Why you need to test your Business Continuity Plan

Much of what we do in business may not seem directly connected to the business of making money—like a business continuity plan (BCP). But like seat belts, smoke detectors, or travel insurance, a good BCP is something we want to have, but never use. So once you’ve invested time and money to put your BCP in place, you can relax, right?

OpsCentre points out that some businesses feel that having a BCP is enough, and no one ever thinks to actually test it. Others may acknowledge the need to test the plan, but for shortage of staff or competing priorities, testing slips through the cracks.

But how will you know if the plan will provide the protection you’ll need? A controlled simulation of a likely disruption to business will help you assess your company’s readiness. It will also reveal areas that need attention before a real disruptive event.

What should be tested, and how often?

A rigorous test should include processes, supplies, responses, data protection, and personnel. Testing a BCP usually should be done regularly, whether quarterly, annually, or whatever you determine to be right for your kind of business.

Just because everything went smoothly last year when the BCP was tested, don’t assume everything will be the same again. Regular tests will ensure protection against out-of-date information. For example, a BCP typically will include names of key personnel with their specific responsibilities in a disruption. Any changes in those staff members should be noted in the BCP test. New members may need some training, or may have some suggestions.

Your employee’s contact details are an essential part of any BCP. How quickly you get operations get back up and running will depend on internal communications. As IT consultants Dynamic Quest points out, “having an outdated phone number is a painfully avoidable mistake that can carry considerable cost to your company. At testing time, validate all internal and external contact information to be sure details are current and accurate.”

Walk through your BCP

A beautifully crafted BCP can look great on paper, even sound great when explained to your team in a meeting. But once they are back to their day-to-day work, it’s quickly forgotten. An actual walk-through where each person is responsible for their part of the plan will help your employees care more about it and remember it longer.

Plan for what disaster?

We think of disaster in terms of its cause: a fire, earthquake, industrial action, cyber-attack. Does a business need a BCP for each potential disruption?

Not really. The Queensland Government’s Department of Education, Training and Employment suggests that it’s more helpful to focus on the outcome rather than the cause. A cyclone, bomb threat, or industrial dispute can all have the same effect: a disruption to your normal business operations. The goal of your BCP remains the same: get your business running again in as near-to-normal operations as possible.

The Department also has an extensive checklist for different types of BCP testing, depending on the circumstances.

Did you know that Karstens also offers business continuity plan services through our partner Continuity Matters? Click here to learn more.