I remember hearing a statistic that said the probability that a business would experience a disaster in any given year was 4%. That’s once every 25 years. If that happens a business with a simple, as opposed to a detailed, business continuity plan stands a 75% chance of recovering. A business without any plan at all stands a 75% chance of failing completely.
In my experience the biggest difficulty in establishing a business continuity plan is the tendency to attempt to make it too complicated. It’s a dull subject, preparing something you hope you’ll never use, so human nature dictates its hard to be enthusiastic about it.
A good plan should be brief, simple, and sensible. It shouldn’t attempt to cover everything. Practicing the Law is not simple, and its difficult to be brief, because you do have to cover everything. A business continuity plan is therefore bound to go against a lawyer’s traditional way of thinking.
For example, immediately post disaster what’s the number 1 priority? I would say its communication. Briefing your PR agency is absolutely critical, and it is essential that those staff you need to operate, based on skill set as opposed to status, know where to assemble. Its equally important that the rest of the staff know to stay at home.
Of course restoring IT systems is important. Incidentally, unless you regularly test the restore from backup then there is roughly a 50% probability that your backup will not restore at all. I remember one company with a rigorous backup policy, dutifully followed by its staff, successfully backing up its “test” company each day – a single character error in the backup script meant that the live company was never backed up.
A business continuity war chest is a lifesaver, stored offsite of course. In that keep hard copies of HR data, especially staff contact details. Also include hard copy payroll data so at least you know how much to pay your staff and which bank accounts to pay the funds into. Plus hard copy supplier details, cheque books, paying in slips, accounts dept chits, even some petty cash, all to make things easier for people when pulling things together when under pressure. Don’t forget to include a copy of the relevant business interruption insurance policy and a copy of the Business Continuity Plan itself!
Get the above in place and you have limited your risk of being wiped out in a disaster to 1%. As a second stage you can chip away at this by targeting risk areas specific to your own business, preferably by looking towards prevention as opposed to more continuity planning. Finally don’t become complacent, but you can compliment yourself on making it unlikely that your business will be wiped out in a disaster during your working life.