Why do business continuity plans fail? They’re designed to protect our people, operations and finances against the unexpected, and are a critical component of business resilience. Yet so many plans fall short, or some cases fail altogether, when performance matters most. These are the seven most frequent yet preventable reasons.
- Inadequate testing
For the most of us, testing a plan is an obvious factor of business continuity success. Yet a small minority still fail to test their plans to an adequate standard and appropriate schedule. The organisations put themselves at enormous risk of acute disruption and downtime because after all, and untested plan is literally just an arbitrary document. Starcom recommends running a full simulation annually and regularly meeting with key colleagues and task owners to review the plan.
- Insufficient experience
As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Senior management and key board members should always be involved in developing a business continuity plan – it’s important to supplement technical, detailed tasks with top-level objectives. However, knowing your company inside out falls short of what’s required to create a successful BC plan. Be sure to involve specialist consultants with disaster experience to prevent plan failure.
- Infrequent reviews
As mentioned, no business continuity consultant is expecting you to run a full plan simulation more than once a year, perhaps twice a year for industries where human safety is a major risk. But since the world doesn’t march to the beat of our drum, plans need regularly updating in line with many changes out of our control; market conditions, technology, personnel and of course, cyberthreats. Keeping your plan current will ensure that all-important resilience.
- Siloed thinking
Splitting up BC planning tasks based on skills and experience makes absolute sense. The potential for failure lies in not connecting this thinking. For example, approaching DR (the traditional IT facets of BC) in isolation may lead to critical flaws in a plan or difficulty in executing it under pressure, causing unnecessary downtime. The best BC plans will enhance how people, processes and technology interact to enable stronger, sustainable resilience.
- Not involving employees in business continuity testing
When asking why do business continuity plans fail, don’t underestimate the power of involving employees in the business continuity testing process. Minimising downtime during an adverse event is high on the priority list of any BC plan. Yet many businesses overlook that employee understanding (beyond BC task owners and strategists) is crucial to retaining productivity and cybersecurity. We advise encouraging employees to get familiar with the BC plan and involve them in testing so that they can practice how they should respond in a crisis. This process will also flag up any obvious miscommunications that could stall recovery.
- Not speaking to employees post-disaster
An operations checklist may have been completed with a dashboard report confirming that DR technologies functioned as intended – but this is only proves partial success. Ask employees about difficulties they encountered, how productive they were versus usual, if there are quick fixes to improve accessibility or efficiency? A BC plan can fail on these “soft” points too – teams working at a fraction of their capacity for a sustained period is more damaging than 2 hours of downtime. The moral of the story? Learn from your people.
- A perfect-world approach
BC plans prepare your organisation for the unexpected and boost your resilience when times are tough. However, be careful not to fall into the trap of seeing the unplanned disruption itself as the singular threat. Assuming that task owners will be available to perform a critical task on the day, that transport to a secondary site runs on time, that WiFi connections are strong or that colleagues feel safe returning to work are just a few examples of where being too optimistic about timescales and availability can cause a BC plan to fail, simply because your plans were too ambitious.
If you’ve ever asked why do business continuity plans failed, we hope that this article was helpful. If you would benefit from assistance in refreshing your business continuity plan, or you’re worried about plan failure, speak to Starcom. Call us on 0844 579 0800 or complete a contact form here.