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Readiness Best Practices: Assembling Your Business Continuity Team

Organizations both large and small need to have business continuity planning in place to manage unexpected business disruptions.  Whether these events are triggered by severe weather, civil unrest, product failure or any of a myriad of other factors, the time to figure out how to manage an incident is not when that incident occurs.

Getting Started – The Right Leadership Model

Typically a Business Continuity Manager is identified to lead the planning and preparedness process, and one of that person’s first responsibilities is to assemble the right team and governance structure.  For Business Continuity Management (BCM) to be effective, it is essential that the effort receives organization-wide visibility and senior management support. Studies have shown that BCM programs with executive sponsor and senior management advisory boards or steering committees in place are significantly more successful at meeting their recovery time objectives than those with less senior management support.  Executive leadership is required to:

  • Create a culture of Business Continuity throughout the organization
  • Mandate cross departmental coordination of BCM planning
  • Allocate the required financial resources for BCM team members and support tools
  • Oversee BCM planning, testing and assess post incident program effectiveness
  • Highlight the importance of BCM to the organization and each employees role in the process
  • Provide direction for actual risk assessment and management

Assessing Business Continuity Team Membership

The first step in identifying who needs to be on a Business Continuity Team is to determine what potential events the team will be planning for.   A comprehensive BCM plan should cover a wide variety of potential events including; severe weather, natural disasters, physical security threats, IT incidents, supply chain interruptions, power outages, facilities damage, property theft, product safety, and management reputation-related scandals. Once you have identified the threats, you will be in a better position to determine which people inside and outside your organization should be invited onto the BCM team to support continued business operations.

For the majority of BCM teams, membership will include:

  • Executive Sponsor
  • BCM Steering Committee
  • Business Continuity Manager
  • Key Suppliers and/or retail partners
  • Department-Specific Recovery Team Leads:
    • Administration/Risk Management
    • Customer Service
    • Facilities Management
    • Internal/External Communications
    • Manufacturing/Production
    • Information Technology
    • Human Resources
    • Operations/Logistics

Once the team has been identified, systems need to be put in place to facilitate virtual business continuity management because disasters can occur anytime and it is frequently impossible to assemble the team in a physical location.  Essential tools for virtual continuity management include smart notification and communications systems plus a web-based solution for incident tracking and management that enables all team members have a common operating picture of the incident as it unfolds and access to the files, plans and templates they need to execute their assigned tasks.

Defining Roles and Responsibilities

Once the team has been assembled and systems are in place to facilitate communications across multiple device types to notify the group and sub-groups in the event of an emergency, it is important to make sure each team member understands their specific roles and responsibilities and plans are in place to execute these tasks effectively.

MissionMode Incident Management Cycle

The typical cycle of incident management starts with threat assessment then includes communications across multiple constituencies, issue mitigation and post incident assessment.  An effective BCM team will create and test plans then adapt them post event to address weaknesses that were identified as part of the incident management process.

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