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Business Continuity Planning – Your Business Insurance Policy

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Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is one of the most underestimated processes in risk management.  COVID-19 has reminded us that it shouldn’t be. A BCP is about the prevention and recovery of your operations. Like an Insurance Policy, it gives some level of assurance that we’ve thought about what can go wrong with our operations and we’ve got a plan and processes to continue operating while we address an interruption to business. 

Your BCP should aim to get you past a given challenge, whether that’s a system meltdown, a building roof collapse or the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

I wonder how many businesses proactively develop and maintain their Business Continuity Plans? 

It’s All on You 

It is your responsibility to ensure you and your operation are prepared.  If you don’t own it, who will?  Too often we shy away from confronting what can go wrong, fearing that we’re being negative, and we should only try to ‘think positive’.  That’s fine, but the reason we have home, car and even life insurance policies are so we a contingency in case something unforeseen happens.  Think of your BCP as a business insurance policy.   

Your BCP should take into account scenarios such as business to business integration and the dependencies created by interfacing with third parties.  You can’t control what is outside of your network, but you can mitigate failure.  We recently had this experience.  A critical vendor experienced a major service interruption that impacted our ability to consign and move freight. 

When everything is functioning as expected, there is no issue.  Data is passed between your organisation and the supplier, freight moves accordingly. A system outage that results in a breakdown of the integration will stop you from consigning. This happened to us recently and we were unprepared. We took a three-step approach.  Increased our capacity to consign manually, developed a process for exporting a report from the WMS so we could upload consignments manually, and finally, sought to mitigate long-term risk by developing relationships with other vendors. 

The biggest lesson from all this?  Review your weak points, plan for failure, then have a strategy for dealing with it, prepare before you need it, then document it, then test it.  And just as importantly, if you’ve ever had to execute your BCP, once you return to business as usual, review it and ask yourself, what worked, what didn’t, and what needs changing?   

Being prepared is all on you, as one of my mentors once coached me, ‘if you don’t own it, you can’t fix it’, and that includes blaming other people and businesses when things aren’t going to plan. 

Collaboration 

Recognise that your operations extend beyond the borders of your department, and even your business, therefore so should your Business Continuity Planning.  As the saying goes, ‘no man is an island’, and it goes that your BCP should not be developed without consultation with those it impacts, whether these are internal or external stakeholders.   

I jumped off a call this morning with one of our major suppliers.  The discussion revolved around how we can best support each other through the impact we’ve seen as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. We all agreed, moving forward we’ll need to develop a joint BCP where our operations cross over. 

In my 20 years in 3rd Party Logistics, the most productive relationships I experienced with clients were the ones where they saw us as an extension of their business rather than as a separate entity, even though by the wording of the contract, that’s essentially what we were. contracted to do.  It’s all in how you view business and engage.  Is it a partnership or a master/slave relationship?  Each is going to have a very different dynamic. 

What does any of this have to do with having a well thought out BCP that addresses multiple failure points across your operation? 

Whether you are capturing the lessons you have learned from this pandemic, the ad-hoc changes your organisation had to make to manage the lockdown or if you are designing a new logistics interface, you can get stated with Pre-mortem Tools to assist you in identifying potential failure points and scenarios and how to develop mitigating actions that can form the basis for your plan. 

While we’re already deep into the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on business operations is already being felt, it’s never too late to start identifying and assessing potential failure points so you can develop plans should the need arise.   

Does your business have a BCP, and if so where is it, and when was the last time you looked at it? 

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay