How often should you update your business continuity plan?

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Business continuity is about weighing up the risks in your business and making plans to ensure that you can get up and running as soon as possible after a disruptive incident.

With COVID-19 we can see how rapidly things can change almost overnight. If I look back a few years ago a health pandemic was near the bottom of most managers’ lists of risks. Down at the bottom where they had listed flooding and earthquakes.

A business continuity plan needs to be a dynamic document that responds to the changing environment. Nowadays cybercrime is high on the list of risks and so is energy supply. It’s difficult to predict energy supply with the power crisis in Eskom. Some scenarios are that it could take weeks to restore power after a complete black out in the country. Imagine the chaos. Consider the shortages of everything. Think about the possibility of mass social unrest. See this link for major power outages in the world.

How long could your business remain viable with a prolonged shutdown? Just look at how the liquor industry, restaurants and hospitality industry and tourism have suffered from the COVID-19 lockdowns. Many have had to shut their doors.

The minimum requirement even if you have your own business continuity plan is that it should be updated annually. But you also need to respond to changing circumstances. For example, if there is a sudden water crisis, how long could your business survive? Therefore if there is an impending water crisis, it would be advisable to update your business continuity plan to take this into account with your response.

If your company has an ISO 22301 business continuity management system, then to maintain your listing, you will be required to update your business continuity plan annually and test it once a year. 

Updating a business continuity plan shouldn’t be seen as some unnecessary chore. It can give you vital information on the risks that lie in your business and in the environment. The process should spur you to start thinking about how you can minimise the impact to your employees, assets and customers. 

Larger companies and institutions these days require business continuity plans for tendering to customers. International firms require business continuity plans as part of a request for a proposal and the ensuing contract. Isn’t this enough motivation to have an updated business continuity plan or if you haven’t got one, to prepare one for your business? 

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