For industrial companies, business continuity planning is anything but straightforward. While IT is a critical aspect of business resilience, it’s often just the beginning of a complex continuity process.
That’s because most industrial sites rely on more than data alone. Operational continuity depends on physical locations that are often home to multi-millions of dollars of equipment and systems. Interruptions in the supply chain can happen online and offline. So while business continuity depends on the transfer, storage, and protection of data, you can’t stop there.
Business continuity planning isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. But when it comes to industrial operations, you need to take a look at creating an effective business continuity plan from all angles. Whether your operations include construction, agricultural, electronics, manufacturing, or mass production and storage, here are the key focus areas and questions you need to be asking.
The initial response phase occurs at the onset of an event. The event could be a lightning bolt striking, a large chemical spill, a fire, an earthquake, or a cybersecurity breach. Whatever the case may be, you’ll experience a disruption to your normal business procedures. Your key concerns at this point are limiting downtime, minimizing confusion, controlling damage as much as possible, and returning to normal business operations as soon as you can. The key questions to ask in this phase are:
- How are alarms and alerts sent out?
- What external response processes are needed? Are they in place?
- How do you classify this emergency?
- What timely decisions need to be made to mitigate the damage?
Once alarms and alerts are being sent out, you need to ensure that your notifications are going to the right places, and are being received in a timely manner. Personnel should be trained through pre-disaster business continuity training and exercises, so that in the case of an emergency notification, they know how to proceed. At this juncture, it’s all about communication. You should be asking:
- How do you know whether alarms and alerts have reached key personnel?
- Is there a way to control notifications to only reach pertinent groups or individuals?
- How have you automated notifications so that no one is ever waiting around for a response, or wondering where a key contact is at a critical moment?
- What templates and processes are in place for prioritizing the required recovery actions and projects?
Chain of Command
For any emergency process to be enacted, you need leaders. It’s important to confirm the roles and responsibilities of individuals across our entire emergency management team. Ultimately, it’s best practice to have one or a few people in charge, so that redundant efforts aren’t being made and commands are streamlined. Define key roles and responsibilities well ahead of a disaster, so there’s nothing to sort out when a crisis occurs. Key questions to consider at this point are:
- Who is on our emergency management team?
- Who will be gathering information and analyzing conditions?
- Who is in charge?
- What does the emergency management team do with the reports?
- What are the responsibilities of the response team?
- Who are the alternates for the emergency management team?
Data and IT Planning
Arguably, IT is the most important part of business continuity. When IT systems fail, downtime can cost your operation millions of dollars in just a few minutes. Data that’s lost and unrecoverable can mean the end of your business, and might even have legal implications. Without operational IT, the rest of your organization is likely paralyzed. So in the face of a crisis, you’ll want to have answers to the following questions:
- How is data backed up?
- When is the last time data was backed up and what do you stand to lose?
- What are the inter-departmental and inter-organizational dependencies on IT systems?
- What is an acceptable amount of downtime for each critical IT function?
- How do you maintain operations when there is a systemic failure?
- How have you ensured accountability workflows?
- How do you know when IT is up and running again?
- What are your regulatory considerations with respect to IT?
Lastly, effective business continuity requires an understanding of what’s going right and what needs to change. In advance of a disaster, you’ll want to have metrics that help you track your progress. You’ll also need to be aware of the timelines for communicating with stakeholders. Often, you’ll have a small window for notifying stakeholders about disruptions. If you miss that window, you could exacerbate the consequences of the disruption. When your business continuity operations are in place, you’ll want to account for the following:
- What metrics have been established for tracking progress?
- How have you established expectations among all stakeholders?
- How are you funding response and recovery operations?
- What disclosures are required and have they been made to all required parties?
- How do you transition from disaster response to the recovery phase?
An effective crisis communications solution can be a lifesaver, and mitigate severe business interruptions. The AtHoc Suite can aid your business continuity planning by enabling your response teams and executive management with incident awareness, visibility, and secure collaboration. Gain better access to intelligence and data to inform your decisions with employees and global stakeholders.
To learn more, schedule a demo today.