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Thinking Globally When Planning for Business Continuity

Thinking Globally When Planning for Business Continuity

Standard business continuity planning may look at scenarios such as a hurricane that shuts down a factory, or a fire that means the company's main offices need to be closed for repairs and temporarily relocated. Plans for these situations are important, of course, and recovery from a threat that affects even one location can be complex.

For companies with offices scattered across the globe, the challenges can be even greater.

The types of threats may vary by region, with earthquakes a risk in one place and winter storms in another. An all-hazards approach to planning can help mitigate this: You plan for how to make it through a period when key employees cannot come into work, for example, regardless of whether the reason is icy roads or a collapsed bridge.

Still, having employees in different countries introduces extra complexity. You will have to deal with different regulations, different levels of emergency response from local authorities, and different languages and cultures. You also have to be aware of how a problem at one office may affect work being done on the other side of the globe.

Here are some ways you can make your business continuity planning work smoothly across global boundaries:

  • Use clear language. At a minimum, be sure to avoid jargon and unnecessarily complex words.

    This is good advice even when everyone reading your plan is a native English speaker – since they may not be equally well versed in the language of business continuity planning. But when you're writing a plan that may be used in other countries, you need to be extra careful that the language is as clear and simple as possible. Avoid complex sentences and acronyms, and make the plan easy to follow and clear about who is to do what.
  • Look at all the links. If a terrorist attack shuts down an airport in one city where you do business, how will that affect offices in other places? Could an epidemic such as the Zika virus disrupt travel between your offices?

    To plan for contingencies such as these, consider whether the work that is usually done in one office could be easily transferred to an office in an area that hasn't been affected.

    If your company manufactures finished products, you may need to look not only at how the workers in your various locations interact, but also at your supply chain. Does your business continuity plan account for what could happen if a disaster disrupts the supply of the materials that you need?
  • Make local connections. A key part of a business continuity plan is cultivating contacts with local government agencies and nonprofits that may be helpful. If power has been disrupted, streets are impassible or water is undrinkable, you will need to be in contact with local authorities to find out when services will be restored.

Different cities, states, provinces and countries will have different procedures and levels of responsiveness. If you know that restoring services is likely to take longer in some places than in others, you should account for that in your plan. 

Kathy Kibble - BlackBerry Business Continuity Manager

Kathy Kibble is a manager for enterprise business continuity at BlackBerry. She has broad experience in business continuity, disaster recovery, crisis management, and pandemic planning. Kathy is responsible for designing and executing BlackBerry's Global Enterprise Business Continuity Management Program, and, BlackBerry's Incident and Crisis Management Program.

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