Planning for business continuity

Richard Eglon, chief marketing officer, Agilitas, outlines the how, why and when of developing a plan for business continuity.

Following an uncertain and turbulent couple of years, many companies were forced to take tentative steps towards remote and hybrid working in order to maintain some sort of daily routine, and those in the IT Channel were no exception. Our industry became a lifeline for commerce, so has had to rapidly adapt and become more resilient by prioritising the refresh of business continuity procedures to remain relevant in the new world.

With over a fifth of channel partners planning for resilience and continuity annually or even bi-annually, more are asking the question as to whether they are revisiting strategies regularly enough. Against the backdrop of Covid-19, we have learned that change can happen overnight and companies that take a more proactive approach will remain on the best course for success.

This can be tricky for channel players who are bound by the SLAs agreed with customers. Issues that have not been planned for can lead to businesses not fulfilling any agreements and could result in a loss of business and a reduction in customer confidence, so having a solid plan in place is extremely beneficial.

From the top down

Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, business continuity planning will help the channel industry to respond faster when disruption arises and minimise the negative impact on a business and its customers. This can be anything from extreme weather conditions to a cyberattack, or to use a current example, a global pandemic.

Successful business continuity plans (BCPs) are built from the top down. This means that the first step for any channel business is getting the support and buy-in from the senior decision-makers. Once this is in place, organisations need to assign a dedicated person to manage the process and create a team that is made up of members of each critical business department. A chain of command should also be established, so employees know the ‘how, when and why’ of each task and where the relevant staff members can be reached.

By planning for different eventualities, the technology channel can be better prepared in the case of an emergency. Even though the future cannot be pre-empted, businesses can be ready to manage and restore operations by having a strong BCP in place.

So, what does a strong plan involve? By being comprehensive, realistic, efficient and adaptable, customers and staff can remain confident in the company’s ability to function well in a crisis. In the long term, business continuity helps maintain resiliency, saves money, time and company reputation. Without a strategy, experiencing an extended outage risks financial, personal and reputational loss.

Recovery and backup

A recovery procedure is the part of the BCP that outlines the strategies for business functionality. For channel businesses, this strategy should identify and prioritise its critical assets, from equipment to the IT systems, contact details and people. In order to ensure your BCP is capable of protecting these assets, organisations need to identify the potential risks and threats by compiling a process that will enable it to recover from a critical event.

Aside from the disruption caused by Covid-19, statistics show that around 64 per cent of companies worldwide have experienced at least one form of a cyberattack. With these numbers likely to rise, a secure backup strategy is an essential part of your BCP. Without it, technical infrastructure could be at limited functionality until the issue is resolved, or worse. Without a data backup, access to that data could be lost or corrupted forever.

Setting recovery time objectives can help prioritise the elements that need to be recovered first. Other recovery strategies include resource inventories, agreements with third parties to take on company activity and finding spaces for critical discussions. The Channel industry must consider every eventuality and what could play a role in all aspects of the business.

However, every organisation is different, so the goals and objectives that are most important to the way each company operates need to be clearly defined from the outset. Those goals will guide risk assessment, business continuity planning and potential recovery strategies. The ability to recover from these unplanned disruptions will be much slower and less effective without these in place, potentially impacting both revenue and brand reputation.

The risks

Nothing is ever certain, and some channel businesses could be lucky enough to never face another major disruption. However, it is more likely that there will be a fair share of challenges further down the line.

The act of organisation and being prepared through the factors mentioned above give companies the best possible chance of minimising challenges and disruptions. By implementing a risk assessment, potential hazards can be identified and areas that can affect staff, customers, building operations and company reputation can be reduced. The assessment also details what or who a risk could harm, and the likeliness of those risks.

By being fully aware of the levels of risk and updating BCPs at least once a year with what needs to be done to keep the business moving, companies will gain a competitive edge and mitigate any financial risk involved. Once everyone in your business is comfortable with and trained on implementing the plan, decision-makers will have the peace of mind to know that when challenges do arise, they are equipped to deal with them and that they have future-proofed the industry as best they can for the years to come.

This feature appeared in our March 2022 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.

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