fail to recover after suffering damage to their property, so you can see why it’s crucial to have a BCP in place.
Top causes of loss for businesses in 2023
1. Fire/explosion 24%
2. Natural catastrophes 15%
3. Faults 9%
The aim of the BCP is to protect business operations while a recovery strategy is implemented, and it should be regularly tested so that any weaknesses can be identified and corrected ahead of time.
Having a BCP ensures that business assets and personnel are protected and able to recover quickly in the event of a disruptive event. It will highlight the sequence of actions that should be taken to prevent the risks that could lead to business closure, and it’s always drawn up in advance. Risk management is not a one-off exercise and the BCP should be regularly revisited and amended as business processes, systems, suppliers and services change.
Creating a business continuity plan
Senior management should be represented when creating and updating the plan, as well as key stakeholders from across the business. Make sure employees are aware and understand the plan so the business is prepared for when it needs to be put into action.
For each risk there should be a detailed assessment that sets out the steps that need to be taken to restore business operations in the event of disruption. Should disruption occur, being able to get up and running again quickly will reassure customers and employees that the business is in control of the situation.
Here are some key questions for businesses to consider when creating a BCP:
- How does your business manufacture and distribute products and/or services? Identify each step of the manufacturing and delivery process and think about how each one could be impacted by disruptive events.
- What are the critical areas of your business? Which areas of your business operations will be most severely impacted by a disruption? You need to rank them according to the level of risk they pose to the business should they cease to function.
- What are the consequences of these risks? Consider the worst case scenario outcomes of these risks in terms of customer dissatisfaction, lost sales/income, increased expenses, delayed delivery, poor product quality, regulatory fines and bad press etc.
- What resources do you rely on? Your staff, stakeholders, accountants, legal team, consultants, suppliers, equipment, technology, databases and documents are all key resources. You need to consider how important each resource is to your business operations and then rank them in order of significance.
- What are your contingency plans? If your resources are negatively impacted or destroyed, what alternatives can you employ to mitigate downtime? Could you rent vehicles, equipment or machinery for example? Do you have a contingency location you can operate from if you’re not able to access your business premises?
- How soon will you be able to get back on track? You’ll need to plan time-scales and implement safeguards and procedures to reduce potential downtime. Determine recovery times and identify the processes you’ll need to follow, and in which order, to restore operations as quickly as possible.
- How and when will you review your BCP? You need to review your BCP regularly to ensure that it’s up to date. You’ll also need to test procedures to check that they work. Make sure that you set aside time to do these things on an annual basis.
Managing supply chains
Supply chain resilience is key to reducing exposure to threats, and so good supply chain management is crucial. It’s really important to have solid supplier relationships and having a BCP which recognises and seeks to mitigate potential threats to the supply chain will establish trust with both suppliers and customers. Supply chain disruption can include shortages to raw materials, inflation, delays and personnel limitations. There may also be global events that impact on the availability and cost of supplies. For example, car components are affected by the hike in global material prices, whether that’s steel that goes into a set of coil springs, or oil that goes into the engine, or the manufacture of tyres.
The BCP should focus on the suppliers that are key to business continuity, and should request copies of the supplier’s own BCP so this can be considered when preparing its own. It’s recommended that businesses have more than one supplier of raw materials as this will reduce the risk of disruption should one of the suppliers be unable to operate.
The benefits of business continuity planning
One of the biggest concerns for businesses in 2023 was the risk of business interruption5. Possessing a robust and regularly reviewed BCP in place is key to mitigating these fears, and having one in place means that businesses can navigate the future with confidence, no matter what’s round the corner.
We work with a range of reputable suppliers so that our policyholders can access services and products for risk control and business continuity at specially negotiated discounted rates.
Glen Abbot is a leading independent Business Continuity and Information Security consultancy firm. We offer Allianz Commercial policyholders access to a free ten-minute telephone consultation, a discount of 20% on the usual prices for a unique suite of business continuity planning packages and 20% off supply chain reviews.
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